A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: An okay and light read with some funny moments.
Chip Arnold is a well-liked football coach at a small liberal arts college, but his personal life is in a bit of a rut. He goes out drinking with his colleagues, gets along well with his players, and dates all the prettiest women in town—he has the life most straight men dream of. But lately none of the women he dates seem to be igniting any passion in him. Then he meets the new school chaplain, Foster Lewis.
Romantic attraction to another man is new and terrifying, and Chip just can’t put his finger on why he’s drawn to Foster, but it’s stronger than anything he’s felt for anyone in his life. Never one to back down from a challenge, Chip decides to go for it. But love is never simple, and sometimes it’s a downright mess!
Simple Men is the first story by this author that I’ve read. Though not without a few niggles, I generally liked this light tale of finding love in unexpected places.
Our story opens with Chip, a small college football coach, and his assistant coach Lenny having a few at the local bar talking about women. A proud womanizer, Chip is in what he considers a trial relationship with fellow faculty member Lynn and isn’t so happy. Bored and always looking for the next better thing, he’s feeling “virile” and may need to get out of the relationship to explore it. Enter Foster, the new gay college chaplain and good friend of Lynn’s, and Chip feels like he’s been hit by a sledgehammer. Only ever experimenting once with a college friend resulting in a less than lackluster experience, Chip doesn’t consider himself gay or would ever have thought it in the past, and though he initially tries to rationalize his feelings for Foster, he can’t deny that he wants this man. Foster is fresh out of a relationship that ended badly and isn’t looking for love — in fact not sure he can ever be in another relationship if it just means heartache — but Chip is a surprise in a very good way. They begin a relationship that quickly turns serious. Unfortunately, Foster is afraid to tell Lynn, even though she and Chip are taking a break from each other. In the meantime, two of Chip’s football players and the college’s resident mischief-makers, Brad and Jason, are best buds realizing that they have deeper feelings than just friendship for one another.
What I liked:
Arvin’s humorous and witty writing, along with his style and voice. His prose is tight and spare, and I found this to be an easy read. There are several laugh-out-loud moments and some funny dialog, especially internally from Chip:
One smile from Foster would make him grin uncontrollably and his legs would go weak. Nothing had ever made his legs go weak. He squatted over three hundred pounds! Maybe he had a tumor.
Am I checking him out? Holy shit! I am. I am totally checking out his butt in his preacher pants. Hurry! Look away before he catches you…. Shit. Too late. I’m had. He just caught me checking out his preacher butt and his preacher package. Well, don’t keep staring at it! Look away, dumbass!
I liked many of the secondary characters, beginning with golf cart-wielding women’s track coach, Katie, who is friends with Chip, doesn’t let him get away with anything and imparts some good advice. Wendell, the college president, is the perfect mix of wizened counselor and oblivious sweetness. Brad and Jason, two of Chip’s players have a romantic sub-plot of their own (see more on this later) and make a grand announcement of their orientation as if they were attending an AA meeting. 🙂 Even the squirrels on campus have character.
The story has no graphic sex — it is alluded to either before or after the act — which I thought worked well here with the overall tone of the book.
Where I had problems:
I admit that at times I had some trouble believing the romance between Chip and Foster. I longed for more intimate moments with them, showing their interaction and affection. Also, there is a point where they break up and I was irritated with the reason. They claim to have this strong bond for the time they’ve been together and it didn’t make any sense that they wouldn’t try to find a way to work things out. I felt Foster acted inconsistently at the end, being resolute until he, well, wasn’t without an explanation.
I felt the sub-plot with Brad and Jason, while at times extremely humorous and sweet, lent little to the story as a whole. Two things related to this: firstly, I wanted more about them and thought they deserved their own book, and secondly, if they were eliminated, more page space could have been devoted to Chip and Foster.
I didn’t like the character of Lynn very much. I didn’t like her reaction to finding out about Chip and Foster; I thought she completely overreacted and it felt odd based on what we knew of her feelings of being with Chip.
Lastly, the story is told in third-person POV from a number of characters and, as is often the case in that kind of narrative, I found there to be some head-hopping.
While I had some issues with the story, I can say that I would recommend it to those looking for a fun, light read, and I will look for future stories by this author.