HTitle: Dignity Takes a Holiday
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary Comedy/Romance-lite
Length: Novel (215 PDF pages)
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: In the end I couldn’t see my way to rate this over-the-top “so-called romantic comedy” any higher
Pete Thickwhistle doesn’t live what one might call a charmed life. At age forty-seven, he’s a flamboyant gay man who believes no one knows he’s gay, still living at home with his harpy of a mother. Worse, he’s still a virgin, longing to find just the right man to make his life complete. Pete’s an upbeat kind of guy, yet he’s never learned that the answer to his motto “What could possibly go wrong?” is always: “Everything.”
Pete’s road to love and happiness is full of potholes, yet he never tires of searching, despite job losses, weight battles, clothing faux pas, and disastrous vacations, parties, and dating debacles. Pete is the ultimate underdog living a television situation comedy, one named Dignity Takes a Holiday.
Forty-seven-year-old gay man Pete has big problems. He still lives at home with an interfering mother who treats him horribly, has a wardrobe out of the 70s, and a haircut out of the 50s. He has a weight problem, is a virgin, can’t seem to keep a job, favors glittery makeup to go with his interesting fashion choices, and is the butt of many jokes and schemes. He can’t seem to catch a break and terrible things continually happen to him, yet surprisingly he has extraordinary self-esteem, a hopeful outlook and keeps his eyes open for The One. If he can survive his mother and her attempts to ruin his life, perhaps he can one day find someone who will love him as he deserves.
I’ll say upfront that writing this review was difficult. I have read and enjoyed several stories from the prolific and talented Rick Reed, and was really excited about his latest, Dignity Takes a Holiday, as I LOVE a book with great humor. While I am sure there will be those who will love this zany story — there are several 5 and 4 star reviews out there already — I am not counted among them. I like to think I have a wide range for what I find funny with a taste for sophomoric humor, and even though I did chuckle out loud at some of the things that happen to poor Pete, unfortunately much of this “so-called romantic comedy” overall missed its mark with me. (UPDATE: it was pointed out to me several times that this is a FARCE, something I neglected to in the review as a description of what this book is. I am correcting that. It is a farce, with its over-the-top and exaggerated situations, something I knew as I was both reading it and writing the review, and while it doesn’t change my opinion, I neglected to mention it. Apologies.) And while I could see some other publisher taking this project on, I admit to being surprised that it was DSP as it seems, to me, to be very different to what they normally publish.
There were a few bright points. One can’t help feel both bad for and in awe of Pete. In the end, I liked him. Constantly asking himself “What could possibly go wrong?” he often finds out the answer, though it often doesn’t dampen his sunny outlook. Though he’s generally kind and his heart is in the right place, he makes terrible choices and decisions. A man with big dreams, he routinely picks wildly inappropriate and unattainable men often with embarrassing results because as he says, “if he didn’t play, he wouldn’t win.” He’s cute in his naïvite and innocence, and I had to smile at how traditional and somewhat conservative he is. Despite all the wackiness he encounters, the reader will most likely root for Pete and his pursuit of happiness and love, and hopes that he can find that one person out there that will accept him for who he is.
Things I did find funny: Pete, even in the worst of situations, checking his bronzer and making sure his flat-top is perfect. His often hilarious choices of what to wear and how he really thinks he’s suave in some outrageous attire. His delusional self-confidence when it comes to how he appears to others and what men he can get. How excited he gets over food.
The rest, however, I had issues with.
Besides the fact that I just didn’t find humor in most of the situations that I am sure Reed intended, the most difficult parts of the book for me were watching Pete’s interaction with his mother, with whom he lives and has a volatile relationship. A good portion of the story has both of them in it and this really ruined the book for me. Some will find it funny, but I found it to be abusive, cruel and most of the time painful to watch. The things they say to each other — and especially the humiliating, belittling, hateful things she says to him — were simply appalling. Even worse are some of the things she routinely does to him physically (such as taking a scouring pad and cleanser to his face to remove the glittery makeup he’s applied), and he raises a hand at her at times as well. The scene in the grocery store just about did it in for me, but I trudged on though the rest. Had I not been reading this for review, I would have stopped there. Like I said, there will be those who will find their interactions funny, but I found them sad and upsetting.
After a while, the potty humor — poop and fart situations — wore on me. If it weren’t for the explicit nature of the book at times, I would have thought the intended audience was thirteen-year-old boys.
There are a few warnings before you go in:
One, there a few scenes that some readers will feel contain bestiality. If that is something that squicks you, then either don’t pick up this book at all, or bypass those sections as you should be able to see them coming. While some of the graphic details are carried out off-page, it’s more than alluded to, and I am really amazed that DSP allowed it to be published.
Two, there is a brief, almost snapshot scene of mother/daughter incest.
Three, there is an incident of date rape via roofies.
With missed-the-mark humor, a horrible mother and an overload of potty jokes, Dignity Takes a Holiday was just about a complete miss for me. While I am just one reader and others may disagree, I can’t really recommend it.