The Way You Say

Title: The Way You Say
Author: Dar Mavison
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Buy Link: Buy Link The Way You Say
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (226 pdf pages)
Rating:  2.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cole

Review Summary: An overall disappointing novel — containing characters I never quite understood and choppy prose that seemed more like various scenes cobbled together than a free-flowing story.


Australian adventurer Adam Yager arrives in Athens for a conference and meets a colleague from the past: Dmitri Pryce, a brilliant archaeologist, a charming individual, and a beautiful man. Adam has never found a man beautiful before, not like this, and between remembrances of the dig in Tanzania four years ago and talk of more recent work, Adam does his best to keep his arousal hidden… until he blurts out his admiration for the way Dmitri says the word “ass.” And once Adam’s said it out loud, it’s too late to take it back.

Dmitri remembers lusting after Adam four years ago with painful clarity, but he made himself get over his crush and accept Adam’s friendship at face value. Now, as a documentary of the dig they both worked on is about to be released to the public, Adam clearly wants more, but Dmitri believes their opportunity to have passed. Except Adam is unwilling to miss this once in a lifetime chance to really get to know Dmitri and explore the passion they both feel.


Adam Yager is a professional adventurer who has a knack for stumbling upon incredibly important historical finds. He is a very intelligent man — who, though he never finished college because adventure called to him on the wind, has managed to use his daring and experience to trek into the untouched places in the world. He has created a unique business, to take his clients to these places for whatever their purposes, usually of a scientific endeavor. Four years ago, he was on just such a job, taking a group of scientists from several different countries and universities to Tanzania on an archeological dig looking for evidence of higher intelligence in pre-hominid culture. While he’s there, he meets Dmitri Pryce, the protégé of a famous archeologist who is only about 18 years old and has been allowed to attend a dig on his own for the first time. Yet, though he may be young, shy, and always acting nervous, Adam sees the brilliance of his mind, already growing to surpass his mentor. He is also incredibly beautiful, which Adam finds strange to admit to himself, though surprisingly comfortable doing. Yet, Adam is straight and married — and though his marriage has been rocky at best, he has never looked at another woman and no matter how ‘pretty’ this young boy is, he is ashamed and guilty for feeling anything more than friendly feelings toward him. They quickly become friends, Adam looking out for the young man (who he still believes is straight) and striking out on their own, combining Adam’s fearlessness and Dmitri’s brilliance, to ultimately make a very important archeological discovery — one that could change the way the world understands early human evolution.

On the other hand, Dmitri already knows that he is gay and he wants Adam without a doubt. The problem is that he can’t bring himself to ruin their wonderful friendship by coming on to a straight, married man that is much older than him. Yet, no matter how long he pines for Adam, their joint discovery is groundbreaking — and to reveal it to the world, they will have to work together in the future. Now, it is four years later and Adam and Dmitri have met up at the archeology convention that will premiere the documentary filmed during their dig and their great discovery. Even if Adam finds out how Dmitri felt about him those four years ago, nothing can happen now that Dmitri’s career has taken off. Adam’s might be stable in his career because he works for himself and can afford to never work again, but Dmitri still has to work within the politics of the academic and archaeology community — a place that is notorious for stuffy, closed-minded scientists. Can he risk a relationship with Adam while staying in the closet? Does he want to? And, is he really over Adam like he thought?

I have to say that the premise of this novel sounded pretty great. Though there are many GFY stories and stories about characters coming together after time apart, this one seemed promising. I also loved the beautiful cover, which was what immediately drew me to this novel. It wasn’t far into the story, however, that I started to lose interest. There are certainly many great scenes in this story (in particular the shooting star scene, as well as the scene with the flashlight, which those of you who have read this story will definitely not forget about), but that was pretty much the basis of what I liked about the story — a few scenes and the premise. Not a lot to go on. The problem was that this book needed a really good content editor, someone to take this book and its characters apart and put them back together in the proper order. I have no problem with flashbacks, but this book was all over the place. The first half of the book does a pretty even back and forth of present time (at the conference) to the past (the Tanzanian dig), except for the flashback scenes were in no particular order. They were more like vingnettes of the past, some of which happened before and some later, but with nothing stringing them together into a whole. The second half of the novel takes place almost completely in the present at the conference, but it is also not in chronological order. Now, if the order made sense in some other way, I wouldn’t mind. I certainly don’t dislike any plotline that is not in chronological order. But, it seemed to have no particular pattern. All of this had me really very confused by the time I finished the novel and I felt like I really didn’t know the full story of their past, which is possibly the most important part of the story because hardly any plot takes place in the present (except for sex, of course, but more on that later).

