We’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.
ILLINOIS: Finding Home (Quinn Security, Book 1) by Cameron Dane
I have no real explanation for how this is my very first M/M (Male/Male) romance novel. After all, I have long been a fan of the love that dare not speak its name: I number movies like My Own Private Idaho and Jeffrey among my favorites; adore the poetry of Walt Whitman and—as will already be obvious—Oscar Wilde; have watched all five seasons of the US Queer as Folk at least ten times; and count Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Kriss) as far and away my favorite couple on Glee. So why has this interest in the complicated love lives of beautiful boys not translated over to my love of romance novels before now? Oh, sure, occasionally there has been a little background guy-on-guy action, whether in an historical novel dealing with Alexander or Achilles or in a paranormal dealing with the omnivorous appetites of assorted vampires, cf. Anita Blake’s Jean-Claude, Sookie Stackhouse’s Eric or the BDB’s Vishous. (And, yay, bring on Qhuay!) But before this one, I had never taken the plunge into reading an all-out man-love-apalooza, and I can only hazard guesses as to why that might be, my current theory being that it’s a hangover from a traumatic (and quite accidental) teenage foray into online slash fanfic, in which some beloved TV characters started behaving so contrary to all I knew of them that I was left, quite simply, aghast. I mean, I think Kirk and Spock, I do not think KY Jelly. It was all highly illogical, and I really think turned me away from the entire M/M literary subgenre from that moment on.
But at the exhortation of H&H’s Tori Benson, offering up posts like the recent Man Oh Man! The Top Five M/M Couples and last year’s Why Do Straight Women Read Gay Male Erotica? (which made me think, at the time: Yeah, why do they? And why aren’t I?), I decided the day had finally arrived for me to shed the shameful shackles of that outraged teen Trekkie, and at last give it a try. And so, in honor of Illinois—the twenty-first state to join the Union, you know—I chose to tackle Finding Home, the first in Cameron Dane’s Chicago-based Quinn Security series, featuring the Lovers of Friends tale of the handsome Rhone Quinn and his foundling/employee/roommate, the also-handsome Adam Reyes.
It was the blurb that got me:
Picking pockets and stealing cars, Adam Reyes does what he must to survive. Working Chicago’s O’Hare airport, he feels pretty confident when he spots his next mark.
Security expert Rhone Quinn can’t believe the wiry kid who grabs his cell phone almost gets away with it. Logic says turn the teen over to the cops, but Rhone is a man who trusts his instincts, and his gut tells him to offer the young man a job and a chance to begin a new life. Little does Rhone know that when he makes this choice it will forever change his life, too.
That there is pretty much the Prologue, and I have to tell you, I almost didn’t get past it. The dialogue therein is all kinds of peculiar, with Rhone sounding like a redneck Henry Higgins, and Adam a low-rent Eliza. I persevered, however, because a) I had bought the book already and b) I really like the My Fair Lady-esque trope… and I am so glad I did! Because once you escape the clunky, clearly over-edited wording of the novel’s opening pages (“Don’t brag about your myriad of successful crimes. It’s not something in which you should feel pride.”—who talks like that?) things really pick up. And how!
So, clearly teenage runaway and would-be pickpocket Adam gets reformed with the help of Rhone, who, along with his brother Canin, runs the fledgling Quinn Security. In a series of vignettes set across almost a decade, we see the youngster grow into a man, eventually becoming a partner in the business. He and Rhone share an apartment for most of that time, but as we near present day happenings, Adam finally gets a place of his own because his passionate feelings for Rhone, long held in check, threaten to overwhelm him. A gay man from a strict Catholic family, he turned to his life of crime when they disowned him; now, having found a new family, he is terrified of losing them, too, should he ever betray his secret.
Oblivious to Adam’s sexual orientation, let alone the intensity with which he is adored from that quarter, Rhone dates a variety of women, bringing them home and having his wicked, noisy way with them (in which Adam, in the next room, would often find that fine line between pleasure and pain). But a year after he is left alone in the apartment, he considers it cold and empty, missing the domestic harmony he shared with his best friend. He spends every day with Adam at work, but it’s still not enough for him, and he doesn’t understand why…until, that is, he walks in on Adam and their co-worker Kasey, a dominatrix in a power suit, playing some rough sex games with some Rhone-sized equipment, and he realizes that despite the fact he’d never even been bi-curious in all of his thirty-five years of life, he’s now desperate for Adam’s hot and hairy lovin’. Cue hot and hairy lovin’. Lots of it.
Oooh, boy, the sex stuff in this book is major. I mean, blush-on-my-cheeks, hand-to-my-mouth, eyes-wide, I-cannot-believe-what-I-am-reading major. The frankness with which Adam’s painstakingly-described, Rhone-fuelled self-love is articulated hit at my delicate sensibilities like a sledgehammer, and I found the several chapters worth of mutual discovery after Rhone comes over all gay (er… that sounded less dirty in my head) likewise more than a little startling. But—and this is odd—where usually, in any of your racier romances, I hurriedly skip past all the heaving bosoms and throbbing members to get back to the plot, such as it might be, here I was glued to every word of every act, every position. I think because it was all just so new to me, and so very alien to my own experience, that I found it fascinating. Kind of like watching a documentary on, say, a daredevil attempting to jump the Grand Canyon on a moped, or whatever. You know you’d never be able to do it yourself, but it’s an intriguing thing to witness nonetheless.
But for all that was different, for me, about this book, there was a lot that was quite satisfyingly the same. As noted, it’s a classic Lovers of Friends story, though it also incorporates more than a few other standard category romance archetypes: Rhone is a good deal older than Adam, spends much of the book as his boss, and never saw him in a romantic light until one blinding moment of epiphany changed everything, showing Rhone that his soul mate had been right under his nose the whole time. Change the name Adam to, say, Amy, and that could be the plot of any number of Harlequins. I like that. (But then, I’m not a gay man. For all I know, they may think this is taking sexual equality just a little too far.)
I mentioned this book is set in Chicago, right? Not that it matters, it really could be set in any major American city—or, at least, any in which there are bedrooms. It doesn’t really pay any kind of tribute to its setting, as is usually our hope for novels dubbed Perfect Unions-worthy, but I enjoyed Finding Home so much that it’s hard to care. Probably the most telling thing I have to say about this book is that, upon concluding it, I immediately dashed off to order Quinn Security, Book 2: The Ultimate Kink, though I did feel some trepidation, since it is the story of Canin and Kasey, which therefore makes it good, old fashioned M/F contemporary erotica—and I usually have no truck with that kind of thing, especially if there are no supernatural creatures involved. But Cameron Dane (she’s a woman, by the way; as, indeed, most authors of M/M erotica seem to be) has the touch, that certain something that makes me want to read on even when I don’t really want to read on, and with Books 3 and 4 of the series reverting to what can only be her M/M specialty, obviously they had to be added to my order as well. Indeed, I am now suddenly such a convert to this style of storytelling that Tori’s plentiful recommendations in the field will doubtless also find their way onto my Wishlist – to think, all the fun I could have been having all this time, were it not for that one, utterly confounding Kirk/Spock link upon which I clicked so innocently, lo these many years ago.
Damn you, slash fanfic! What evils you have wrought.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.