Title: Blind Items
Author: Kate McMurray
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Blind Items
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An intelligent, complicated affair between an insecure closeted man and the journalist who wants to help him written with great style and humour.
Blurb: Columnist Drew Walsh made his career by publicly criticizing conservative, anti-gay politician Richard Granger. So when a rumor surfaces that Granger’s son Jonathan might be gay, Drew finds himself in the middle of a potential scandal. Under the guise of an interview about Jonathan’s new job teaching in an inner-city school, Drew’s job is to find out if the rumors are true. Drew’s best friend Rey is also Jonathan’s cousin, and he arranges the meeting between Jonathan and Drew that changes everything.
After just one interview, it’s obvious to Drew that the rumors are true, but he carefully neglects to mention that in his article. It’s also obvious that he’s falling for Jonathan, and he can’t stay away after the article is published. Still, Jonathan is too afraid to step out of the closet, and Drew thinks the smartest thing might be to let him go—until Jonathan shows up drunk one night at his apartment. The slow burn of their attraction doesn’t fade with Jonathan’s buzz, but navigating a relationship is never easy—especially in the shadow of right-wing politics.
This was the first novel I’d read by Kate McMurray and when I finished I immediately bought two others, so you’ve guessed I really enjoyed Blind Items. What I found most satisfying was an almost forensic examination of the character’s inner and outer lives. These are people who are subtly complicated, who sometime makes mistakes. Jonathan is described by Drew in two instances as being something perfect made up of flaws and this perception is perhaps the underlying meta message of the book.
However Drew had instant charm for me. I found his voice distinctive, appealing and very funny, he is not without his own quirks of personality, but I found his moral and personal baseline both totally recognisable and attractive. The standards of fair play he applies to his journalism are reflected in the book’s balanced approach to the character’s behaviour. Even Drew’s bête noire presidential candidate Richard Grainger—politically dishonest, homophobic and unprincipled—is allowed to be Uncle Richard in the interests of even-handedness.
The term “blind item,” according to Wikipedia, is a news story, usually gossip, in which the details of the reported while the identities of the people involved are not revealed. The story, set emphatically in New York, deals in part with the power of secrets, rumour and innuendo. Jonathan’s precarious position because of his father’ s political ambitions perfectly represents the edgy insecurity of public life.
Rey, Drew’s best friend, is a successful actor, also subject to the vagaries of rumour. His relationship with Drew is at times shown to be almost as important as that growing between Drew and Jonathan. He is a link combining Drew’s past and present being the Senator’s nephew and Jonathan’s cousin, but is also much more than that. When Drew meets Jonathan for the first time he describes him physically in comparison to Rey,
Where Rey looked strong, Jonathan looked delicate. In other words, Rey was classically movie-star hot. But Jonathan was beautiful.
which makes subtle reference to the underlying frisson of Drew’s previous attraction to his straight best friend. This is a delicate gesture toward the often confusing interconnections of human emotions. Moreover it is later revisited in the comfort hug and strangely truthful opportunistic kiss between Drew and Rey. In keeping with the feel of the book I found aspects of Rey’s personality I liked and others that I had problems with.
It is no mean achievement to make such a complex character as Jonathan appealing as Drew’s main love interest. You have a man who is unable to admit he is gay, in complete self denial. As Drew puts it, ” He’s one of those guys who will swear he’s straight while he’s got your dick in his mouth.”
Moreover this lack of personal honesty is not only because of strong personal pressure by his incredibly dominant father. He drinks to give himself courage, and has dishonest relationships with women. Although sexually he is a closeted, mixed-up guy, professionally he has tried to establish his own career, and wants to teach kids who really need help—not taking an easy teaching route. Early on in the book this kind of selective critical juggling is displayed beautifully. Then, in his sympathetic article about him, Drew tries to balance his dislike of Jonathan’s father with his respect for Jonathan’s career choices. However as Drew recognises, The subtext was, of course, ” Dear Jonathan, I’m gay, please go out with me, “
We see Jonathan at his best when we see him through Drew’s eyes. Essentially because he finds Jonathan being forced to act on the strength of his attraction toward him sexually exciting—and so does the reader. Drew is both supportive and gently proactive with Jonathan wanting to come out at his own pace. Even Drew admits after hearing ‘The Senator’ on the phone, that the power—not only financial—that he commands is considerable. Sadly Jonathan is still hoping his father will one day accept him as he is. In spite of all this layered justification I personally struggled a bit with Jonathan’s subservience to his father’s wishes. Nevertheless to be upfront about my bias or ‘sub text,’ if when all things are considered Drew loves Jonathan, then count me in too.
Moreover at the sweet moments when Jonathan reveals an incredibly endearing protective possessiveness, I completely forgot and forgave his previous weakness of character.
I was very impressed with this book’s emotional intricacy, many of the minor characters also display interesting complexities that add to the vibrancy of the whole work. I completely enjoyed my introduction to Kate McMurray’s work and found Drew thoughtful, intelligent, and amusing company.