I was particularly looking forward to the topic of archaeology, which I have always found fascinating. This also disappointed me a bit. A large portion of the story is given to the subject — it is in the setting, their dialogue, it is their passion. But it was almost all in technical descriptions. What I most wanted to read about was the impact that archaeology has had on their lives and others’ lives. What makes them passionate about it? We don’t need to understand how carbon dating works (that’s just an example), but I would like to know the cultural significance of archaeology and what that means to Adam and especially Dmitri. This is particularly important in reference to their discovery, but that isn’t referenced either.

Another peeve of mine, and the ultimate clincher, was that both Adam and Dmitry never came alive for me. We never really learn a whole lot about Adam, and though we do learn more about Dmitri, he still remains a caricature. Even that, though, was a bit disjointed, like Dmitri couldn’t figure out which character to play. In the past he was meek and shy, and he was the same desperately submissive bottom boy in the present. But, as soon as they get together he becomes strangely dominant, so far that, even though he’s been fantasizing about Adam topping him for the whole book, their first time together has Dmitri throwing Adam down on the bed and topping him. This continued for the rest of the novel, until he strangely realized that he hadn’t bottomed — as if it had never crossed his mind. This seemed so out of character for him that it really bothered me. Conversely, as to Adam the straight man, only about 30 minutes after realizing he’s really gay and has been lusting after Dmitri all those years, he goes arse-over-end to give it up to Dmitri over and over and over for several days. Seriously? Could he even walk? I mean, with no experience and no prep at all… in my opinion that is either love or masochism.

There were a few other things that bothered me: like an excess of cock twitching and so much thinking but rarely, if ever, actually talking to each other about anything. Ultimately, the lack of dialogue about their issues is the curse of the whole novel, because it means that somewhere in their relationship there is going to be a big misunderstanding. And while it wasn’t so much a misunderstanding, the lack of telling each other how they feel is what led to their four year separation.

Overall, I found this story rather frustrating, because the technical aspects of the writing were done quite well. Dar Mavison clearly has writing talent. But, in my opinion, Mavison also needs a strong editor. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading further books by this author in the future, as this is her first novel. She has had several short stories published in various Dreamspinner anthologies to date, which could be the reason I felt like the book was a collection of scenes that felt disjointed and needed to be blended together. I wish I had enjoyed this story more than I did, and sadly, I can’t recommend it to readers. However, other readers might have taken a completely different view of the novel than I did. As always, one reader’s opinion differs from another’s, and if that is the case here, I would love to hear your thoughts on The Way You Say.


  • Thanks for the great review Cole, I was so frustrated with this one. I think I agree with your criticisms, but the main reason for my annoyance was that I just was not feeling chemistry between the leads. Thus constant fantacizing about each other’s body parts came off to me as silly instead of erotic, and jokes? Annoying, sorry.

    And I usually LOVE tension which if well done makes my imagination work so well :), but I felt tons more chemistry say in the Aisling than in this one.

    And thanks for helping me articulate why despite the fact that archaelogy was mentioned, I did not feel it much. Human factor was missing IMO.

    • I agree, Sirius, about there being no chemistry between Dmitri and Adam. For me, I think it was because I didn’t really know them all that well. I also had a problem with the sex scenes – there were pretty much none until the last fourth of the book, and then the whole time they were having sex. But not only that, they never varied at all. The sex was boring, which was a huge letdown to me.

      I think our opinions are still meshing pretty well, aren’t they? 🙂

  • It’s sad when you read a book which you knew SHOULD wor for all tha it’s well-written and has an interesting plot, and then you discover it doesn’t work for you. I’ve been looking at this book, and now I have to thank you, Cole for sparing me a disappointment. Great review!

    • Thanks Feliz. I had worried that I might have a very different take on this novel than others, but so far it seems like it is the popular consensus.

