Title: Everything Under the Sun
Author: Rachel West
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: 170 pages
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A really great love-triangle romance with a good mix of angst and humour.
What do you do when you have every choice in the world at your fingertips and no idea what you want?
Ever since Chris Bennett graduated high school a year ago, he’s been trying to figure out what’s next. His lifeguarding job has kept him busy, and in southern California, poolside isn’t a bad place to be. But he’s spent most of his time thinking about Seth, the former classmate who became something more for a few brief moments last summer. Now Seth is back, but he seems to be running toward Chris and running away from him at the same time. Meanwhile, Chris is increasingly drawn to Alex, his gorgeous new neighbor who puts up a sexy, confident front but may be harboring a few romantic demons of his own.
Chris doesn’t know which direction to go, either in life or in love. But by the time he figures it out, will the right person still be around to want him back?
The first thing to say about this book is that the cover is slightly misleading, only slightly, but usually when there are three men on the cover of an m/m romance it suggests a m/m/m ménage. I have to admit, I picked up this book without reading the blurb properly and thought it was a ménage. It wasn’t. I wasn’t disappointed though, because this turned out to be a surprisingly great read. Why surprising? Read on to find out!
Unlike all his friends, Chris decided to take a year out after high school to think about what he wants to do with his life. A year later and he still has no clue as he divides his time between dossing about and working at the water park. Chris is also still pining for his friend and almost lover, Seth, who has been at college in Maine for the past year. Seth has feelings for Chris, but they are hidden deeply behind self-loathing at the possibility that he might be bisexual, leading Seth to reject Chris, even as he desires him. When Chris gets a new next door neighbour, Alex, an out and proud gay man who shows an interest in Chris, Chris doesn’t know what to do. Should he hold on for Seth to sort out his problems, or start a relationship with his sexy neighbour, knowing that Alex is only really after sex?
The second thing to say is that this book is very difficult to review! This is because the whole point of the book revolves around which of the two men Chris chooses to end up with. I don’t want to give away plot spoilers because that would take away all the delightful tension within the story, which is a large part of what I enjoyed about the book, so I apologise in advance if this review is a little vague and woolly about the details.
I said at the beginning of this review that I was surprised by how much I liked this book. This is basically because it contained many things that I usually don’t like in an m/m book. I don’t usually like heroes who cannot make up their minds; I don’t like a lot of sex (as in nearly every chapter); and I don’t like men who make assumptions and jump to incorrect conclusions – it makes me want to bash their heads together! All of these things happen in this book. And yet…I really liked it. Really liked it.
Part of what made me like this book is in the character of Chris. Chris is your stereotypical male Californian air-head. He spend quite a lot of the book dossing about, doing very little and driving his mum nuts with his laid back attitude to life. In other words he was just right for the character of a 19 year old male! That doesn’t mean that Chris is stupid, he isn’t. He’s flighty and very naive, and he has a love of life which I found very endearing. He’s in love with Seth, but knows that Seth is messing him about. In his naivety, Chris hopes that by taking things slow he will be able to get Seth to love him. That part, and some of the things that happened later in the book because of Chris’ feelings for Seth, was quite heart wrenching to read.
I also liked Alex. He’s older than Chris by 7 years, and yet there are great emotional similarities between them. Alex has been hurt badly in the past, and has escaped by moving from Boston to California and deciding the play the role of man-whore, one which sits rather uncomfortably on his shoulders. I felt that the author had done a good job in showing how Alex changes through the book as he learns to accept himself again and move on from his past.
Although the story mainly focuses on the three heroes, there were a few secondary characters, most notably Chris’ mum and Seth’s college friend, Amy and Alex’s friend, Marty, who were all well drawn and added positively to the story. I know I haven’t said much about Seth, let’s just say I had a very mixed response to him! By the middle of the book I knew that he had a long way to go before I would like him very much, even if I understood his fears.
One final thing I liked about this book is that it had a wonderful breezy tone to the writing which lifted it so that, even during its most angst-filled moments, I never felt that it was too heavy going. There were also a number of delightful humour filled moments which counterbalanced some of the drama. The sex was also very well written being both incredibly hot, but also focused enough on the emotional side to satisfy me.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. I couldn’t put it down and read late into the night because I wanted to see how it ended. Rachel West is a new author and I’m very impressed with this first offering from her. All that’s left to say is that if you like strong character based books, a bit of angst, a bit of humour and a story which has you scrambling to finish the book, then you can’t go wrong with Everything Under the Sun. I shall be looking out for other books by this author.