Nothing Personal

Title: Nothing Personal
Author: Scott (Pomfret) & Scott (Whittier)
Publisher: Loose ID
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novel
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

The gay marriage ban is nothing personal, unless you’re a Cuban-American gay man in the heart of red-state America.

Carlo Batista takes on longtime conservative Tall Tony Scipione in a race for state representative. And he takes on mystery man Brian Gallagher in the race for his heart. Breaking all the rules of polite society, Carlo proves that love, sex, politics, and religion do mix — with hot and heart-warming results.

THE REVIEW

Originally self-published in 2005 and now re-released as an ebook through Loose ID, Nothing Personal is by Scott Pomfret and Scott Whittier, the real-life partners who make up the Romentics. I believe I have now read everything these two have published with mixed success. I have mostly liked them, though my review of Surf -n- Turf (here) was not very favorable and I said at the time that I wasn’t sure I’d pick up another book by the Scotts as a result. I thought about that as Wave asked if I wanted to read and review NP and decided to give them another chance. Though not without problems for me, I did like this one better than the last.

The story opens with one of our protags, Carlo, a young, gay Cuban-American working as a customer service rep in an HMO, facing off against the Religious Right with several of his friends at a huge rally on gay marriage outside of the capitol building in Columbus, Ohio. In the throng of people he spies a tough, but good-looking man on “his” side, who he dubs “Scarf-boy.” Sometime later, through a series of events, he meets Scarf-boy, now known as Gallagher, and they go on a date to the gay marriage amendment final vote, the outcome of which was unsurprisingly not in their favor. Impassioned by the defeat of marriage equality in his red state, Carlo decides to run against his own district State Representative, Tony Scipione, the long-time disreputable and conservative democratic incumbent. Though he is completely ignorant of what it takes to run for office, Carlo quickly learns how to be a candidate and pulls together a campaign. But the road to possible victory is not smooth when you’re running against dirty-playing “Tall” Tony; winning over voters will take creativity and his campaign staff is up to the challenge. At the same time, he tries to have a relationship with the mysterious Brian Gallagher, a man reluctant to take part in his lover’s political life and who disappears for days at a time without explanation.

I would classify this novel more in the genre of gay political fiction than m/m romance as much more emphasis is placed on Carlo’s political journey than his relationship with Gallagher, so if you are looking for a sweet romance — such as other books in the Romentics line — then this is probably not the book for you. That did not make it a bad read, just not one I expected from the Scotts as their previous offerings have been heavily romantic.

Overall, I found it to be well-written with good world-building and a lot of attention to detail, and there are quite a few things to like about this book. Even though I would have preferred it to have taken up less space in the story, I found the campaign process interesting. I also felt the dialog, which was quick and smart, helped give the story flavor and felt believable to me.

I found the large cast of secondary characters to be colorful and vivid — in some cases more developed than Gallagher — and Good Hope, Ohio, is a character of its own. The small, post-industrial depressed town described as “insufficiently fabulous for a gay man” is riddled with closed down and abandoned factories and warehouses, and the reader gets a real feel of what it is like to live in this or any other town like it across the country.

There are humorous parts, such as the “Candidate School” Carlo attends, a forty-eight hour boot camp of sorts where candidate hopefuls are made or broken, the two God Squaders (who Carlo nicknames “Christ on the Cross” and “Ten Commandments”) who follow him around everywhere, and the older woman who wants to do nothing but talk about gay sex with Carlo. Also, Sammy, the boyfriend of Carlo’s campaign manager/friend, Kat, provides subtle comic relief throughout:

Sammy was touting a new invention that he called the GGPS—gay global positioning system. “It lets you find a hookup by just tapping your laptop or BlackBerry,” he explained.

I thought this paragraph to quite funny:

Gireaux [the Candidate School instructor] had done her job well, but nothing could have prepared Carlo for life on the campaign trail. When he first went door-to-door for votes, he dressed in white pants and a white shirt with a tie because he had decided the outfit conveyed purity and wholesomeness. Unfortunately, the outfit conveyed to most voters that he was on his mission with the Church of Latter-day Saints. Many refused to answer their doors, and the few who did pestered him for free Books of Mormon. At one home a Rottweiler humped his leg while the owners laughed. At another, Carlo met a man who explained that the government had conspired to lodge computer chips under his cat’s skin. At successive apartments, he changed a lightbulb, judged an argument between a husband and wife, carried a stale diaper to the garbage can, and won a hand of seven-card stud. A busty, middle-aged woman wanted to show him her nudes.

My issues:

Like I said, the romance between Carlo and Gallagher is overshadowed by the Carlo’s political/life journey; in fact, blink and you miss them getting together. Related to this, there are large jumps in time where their relationship is developing and we don’t get to see it. For example, there is a more than one month gap between their first date and when we next see them, and they supposedly have been seeing each other during that time. I would have really liked to have witnessed them interacting more, and I feel that based on the fact that we don’t get to see interact, the chemistry between them was lacking.

