Title: Cherries on Top
Author: Rowan McAllister
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: Novella 70 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 rating stars
Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An unexpectedly, enjoyable, presentable—if not totally realistic—take on GFY.
Blurb: Six months after the end of an abusive relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Craig finally finds someone he’s attracted to. It doesn’t bother him that Doug is a man, much less a player. What matters is that he’s a perfect candidate for a no-strings-attached night that just might help Craig prove to himself that he’s not as broken as he fears.
One night—that’s all it was supposed to be. But one night turns into yearning, turns into e-mailing, turns into communicating, turns into Doug hoping against hope that Craig might feel the same frightening attachment that he feels, pretty please? With cherries on top?
If the ” Gay For You ” story line is one you have difficulty with then this enjoyable novella is probably not for you. I really like this trope if it follows a few obvious conventions, but hey, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Cherries on Top doesn’t and I happily bought it. However the issue does begin to be cleverly addressed when Doug, having asked Craig about his experiences with men, responds, “Nothing? Not even kissing? A little experimenting in school…a circle jerk?” Craig’s reprehensible lack of gay adolescent tensions—no crush on his best friend or repressed physical yearnings—is slightly offset by his job in a gay bar. When Doug reluctantly discovers more about Craig he learns he is indeed a complicated guy. Craig’s practical solution to the only physical attraction he has felt since the break up of his dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend starts to become more acceptable. Well, okay, it did to me, because I really liked Craig’s mixture of vulnerability and strength, so there you are, I was a believer.
Moreover I found Craig’s thought processes and his emotions after his initial gay experiment with Doug were thoroughly in tune with his character’s previous insecurities. I liked the gradual development of the encounters between the two men. Doug is less written than Craig but no one dimensional player, and not just the object of Craig’s new sexuality. For the sake of the rest of the story, the sex between Craig and Doug had to be good, and it certainly fulfilled that. Both Doug and Craig have new found emotions to come to terms with and this is dealt with neatly and realistically.
There is a lot of well thought out detail in this relatively short novella. Rowan McAllister has looked at class difference in characters in her historical novel, A Promise of Tomorrow and continues with that here. Doug is well educated, has a wealthy comfortable background, with no experience of paid work until an adult, while Craig from age twelve added to the single family income, practically raising his siblings. Doug’s imminent move to Chicago, initially a good reason for Craig’s suggestion of sex, becomes a good plot development throwing some added tension into the mix.
There are a lot of firsts—sexual and emotional—being pleasurably explored in Cherries on Top which as part of Dreamspinner’s First Time for Everything series should not come as any surprise. However, I did find a surprise how much fun this perhaps unexpected GFY story was.