Title: The Other Guy
Author: Cary Attwell
Cover Artist: N/A
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services/self published
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M/ Romantic Comedy
Length: Novel/233 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Great characterizations, excellent dialogue and a fresh writing style made this book a wonderful read.
Emory James is, by his own admission, not the type of person the adjective exciting would ever deign to touch with a ten-foot pole. Cautious, reserved and staid, however, all crowd around him like best friends. Still, he gets by — or at least he gets by up until his fiancée dumps him at the altar. Out of spite, he takes a solo honeymoon to Thailand, where he can pretend to be someone better than himself for a little while. In meeting Nate, a fellow traveler, Emory slowly discovers how to stop pretending.
I had heard a couple months ago that this book was very funny so of course I had to get it, and it lived up to its billing as a romantic comedy.
You know from the blurb that Emory was cruelly dumped at the altar by his bride-to-be when her ex boyfriend, the Good Looking Bastard as Emory called him, swooped in and snatched her away from our hero just as the wedding ceremony was about to begin. Of course Emory was hurt, humiliated and publicly embarrassed but he bravely stuck it out at the reception and then decided to go on a singles honeymoon, because what else is a guy supposed to do with non-refundable airline tickets, paid-for hotel reservations he couldn’t cancel, and nowhere to go?
The story is told in Emory’s first person POV and his “voice” is droll, self deprecating and self effacing as he describes the initial mishaps and embarrassments of going on a honeymoon by himself. On Day 2 of his singles honeymoon he met Nate, a wedding photographer looking to improve his craft who was in Thailand on vacation. They struck up a friendship as people do when they are on holiday by themselves, and over the course of a few days got to know each other although not well and they didn’t exchange personal information such as email, or even a telephone number, because they didn’t expect to meet again.
The chemistry between them was apparent from the beginning and matters progressed from flirting to exchanging a couple of brief kisses, to wooing on Nate’s part, and on his last evening they had sex. When Nate went away Emory missed him terribly but told himself it was for the best that he couldn’t contact him because being with another man would ruin the life he had built for himself.
I couldn’t believe that this was a debut novel because throughout the story the writing was almost remarkable, better than a lot of seasoned writers; there was such freshness in the prose and dialogue that I was engrossed without being aware of it. Emory was so well crafted that after his initial public humiliation I didn’t feel sorry for him because he poked fun at himself for actually expecting his bride-to-be to marry him when her ex was so handsome and he was the other guy, but I did think he came across as whiny on occasion. Emory is what is commonly known as an unreliable narrator because he was not very perceptive about himself or others and his account of incidents or people in his life couldn’t be depended on. As for Nate, he was as three dimensional as Emory even though the book is told from Emory’s first person POV, and while the story might have benefited if we had been privy to Nate thoughts, the writing was so well constructed and clever that I didn’t think Nate’s POV was really necessary as I got his character. In fact, I was more taken with Nate than I was was Emory.
There’s no on-page sex in this book so if this is important to you, you may wish to consider if it’s for you. For me it was refreshing to read an m/m romance where the emphasis was on the writing and characterization and the author did not depend on what the guys did in bed or the size of their equipment, (which seems to be the norm in this genre), in order to enhance or embellish the story. The MCs did have sex but if you blinked you missed it. I didn’t notice its lack because this particular book didn’t need to be explicit. The Other Guy reminded me of another wonderful romantic comedy, Bartender P.I. by Ethan Stone, which also had no on-page sex and I didn’t miss it because it was so well written and funny. I’m not saying that every rom com should be bereft of sex – I’m only making the point that these two books didn’t need to rely on hot sex to make the story more interesting.
The other compliment I have to give the author is that in both Thailand and Chicago there was a definite sense of place as I accompanied the characters on their travels, whether it was to find a lesser known neighbourhood park in Chicago, attending a concert, or visiting the various tourist locations in Thailand and enjoying the native cuisine.
Kudos to Cary Attwell for allowing the romance to evolve over a period of a year while the guys really got to know each other. They renewed their friendship and then the relationship changed and became charged, just waiting for either MC to take the first step. This was definitely not Insta!love.
The characters in The Other Guy were so well drawn they could have been sitting across the room from me. I shall be on the lookout for other books by this author because her writing style is unusual. As for the humour, it was understated and there were no pratfalls. Emory in his usual way made fun of himself and clearly needed an injection of self esteem. There was one situation where I wished he could have grown a backbone and a pair because he didn’t stand up for himself and his love for Nate, he took the cowardly way out by letting the chips fall where they may, and knowingly hurt Nate. He panicked, acted irrationally and I didn’t feel that his antics were believable; I was about ready to give up on him when he redeemed himself.
On the negative side, both sets of parents were portrayed as unsympathetic homophobes with no redeeming qualities (mostly Nate’s parents). I think this characterization has been done ad nauseum and authors should stick a fork in it. While I don’t doubt there are real parents who still adhere to the belief that their gay offspring need divine intervention and redemption, to continue to reiterate this in these books is getting boring. On the flip side, the female characters were not portrayed as bitches, even the former bride-to-be wasn’t a bad person, she just preferred someone else and realized her mistake on her wedding day. Hal, Emory’s childhood friend was pretty cool – he didn’t say much but was always there to lend support. Emory’s best friend Linnea was a standout and had a major role in the book – she had the unenviable task of boosting his confidence or kicking him when he needed it, as he didn’t appear to have the good sense to figure out who was flawed or a good person.
While this book appears to be Gay For You with an MC who was clueless about his sexual orientation until he was almost 30, there were prior indications in Emory’s teens that he was attracted to other boys in school, but he didn’t acknowledge his feelings because he was afraid of the repercussions of coming out.
To summarize, this is a terrific book with great characters, not a lot of plot, but the prose and dialogue made up for the lack.