Additionally, I felt like I didn’t get to know the enigmatic Gallagher hardly at all because he doesn’t have much screentime, and even when we get his POV — which I think is maybe literally five pages total in the story — he’s secretive with us as well. Even toward the end, when he plays perhaps a larger role and works at redeeming himself, I still couldn’t say how I felt about him. I can’t even call him an antihero as I don’t feel I know enough about him. The problem is even larger, however, because this is not just an issue for us, the reader; Gallagher’s mysterious life means Carlo himself barely knows the man he is seeing and sleeping with. For example, almost five months after they start dating he has yet to know what Gallagher does for a living or his age. And even later, a few months after, he thinks:

Carlo thought, I hardly know this man. He seemed predatory. It was hard for Carlo to believe he had allowed himself to be vulnerable, to let himself be fucked by him. He was a stranger.

Finally, the showdown toward the end between the good guys and bad guys reminded me of parts of Surf -n- Turf. This is not a good thing as I felt that much of that book was just plain silly.

OVERALL

While I didn’t dislike the story, going into it thinking I would be getting a romance and instead getting a political gay fiction story was a bit disappointing. But there were things countering that that made it a decent read, so as long as you know what you are getting ahead of time, don’t mind one of your protags a bit under-developed, and like stories with a political flavor, then this may be a good read for you.

10 comments

  • Thanks for the review, Lynn. I reread the blurb. It clearly talks about a political race, but maybe you thought it would be more of a background subplot.

    Does the election have a winner in the book? Would it be a spoiler to reveal it?

    It would have made more sense to have the state rep a conservative republican, not democrat. But what do I know?…….

    Wave, I’ve got some understanding of current American politics. So you’ve got more than just Lynn and Leslie for that type of book.

    Reply
    • John
      I’m glad you mentioned your knowledge of current US politics. I’ll remember that next time when I’m trying to figure out who to ask to review a book that’s heavily slanted on politics. I just started one tonight that is headed in that direction but the next one has your name on it. 🙂

      Reply
  • Hi Lynn – Thanks for the review. I understand where you’re coming from. I think if you had read this knowing that it’s more a political novel, then you would have not been surprised. But personally, having read a few of their books, like Nick of Time which I did enjoy, I would have expected a M/M romance as well.

    Reply
    • My pleasure TJ. I purposefully do not seek out and read other reviews if I know I am going to write one myself, so I didn’t realize that it was so heavy on the political aspects. If I had, I would have seen that several others mentioned this as well and I would have gone in with a different mindset. But it’s not a bad book at all, and I’m glad I picked it up as it restored my more favorable opinion of the Scotts’ writing.

      Reply
  • Hi Wave,

    To answer your question, the only book I have read by the Scotts was Razor Burn, which fell into the category of “entertaining while I was reading it but mostly forgettable.” It didn’t leave me clamoring for other books by this writing team but I also wouldn’t say no if you offered me something for review.

    As for this one, I’ll likely pass, only because I have so much stuff on my list already!

    L

    Reply
  • I also find their writing hot and cold. There are a couple I’ve really loved but then I hit a mediocre one and stop reading them for a while.

    Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting Jeffrey. That is a problem with this writing pair, and something I’ve seen in other reviews of their work.

      Reply
  • Lynn

    Wonderful review.

    One of the reasons that I asked you to review this book was because I knew that your background might be more suited to this story than probably some of the other guest reviewers. You live in California, a state where politics looms very large with a Republican Governor of a mainly Democratic state. Who else would be better suited to do the job of reviewing this book? Possibly Leslie, but I don’t know if she has read other books by this pair. I’ll have to ask her, if she has read this book, how she feels about it. Additionally, I knew how disappointed you were with Surf-n-Turf, but OTOH you’re a fan of this writing pair and I wanted you to read a book by S & S that would take the bad taste of Surf-n-Turf out of your mouth. Does this make sense to you?

    I’m sorry that there was not enough romance in the book for you but I love books about politics, especially US politics which I find fascinating! I’m also sorry that one of the protagonists was so underdeveloped. I guess the authors decided to try something different. Anyhow, I think I will like Sammy so I will read the book because I think he will make me laugh.

    Thanks Lynn.

    Reply
    • Thanks Wave. I do think living here makes politics more in your face at times, which is good and bad. I am on a lesser income because of my state legislature, for sure, and that makes me sad and mad.

      Though I had some issues with it, I’m glad I read it because it did indeed “take the bad taste out.”

      And don’t apologize — it’s not as if you wrote it! 😉

      Reply

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