Title: Learning to Love: Michael & Sean
Author: K.C. Wells
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Learning to Love: Michael & Sean
Genre: M/M Romance
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A brave attempt at spinning a new take on the “gay for you” theme that lost its steam and wandered off into cliched territory that was less than fresh.
Blurb: Sean and Michael are best friends from the minute they meet and become roommates. But after supporting Sean in the wake of his brother’s death, Michael finds himself questioning his sexuality and thinking about his roommate in a totally unexpected light. After all, he and Sean are straight—or so he thought. Suddenly Michael’s not so sure any more. He turns to their gay housemate, Evan, for advice. Little does he know he’s not the only one seeking Evan’s help.
Michael and Sean are both thrilled to explore their newly discovered feelings for each other, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. When the reality of homophobia intrudes on their academic and personal lives and threatens their happiness, the adversity should draw them closer. Instead, it drives a dangerous wedge between them and puts their relationship, their futures, and their health at risk.
Learning to Love
Review: Gay for you…or coming out stories are so very difficult to write in a realistic fashion. There are many who would argue that the whole idea of a gay for you is unrealistic and that most, if not many, gay men and women know from an early age what their sexual preferences are. So before I wrote this review I went to the source, my gay best friend, and asked him to comment on the premise of this story–that two young men could really have no idea that they were gay until their freshman year in college.
His response? Sam, if you’ve met one gay man…you’ve met one gay man. In other words–everyone is different–as is their coming out story. So I took a second look at Learning to Love: Michael and Sean by K.C. Wells and tried to figure out exactly what did not appeal to me about this book.
Let’s look for a minute at the main ideas in the novel.
- Michael and Sean come to college not knowing they are gay–yet neither have ever dated nor have any real interest in girls. This actually did not bother me–I could buy that two boys such as these had lived a life that did not automatically lead to them thinking about their lack of strong interest in girls as a sign that they were gay–after all, not every high school boy goes through life dating one person after another. I know, I married one who did not.
2. They both slowly come to the realization that they “like” one another–and go to the resident gay guy living in their house for advice. And here is where I first felt a niggle that all was not well with this novel. The character of Evan was not only over the top gay (calling everyone “sweetie”–which got irritating after a while) but also a bit smarmy. He knows after Michael approaches him that Michael is attracted to Sean–and the ploy he uses to convince Michael he is gay is to kiss him. Ok. But, when Evan later uses the same tactic with Sean rather than telling Sean that Michael likes him–well, now that was just sneaky–and a little slimy. So I found myself not liking the “gay” best friend character a great deal as this story progressed and that made the near ending of the story really hard to digest.
- Each main character experiences a life-changing event that impacts the story dramatically. First lets look at Sean for he has two moments and each was handled very well by the author. Both the death of his only sibling and his coming out to his parents were incredibly moving scenes. I felt the sad and emotionally wrenching scene between he and his father was not only realistic but beautifully written and the resulting conflict between he and Michael set up nicely Michael’s own life altering moment.
Despite the awkwardness of the relationship and the too often sweetness to its tone, here was solid writing and the author truly gave each of these plot points their due. It is this section of the novel that leads me to believe that as K.C. Wells develops as a writer, we will see better constructed novels from her–something I look forward to reading.
The part “b” of this–Michael’s defining moment was also stunning in its realism especially as we hear him recount later in the novel his ambush and subsequent beating and near rape. He is the victim of a gay bashing in the truest sense of the word by a former housemate, Adam. As each of these scenes unfolded I felt that the story was moving in the right direction. Unfortunately it was right after that the novel took a serious detour and, for me, never found its way back.
- Cheating, menage and just plain silly and unrealistic reactions. Without giving too much detail away, I have to state that the cheating and menage–while not my cup of tea–are not the reason this book lost in the ratings area. Rather it was the less than stellar writing of those scenes and the contrived way in which the author chose to fit them into what had been shaping up to be a nice coming out story.
The “cheating” just left me shaking my head in disbelief–its timing in the novel was just outrageous and the reaction to it by the other main character left me nonplussed. Not only was all forgiven but it led to the menage scene which just blew me away. Yes, it was hot. Yes, it could even in a really big stretch of the word be considered realistic but the fact that Evan was involved after being such a manipulative and smarmy character? That left me cold and unhappy.
So, here it was–a promising novel that ran out of steam halfway through and fell back on some of the worst clichés that so many mediocre m/m romance novels seem to do. Learning to Love: Michael and Sean by K.C. Wells made a valiant attempt at breathing life into a typically unbelievable “gay for you” genre. The author tried to move it beyond that simple area into more of a coming of age novel and the story had many positive and entertaining moments but not enough to salvage the less than adequate ending.
I do think that K.C. Wells bears watching in the future. Her writing skills shine at places in this story and I believe she has great potential to give us a solid novel in the future.
So, dear reader, as always the choice is yours. Do let me know what you think of this one, should you decide to take the plunge!