An Unexpected Vintage (Bottles Up Stories #4)

Title: An Unexpected Vintage (Bottles Up Stories #4)
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 Summary Review: Gary and Scott find love on a cruise ship. 

THE BLURB

Gary Keller is enjoying a cruise with new friends when he meets Scott Haworth, and unexpected attraction flares between them. But Scott has a past he’s trying to leave behind; nine months earlier he was released from prison after almost a decade. The Innocence Project and DNA evidence exonerated of the crime, but the victim’s brother still holds him responsible.

Gary finds himself drawn to Scott for many reasons, not least of which is that the big, physically strong exterior hides a vulnerable, unsure man trying to restart his life. But it’s only a seven-day cruise, and when it ends, they both have to go back to their lives in different parts of the country. Is a week long enough to build a relationship that will stand the strain of separation? Or will the cruise just fade to a happy vacation memory?

Bottles Up Stories

THE REVIEW

Gary Keller is a travelling salesman and the story opens with him attending a party given by one of his clients, Tyler, where he is introduced to Tyler’s lover, Mark, and other guests, at least 6 other gay men, 4 of whom are in relationships. Gary sells fabric wholesale and seems to have just gotten this job as a traveling salesman. He doesn’t think very highly of himself, we aren’t told his age but he has had a series of short term jobs and shorter term boyfriends.  He meets Philip, another guest, and learns the attractive man lives in the same apartment complex. The men start to talk about a cruise they are all going on, tell Gary that Philip’s roommate on the cruise had to back out, and invite him to go along with them. So he makes the decision to break out of his shell. He and Philip seem to hit it off and eventually have sex.  The physical is great, but there’s just no spark there,  however that’s not a problem as Philip just wants to have fun for now.

The time for the cruise arrives and we are treated to a detailed description of packing, waking up early, riding to the airport, the hassle of air travel, cab ride to the cruise ship, and more hassle to embark on the ship. Finally they are on the ship and in their room and about to head to the buffet and start their cruise.  After the meal the guys all convince Gary to join them in the pool, and again Gary describes his body in unflattering terms. He can’t believe it when he starts receiving shy glances from a good looking hunk, Scott Haworth, a darkly handsome, well built man.  Gary and Scott hit it off and start spending time with each other amidst the group of Gary’s and Scott’s friends – apparently  Scott’s friends had also persuaded him to go on this cruise. 

At one point, early on in their budding friendship, someone approaches Scott who is shocked that this man is on the cruise.  He tells Gary that the man is Frank, a ghost from his past.  Scott had been accused of raping Frank’s sister, convicted and thrown in jail for 8 years.  Finally, new examination of old DNA evidence, prompted by The Innocence Project, exonerates Scott and he is released from prison.  He is slowly relearning the ways of being in the outside world, but Frank is not making this easy.  According to snippets of conversation from Frank, as Scott was being released, the sister convinced herself that she was going to be stalked and murdered, so she committed suicide.  I guess Frank and his sister didn’t believe the DNA evidence just like the O.J. Simpson jury didn’t believe that evidence. Frank is still convinced that Scott raped her all those years ago and now is doubly responsible for her suicide.  At each excursion off the ship and at meals with Gary’s and Scott’s friends, there lurks Frank.  At one point Frank locks Gary in the closet in his own room and threatens to harm both him and Scott.  Gary talks some sense into the bitter man, and finally he lets them alone.

As Gary and Scott spend time together, both in and out of bed, Gary starts to think in terms of love toward Scott.  Does Scott think the same?  And what happens when the cruise ends?

The cruise does end like they both are dreading, but they agree to stay in touch, and they do, through emails and daily phone calls.  Both sets of friends know the two are missing each other and conspire to get them together at another of Tyler’s parties.  Eventually Gary and Scott agree to try living together and Scott returns home to pack, but then another small problem occurs.  As Scott is driving to Gary’s home, he is stopped by the police and harassed.  The cop doesn’t believe the court papers documenting his release from prison. Scott is shaken by this event, but proceeds to Gary’s home.

To me this book is about twice as long as it needed to be and at times is quite confusing. At the party early in the story, we are introduced to too many people.  I had a hard time keeping the different people figured out as to who they were, their jobs, and with whom they were partnered; most of them didn’t count in the broader story and the first sex scene of the book with Gary and Philip didn’t work for me, and of course there’s that lack of spark between the two.

 There is a lot of ‘telling’ including the packing, trip, and boarding of the ship, and too much unnecessary conversation.  What bothered me was that we only get Gary’s perspective in the story, with no inner thoughts from Scott, so we only learn about his life and prison from the conversations he and Gary have. And there are small, easily solved problems throughout the story that don’t really add much to the basic plot.  I didn’t understand why Frank didn’t want to leave Scott alone. He follows him onto a cruise ship?  Basically kidnaps Gary and threatens harm so that Scott will feel loss like Frank does over his dead sister? But, this is easily fixed.  Gary talks sense into Frank and finally this part of the story is behind us.

