Title: Healthy Obsession
Author: Carolyn LeVine Topol
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (16,777 words)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
While Jack Randall relishes his free-spirited life, making no commitments and tricking with a variety of hot men, he also wants what his best friend Steve has: happiness with a husband. He doesn’t realize that joining the health club in his building, Healthy Obsession, will lead him to Mr. Right; but there stands the muscular and extremely good-looking Rick Monroe
Jack is immediately attracted to Rick, even though Rick is married, a father, and reluctantly in the closet. The reality of falling in love is much harder than the dream of finding Mr. Right, but Jack is willing to make the effort and help Rick, if Rick is willing to be true to himself.
I am going to be honest right up front: I really detest the expression “breeder.” It’s a hot button word for me. So when a character thinks something like,
“The biggest irritants were the women. He hated watching all the breeders gathering at the new watering hold to flirt and tease in the nauseating way heteros tried to attract one another…
in the first few pages of a book, it is going to bias me against that character right from the start. This, unfortunately, is what happened to Jack Randall, the main character in Healthy Obsession. I was willing to keep an open mind and let Jack redeem himself in word or deed, but he never did. He was selfish, self-centered, rude, sarcastic, and prone to jump to conclusions based on incomplete or inaccurate information. And maybe it’s a reflection of my shallowness, but if a book has a lead character that I really can’t stand, it’s going to be tough for the book to win me over. In this case, Healthy Obsession did not.
The basic premise is simple: Jack is a self-proclaimed slut who has slept with two-thirds of the gay men in Boston. While this has been a happy, fulfilling, and satisfying life, he has come to understand that what he really wants is what his friend Steve has: happiness and true love with a husband. Once Jack has had this stunning realization, nothing will do but to have it happen within the next 24 hours.
While Jack doesn’t have a clue about how to change his slutty ways, salvation comes in the form of his boss, who demands that he join the new health club in their office building because the boss will a big break on his rent. Farfetched, yes, but it serves to get Jack into the gym, where he immediately meets Rick. Rick is drop dead gorgeous and wearing a wedding ring (insert more insulting breeder thoughts) but that doesn’t stop Jack from hitting on him in the steam room.
Rick, meanwhile, doesn’t know who or what he is. He says that he got married at age 20 to get out of the house and away from his “drunken, abusive” father (but at the time, he was attending Boston College, which has dorms…wouldn’t that be a way to get away from his father? How did he afford to attend BC, anyway?). Now it is some number of years later. His marriage is on the rocks, he thinks he’s gay, he’s legally separated but still living with his wife because he doesn’t want to leave his children.
Slut, meet closet case. Is happiness and true love in the cards for these two men? You betcha! And it comes within Jack’s required timeframe of 24 hours, too.
I only finished this because it was short and I wanted to see if the ending was as preposterous as I expected it to be (it was). Equally preposterous was Jack’s transformation from rude and obnoxious to sensitive and caring, willing to help his man find his way in his new gay life. And because of Jack’s steady, guiding, and insightful personality, Rick suddenly has clarity of thought and mind and his way, his path is revealed to him…with Jack at his side.
Fans of the author might find something worthwhile in this wretched mess, but I, in good conscience, cannot recommend it. But in case you doubt my opinion, there’s a lengthy excerpt at All Romance eBooks that should help you decide if this insta-love story is right for you.
NB: At the time I wrote this review, the Dreamspinner Press site was down for maintenance, so I linked to ARe instead, where you can read a sample and purchase the book, if you are so inclined.