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.
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?
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.