I consciously tried to keep from feeling anything for Gary and Scott, but it didn’t work.  I was glad that they did work it out in the end and that a week’s cruise was enough time to start a relationship. Also the sex between Gary and Scott worked pretty well.

Even with the early problems, the story ended happily ever after in a convincing manner that wrapped up all the loose ends.

Author

I’m a single gay male, 46 years old and I farm and ranch in Texas.

13 comments

  • Great review, John. I have the same problem with many of this author’s books – he sets up high tension, dramatic situations but then lets the characters slide out of them without any real stress or effort. It makes for a non-angsty read, but is often a let down.

    Reply
  • Simsala, boring is right! All the detailed description of packing, what to wear, calling Philip, are you able to sleep tonight before the trip tomorrow?, who to ride with, all the ‘hazzle’ of the airports and then the ‘hazzle’ to board the ship. I didn’t get it.

    Reply
  • Hi John,
    I`m with TJ. – I liked all books of the “Love means…” series. This one is just…boring!
    (You`ve described it much nicer)
    Thank you for the review

    s.

    Reply
  • John – you might like the “Love Means” stories. They are all set on a ranch and I did like them, but then maybe that’s too much like your everyday life… I’m not sure I’d want to read about my life. LOL.

    Reply
  • John – Although I really liked all of the “love means…” series that this author wrote, this one did’t really do it for me either. Good review John, thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, TJ. This is my first of this author’s work.

      Wave seems to like throwing me authors I’ve never read before. (Wave is gone on some secret mission, so we can blame her for all our problems. Until later. grin)

      Reply
      • Hi John
        My car wouldn’t start so while I wait for the tow truck you can’t blame me. 🙂

        You might like the “Love Means …..” books by this author. I like throwing you books by authors other than the one you love already (you know who I mean) so that you can get to know a few “new to you” authors. 🙂

        Reply
  • The one part of this review that I don’t agree with – and one thing I have to applaud this author for – is sticking with a single point of view.

    I know it’s what most romance readers what, and presumably most publishers, but the prevalence of alternating third person POV in romance novels is something I find pretty boring. Sticking with a single third person POV is a sound writing technique; writing effectively using one POV is something I appreciate (and it’s not something that requires first person). Romance readers tend to want to always know what both parties are thinking, which is understandable, and I’m not saying I don’t feel that way too at times – but often that technique eliminates so much tension and makes things so predictable, and so often it allows for sloppiness and laziness in writing.

    Yes, it’s nice to know all about each character, but often, what that means is the author cuts corners and there’s no real challenge for the reader. If we already know Scott and Gary love each other, because we’re in both their heads, we basically know what the resolution is going to be.

    With a single POV, you get to know the POV character really well, in a different way than if you had to share your knowledge of him with another character. Plus, it requires discipline and really good writing to show the reader something of what’s going on with the non-POV character without going into his head. It also allows for use of techniques like unreliable narrator, which are totally out of the picture with alternating POV.

    I’m not saying this author uses those techniques very well in this particular case or does the best job with a single limited third person POV that an author could do. This isn’t my favorite of his books, though I don’t dislike it – it was an enjoyable enough read.

    But I appreciate the fact that he tries, that he doesn’t fall into the same old pattern – that he picks a single POV and sticks with it. It shows some attention to detail and consistency and knowledge of writing technique, and some discipline, even if it isn’t the strongest execution. He does that in all his books (that I can recall), actually, and I have to say I admire it.

    Reply
    • Justacat
      Outside of the POV technique that he uses which you like, what about the fact that this author seems to throw everything into his story, unnecessary information that most people don’t care about (see the examples quoted by John)? To me it seems that all this does is increase the length of the book, with the usual cost implications.

      Reply
    • Hey Justacat,

      Thanks for the information. I very much appreciate it.

      And I appreciate a well written first person account, but this author didn’t pull it off. And maybe I let other parts of the story that I didn’t like color my view of this type of writing.

      One topic I wish the author had written more about, in the context of this story, was the Innocence Project. The author dedicates the book to this organization and tells of Scott writing to them and eventually convincing them of the need to examine the DNA evidence. But it just seemed a little hollow to me. Just some more added info thrown in.

      Reply
  • I know this author has lots of fans but the few bits and pieces I have read of his books (samples and excerpts), his style just doesn’t work for me. From your review, this sounds like it would be true with this book, too. It also sounds like this book suffers from “everything but the kitchen sink” syndrome and I have problems with that type of story telling.

    Thanks for the review, John. Good job!

    L

    Reply
    • Yes, way too many convenient problems and easy solutions. There is even a problem with one of the couples that goes on for half the book, but again is easily explained. And it didn’t have a thing to do with Gary and Scott.

      Reply

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