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