Author: Elizabeth Lister
Cover Artist: Winterheart Designs
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Diverse
Length: novella/128 pages/35K words
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A very good debut novel that explores how the characters cope when one has a debilitating disease.
When 23 year-old Jeremy Trask wanders into Martin Lewis’ photography studio one bleak October day and requests photos for a modeling portfolio, neither man is prepared for the immediate and intense attraction between them. What follows is a series of progressively intimate encounters that leads them on a scintillating erotic journey together. But Jeremy has a secret. Will his revelation destroy the burgeoning intimacy between them? Or will Martin rise to the challenge of loving a ‘less than perfect’ man?
Exposure is told from Martin’s 1st person POV. At 32 he had been a professional photographer for 6 years and on this particular day he was running behind when his last appointment showed up, and what a pleasant surprise it was after taking pictures all day of families. Jeremy was 23 and beautiful and his roommates had dared him to come up with pictures for a modeling portfolio. During their first session it was all Martin could do to control his libido as he and Jeremy asked the usual polite questions but never got to the real one that apparently they both wanted to know the answer to – was “he” gay?
The next day when Jeremy arrived he made his move immediately since he was just as attracted to Martin, and they ended up in bed after the photography session. The sex was explosive and Martin couldn’t believe his luck because he hadn’t been with anyone for a year and a half, and to have someone as incredible looking and responsive as Jeremy in bed with him was icing on the cake. This continued for two weeks and kept getting better and hotter in the bedroom although they did come up for air occasionally and even went out on dates. On a visit to Jeremy’s gym all of Martin’s insecurities came to the fore since he was almost 10 years older and it seemed that all of the bodies around him were harder and the men were all hot. However when they returned to Martin’s apartment Jeremy showed him why he was with him, and during sex they indulged in some mild bondage play which raised their lovemaking to a higher level.
Then everything changed!
The next morning when Martin woke up Jeremy wasn’t in the bed and he found him in the bathroom in tears because he couldn’t get up. It turned out that he had multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease. Apparently this was his second attack in three years and the first time was so severe he had had to use a wheelchair for several months.
Jeremy explained to Martin that what he had was a pseudo-relapse which usually occurs when someone stops taking their medication. His major issue was whether Martin, who had just told him he loved him, would stick around, a very valid concern considering the seriousness of the disease.
I liked the realistic way that the MCs tried to cope with what could have been a relationship-ending situation, especially since they had only known each other for a couple of weeks. Martin’s protectiveness and love for Jeremy was evident once he made the decision that he was in it for the long haul.
The tone of the book was surprisingly upbeat and Martin’s photography and their sex play gave another layer to the characters and the story as Jeremy’s inner beauty was revealed through the lens of the camera. I think that Jeremy’s approach to life made all the difference to the story – there was no black cloud hanging over him even though he recognized the seriousness of his condition.
Elizabeth Lister did an excellent job on the symptoms and treatment of the disease and there’s a good reason for this – she herself suffers from MS. Although the book outlined the treatment options it was done in a practical and unemotional way which did not detract from the seriousness of the disease and the cost of the meds., and there was no attempt to downplay Jeremy’s situation or Martin’s honest reactions to what committing himself to Jeremy would mean.
I wanted to review this book for a couple of reasons. The first was that one of the protagonists had a disability that hadn’t been covered in M/M romances that I had read to date and I wanted to see how the author would handle it, and the second was that the book was set in Ottawa, Canada which doesn’t happen often.
This is Elizabeth Lister’s debut novella and she did a great job on the characters and the plot. The romance always took precedence and the book didn’t morph into a text book for the treatment of the disease although, of necessity, there was a fair amount of information about treatment options. The love between Martin and Jeremy was obvious throughout even though Martin had to make the all-important decision about their future together. I thought that the book may have ended a bit abruptly and perhaps the author needed at least another 5K to fully flesh out the plot, however this is still a really good read.