Title: Always MJ
Author: SJD Peterson
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: 98 pages / 20362 words
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: A sweet story I’d have enjoyed more if I hadn’t feared domestic abuse was inevitable if the characters don’t take preventative action.
Blurb: Matthew Jonathon Parker, Matty to his friends, never did anything spontaneous. Yet six months ago, during a ‘poor-me’ moment, he entered an online chat room and may have met the man of his dreams.
Matthew Jonathon Parker planned every aspect of his day. From the time he woke up until the exact minute he crawled back into bed, his day was set. He wasn’t the kind of man to seek out other men in chat rooms. He certainly wasn’t the type to fall in love with someone he only knew from typed words.
After a six-month online affair, Matty agrees to meet Jay in Florida for a weekend getaway. Only Jay isn’t what Matty expected; although, perhaps he should have known it was too good to be true.
After all, Jay’s screen name AlwaysMJ stands for ‘Always making jokes’–or does it?
Review: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Meeting online, you can present yourself as whoever you want to be. Some people take advantage of that to pretend to be something they’re not, but others seize the opportunity to be who they really are. Many people find it easier to be more open and authentic online than in person. As a result, I’ve known several people who have met, fallen in love, and in some cases, married after meeting online and chatting regularly. So I thought that was very well done and believable, up to a point. Where I found it a bit less believable was that they apparently got to the “meeting in person” stage without talking on the phone and exchanging photos first, if not doing video chat like Skype. It struck me as odd that Matty went to meet Jay having no idea what he looked or sounded like.
Especially since we were told that Matty is normally such a planner, a color-within-the-lines kind of guy, that made even less sense to me. I thought it was wonderful that he was trying new things, testing his limits and expanding his comfort zone. But it seemed to me going to meet Jay was far enough for Matty to stretch. Expecting the reader to believe he’d do so blind was more of a stretch than my disbelief was capable of without snapping. Despite that, I loved Matty. I also liked Jay in many ways, and thought the two of them complemented each other well.
But then Jay started seriously creeping me out, though I’ll explain why as vaguely as possible to avoid spoilers. I understood why he might have hesitated to be completely forthright at first, and found that forgivable. But to continue his deception for months, not revealing the truth until Matty was in Florida? I had a harder time overlooking that. I couldn’t feel much sympathy for him when he was shocked and hurt at Matty’s reaction to being lied to. I ached for Matty and though his reaction initially seemed over the top to me, I eventually concluded it was realistic for who he was. I was glad when he gave Jay a chance to explain. I hoped Jay would have an explanation that would make it possible for Matty and me to forgive him, thus making HEA possible and desirable.
Jay’s explanation worked for Matty, and almost worked for me. We’re given enough context of Jay’s background for me to sympathize with how it shaped him and why he’d act as he had. But where Jay lost me was with his insane, violent jealousy. Over the remainder of the (short) story, we saw it manifest with a frequency and variety that convinced me these were warning signs of a probable future abuser. He was controlling, possessive, and prone to murderous rage even at joking references to Matty finding other men attractive (even hockey players he’s unlikely ever to meet). If Jay and Matty had recognized this was a problem and Jay got help for it, I think that would have made for a truly amazing story, one in which I would have respected the hell out of both characters.
Unfortunately, Matty seemed to take Jay’s jealousy as proof that Jay really loved him. After all, the depth of someone’s jealousy is directly proportional to the depth of their love, right? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. Wrong! (If you’re suspecting I was disturbed by that aspect of this story? You’re right!) So while this story ended with a “HEA”, it was one that left me cringing, convinced that domestic abuse almost certainly lies in their future together.
I don’t think of domestic abuse as a particular “hot button” of mine. I’ve never personally been abused, nor have I agonized over someone I love being abused for an extended period of time. So I’m surprised that it was such an issue for me in this story and doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone else. At least, not according to other reviews I read after writing this one. I read this story twice, and each time found myself cringing at the myriad references to Jay’s jealousy in conjunction with him being possessive and controlling. If not for that, I think I’d have loved this story. Since no one else seems to have shared my concerns, I think there’s a good chance most readers will enjoy this story.