Rough Draft

Title: Rough Draft
Author: Chris Owen & Jodi Payne
Publisher: Torquere Books
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel 98k words (231 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Tj

Summary Review: A wonderful roller coaster ride of emotions and a fascinating in depth character study of how college friends/lovers get reacquainted through a series of handwritten letters.

The Blurb:

Grey and Paul were good friends in college. Good friends with privileges. But they haven’t been together in years. When Grey puts pen to paper and writes Paul a letter, he half expects it to be ignored. But Paul writes back and their old flame is rekindled. Or is it? Has too much water gone under the bridge or can Grey and Paul reconnect and deal with the issues that took them in different directions after college?

The Review:

Chris Owen and Jodi Payne came up with an interesting concept for Rough Draft. Published in 2005, much of the story is told via a series of letters between Paul and Gray, who were best friends and lovers in college, but after graduation they moved to opposite coasts. Now years later, out of the blue, Gray decides to write Paul a letter, not an e-mail, a handwritten letter on paper and mail it. The first third of the story is told exclusively through these letters as we get to know Paul and Gray intimately. As the guys get reacquainted, they are initially excited and flirtatious, but as is often the case, the written word can be misinterpreted. As a result, there is a fairly moderate amount of angst in the story, so be warned if that is not your thing. On one hand, I found this aspect fascinating – how although sometimes unintentional, words can be hurtful. But it was also frustrating to read and made me want to smack them both! It was rather like being on a roller coaster – alternately heart warming and heart breaking.

The story is not all told in this letter format. When Paul and Gray finally meet again, regular prose is introduced since they obviously aren’t writing letters. We are privy to their feeling through their journals, which are even more revealing. Now that they are finally face to face, Gray is being cautious, and Paul can sense that Gray is holding back. Then things click for them after a face to face argument.

Words have now failed Gray, so instead of saying how he feels, he tries to show Paul, when they make love. This was a surprising turn – after all the words in their letters, words were just not enough. From Gray’s journal:

“I made love to him last night. It was slow and long and intense, and I think he got it. I think. I hope.”

And yes Paul understands what Gray is telling him with his eyes, in his touch. No words are needed now. From Paul’s journal:

“He had been holding back, I was right – waiting to see if he could trust me again.”

That is pretty amazing, knowing someone that well, that words are superfluous.  And by then, we readers have gotten to know them that well too. On the subject of sex, I should mention that since Paul and Gray aren’t geographically close for many months as a time, by mutual agreement they are not exclusive to each other, and actually keep a count of who’s scored the most. There isn’t any on-page sex in the first part of the book, but once it starts, the boys more than make up for it. There are also a few scenes with multiple partners (a threesome and a foursome), all mutually agreed to, but if you only want your guys with each other, this may not be for you. But I have to tell you – it was all very HOT!

Overall, Rough Draft is very well written, with the most in-depth character study that I’ve ever read. I would definitely recommend it.


  • Wonderful review, Tj! 🙂

    I really liked this story despite the misunderstandings. A few times I wanted to smack them but ultimately very enjoyable.

  • Great review, TJ. I’ve been curious about this one since I first heard about it. After Bareback, it’ll be interesting to read a Chris Owen book without a ton of sex all over it. 😉 Definitely going to check it out!

    • Thanks Buda. I really liked the book despite a few niggles. And there is hot sex, but most of it comes later in the book, so you’ll have to hold out for it! 😉

  • Came by here earlier but didn’t want to be the first to leave a comment.

    Really good review, TJ! I don’t mind angst at all. I was all set to put this down as TBR because, yes Wave, it is reminiscent of Steve Kluger’s book and that’s enough to recommend almost any title BUT I am not soooo much into multiple partners unless it’s used to further a story and not just to get one all hot and bothered-in a good way 😀
    It just doesn’t do it for me.

    • Thanks Ebi. In regards to the multiple partners, both Paul and Gray are completely okay with this set up since they are not physically together. As I said in the review, they made it into somewhat of a contest to see who scored the most. This took the ‘edge’ off it, if you will, and made it kind of playful. But I can certainly understand if that’s not your kind of story.

    • Hi Ebi

      I had all those recs for you for hot M/M/M stories. I guess I should shelve them now. That’s too bad – 9-1-1 is one of the hottest books I have ever read. 🙂 Kidding!! I understand where you’re coming from.

      • Actually 9-1-1 is the only one of such books I have and I haven’t read it yet. I’ve had it for about a year! To be honest, I think the fact that it has over 250 pages (over 300 if I remember correctly) also has something to do with it. The more voluminous ones require serious commitment on my part. 🙂

  • Hi TJ
    As I mentioned yesterday, I really liked this story especially since so much of it was done epistolary style which reminded me of Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger, one of the best M/M love stories.

    My only niggle was that, like you, I thought there was way too much emphasis in the story on the guys misunderstanding each other and not being direct about their issues, a trait I don’t recall about the men I know. That said, this was really a heartwarming love story, told over many years.

    Great job on the review TJ. I’m glad I didn’t attempt to write it because yours is so much better. 🙂

    • Thank you Wave. I also really liked this book and the story stuck with me. Now I can’t get the song “Letters That Cross in the Mail” out of my head! LOL

      Those darn misunderstandings were a little frustrating, but for me, the worst of it was over with in the first part of the book, where they were just getting reacquainted. And yeah, I don’t know any guys who would have been that oblique about their issues, certainly not me.

      But despite that, it’s very good overall and I was smiling and choked up a bit by the time I read last scene.


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