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All Wrapped Up
Morgan Harcourt;Laylah Hunter;Thea Hayworth;Gryvon
Same Page - Lily Velden
The author unfolds this love-at-first-sight, gay-for-you story in a super romantic style, rendering a melodramatic and almost old-fashioned feel to it. Nothing flashy, no mystery or suspense… just two incredibly beautiful and charismatic men who start off at odds with each other. And thus, sets up the only real tension in the story. The actor Jaxon Moncrieff, and his obsession, artist, Liam Lassiter have a push-pull, yes:no, is he/isn’t he?, extended, unrelenting sexual tension kind-of-a-thing going on. Because, never doubt it, the moment Jaxon sets his eyes on Liam— yes, across a crowded art gallery— he cannot forget him, he pines for him, his dreams are haunted by him. Get comfortable, it’s a long ride as the yearning and angst is drawn out over the course of eight months.

Liam is an up-and-coming media artist. He is as beautiful as the art he makes but is weary of being hit on because of his looks. He suffers from feelings of abandonment: lovers have betrayed him, his parents died when he was very young. It is difficult for him to open up. So when Jaxon makes smokey-eyes at him at his exhibit opening, he gets pretty huffy. What he learns from his initial rebuff of Jaxon, though, is that his own rude behavior is just as judgmental and unfair as the shallow reaction he’s taken exception to. So, he reluctantly gives Jaxon a second chance at just-being-friends.

Jaxon agrees to the arrangement. But he must constantly curb his lust, his never-ending attraction for the other man. Before Liam, Jaxon identified as straight and he could have anyone in the world. But now he only wants Liam, he is fixated. He is besotted. He has special pet names. He names AND talks to his own penis. Constantly. He’s names it. Buddy.

I really wanted to love this book. The premise is so yummy— two hot men catch gazes across a crowded art gallery— yes, I’m back to that… such a classic romantic set-up. One pursues, the other is hard to get, the first is perpetually hard… My first difficulty is that I’m not terribly keen on romance stories told largely by narration. I’m also not a fan of melodramatic, over-the-top storytelling that can easily ooze to cheeze. And there are uncomfortable niggles with the characterizations that kept biting.

I start off liking the two men. Well, they sound good in concept. Liam is comfortable in his skin. When asked if he ever felt discriminated against because he is gay, he quotes another artist, sculptor, Eva Hesse (except she was referring to women in art, here):

“The way to beat discrimination in art is by art. Excellence has no sex.”

Gorgeous, talented, smart, and articulate. He has depth— he doesn’t want to be liked just for his looks (yet we are constantly reminded how gorgeous he is). What’s not to like?

But Liam’s actions don’t always sit right with me. On two separate occasions when Jaxon is incapacitated by too much drink or heavily asleep from exhaustion, Liam takes advantage to explore his body! This just seems like a double standard, especially considering how tightly in control Jaxon must keep his feelings towards Liam. And this is just not behavior I’d expect from the Liam of the beginning of the story. Further, both of these men, strong and vibrant in the first part of the story, slowly disintegrate into quivering masses of tearful emotions run-amok in girly-girl introspection, clinginess, and angst. I want the Jaxon and Liam of the art gallery back: prickly, sparring, masculine.

Some will love this story: it is very sweet, it is full of angst, you have these beautiful people who live beautiful lives, and it has the longest drawn-out sexual tension ever. The storytelling, unfortunately, missed the mark for me. While I really wanted to get it, to fall under a spell, it was, in the end, too over-the-top, and the characters not believable.

This looks to be the first extended work from this author who also seems fairly new to the scene. To her credit, the writing itself is good and the proofing excellent. While it is in need of editing— it is way too long— it is obviously a story crafted with care and love and that has to be recognized and credited. While it’s not my thing, it just may be yours. For this review and much more, please visit: The Blog of Sid Love