Title: Take the Lead
Author: Johnny Diaz
Cover Art: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Take the Lead
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance-lite
Length: 234 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An in-depth interview with an Hispanic professor rather than hot romance.
Blurb: Popular college professor Gabriel Galan has a job he adores in Boston, a hot young lover, and a buddy who goes along on pub crawls and Star Trek nights alike. But Gabriel wants more.
When Gabriel’s stubbornly independent father needs help managing his Parkinson’s disease, Gabriel takes on more than he bargained for, and his smooth-cruising life is about to take a sharp turn as he teeters on the edge of a new crush on Adam, his father’s physical therapy dance class instructor.
Gabriel has always yearned for a co-pilot on his journey through life, but first he needs to take the lead and navigate the troubled waters of his own heart.
This book is not a drama-fest of romantic love. It is very down-to-earth and detailed, with a life in a day quality, that reveals Johnny Diaz’s journalistic roots. From his Wikipedia biography I would guess he is clearly writing what he knows about.
Gabriel is a Cuban-American originally from Florida, where his family still lives. Having been a newspaper reporter in Fort Lauderdale, he is now enjoying life as a professor concentrating on teaching journalism and creative writing at the Thomas Jefferson College in Boston. There is a lot of biographical detail about Gabriel; we learn about his big fears and problems, predominantly his father’s deteriorating condition of Parkinson’s Disease, as well as sharing his small worries about hair loss, and being a gay man in his thirties.
There is a lot of detail in this book: family, history, geography, medical and social. The locations in the story are all solidly described, with almost Googlemap intensity. Gabriel’s father Guillermo’s illness and the effect in his family is dealt with compassion and a thoughtful informative practicality. There is also an interesting concentration on Hispanic identity and the diversity of Gabriel’s social circle. His best friend, Nick, is Portuguese-Irish, and we visit his family for a warm happy Thanksgiving.
Gabriel’s relationships are also explored, but for me they are almost overwhelmed by the weight of the other elements. The sex is discreet and almost always under-written. The story arc is unconventional for a romantic novel with the main relationship coming very late on in the book. Consequently I never really connected with Adam. I was aware of Gabriel as a professor, a gay man, a good friend and a very loving son, but not so much as a romantic lead. Gabriel’s relationship with college senior Craig does obviously bring some emotional intensity to the book, but even that was slightly underwhelming, as problems had been emphatically foreshadowed.
Ultimately it became quickly apparent that is not my kind of book — no flights of extravagant fancy and even its dancing shoes are somehow pragmatic. However the very qualities I fail to appreciate — the realism, the tight, detailed writing, and layers of information — are clearly going to appeal to a different reader, who I am sure will get pleasure from Gabriel’s life.