  • Cole, you summed up perfectly how I felt about this book. I really wanted to love it. I liked the plot, I liked the author’s writing style, I liked many of the scenes, but I kept getting jerked out of the story as I tried to figure out if what I was reading was past, present, 2 hours ago, etc.

    But, like Wave said, it might be that I wanted it to be what I wanted so I was less open to what it was.

    • Hey Kel! I wish that I had had a bad reaction to this book and everyone else would enjoy it, just so those who bought it wouldn’t think it’d been a waste, but I’m also happy to know that the problems that I had with this book, you also had with it.

      I think that, for the most part, I can be objective enough to realize when I’ve had expectations that a book didn’t live up to, and how different that is from seeing that it is technically badly put together. I do that all the time, get excited about a book and go into reading it with preconceived notions. But I don’t think that was the case here. The novel just needed a little more time to come together and a couple of major edits to get it to where it needed to be.

      Thanks for replying and letting me know what you thought!

  • Cole
    It’s too bad this book didn’t work for you because I remember how anxious you were to get it for review.

    I get all of your points about what’s wrong with the book. The one comment I would make is that we all have expectations about books before we start reading them and there’s always the conflict between the book the author wrote vs. the story we wanted. I make that mistake myself many times.

    Despite that observation, your concerns are valid about the way the book is structured and the fact that the characters are not well drawn. Good editors are as scarce as hen’s teeth and I suppose it’s hit or miss depending on who the writers get as editor for their books. Most editors seem to concentrate on spelling rather than content errors, which is too bad.

    • Hi Wave! From reading the blurb, I actually didn’t expect the book to really be much about archaeology at all, so I was surprisingly pleased that there was more. But, though I did want to know more of the social aspects of the dig and the profession itself, I think it was something the story needed and didn’t have. The story portrays Dmitri and even Adam as so passionate about archaeology, but we’re never really told why.

      Its hard to write a review like this because no matter how bad it makes me feel, I know that as reviewers we owe it to the readers to give them our honest opinion. The best thing about this, though, is that I think a lot of the problems I had with this book can be chalked up to rookie mistakes, and that Mar Davison shows promise in her writing. I think she’ll improve over time as she finds her voice in longer m/m works, since she’s been successful with short stories. I’ll definitely be looking for her next book to she how her writing is coming along.

      • Cole
        The editing problem seems to be getting more widespread, which is a pity because a good story can be an excellent one in the hands of a really great editor. One of the best publishers in terms of editing used to be Samhain mainly because Angela ran a very tight ship, and while they may not be as good now that she’s moved to Carina, they are certainly still one of the best in this area.

        To make you feel better this cold wintry day check out my review today. This book will definitely give you a kick in a very positive sense. 🙂

  • Hmm. I won this one and I love archeology, I don’t mind the technical stuff, but the rest sounds a bit …. I won’t rush it up the list anytime soon likely. I have many others to read first. Nice review.

    • Hey Tam! Even though it wasn’t for me, I hope you like it 🙂 Its not that I minded the technical aspects of archaeology… I just think its more important to understand what it means to the two characters, in a way that we’re shown and not just told. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

  • A very thoughtful review, Cole. I’ve had the same feelings about some books needing a good content editor. Why some epubs feel the need to skimp on this vital service for authors is anyone’s guess.

    I like GFY stories too but this one isn’t hitting my ‘must buy’ button.

    • Hi Jen! I think it might be inexperience with writing longer stories that was the basis of this problem. This is Dar Mavison’s first novel, but she has published several stories, so that could be why. I think she shows promise as an author, though.

  • Wow! I’m sorry to hear this. I thought this sounded like it might be good. Coulda been. Oh well. Thanks for the review.

    • Hi Marilyn! Some parts of this book really were good, but for me, the disappoints of the book, especially the editing, overshadowed those good bits. As always, though, my opinions are my own and yours might be different. Thank you!

  • I’ve been waffling about buying this book so I’ve been patiently waiting for this review. Thanks for the effort and honest review, Cole. Characters definitely make or break a story for me so I’m going to pass.


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26, male, gay, baker, knitter, sometimes writer, and voracious reader of all things | contact me: cole.riann[at]
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