Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ARC Review: The Straight Boyfriend (Loving You 3) by Renae Kaye

Aaron Hall has never been able to remain faithful to a single woman, and for most of his life, he’s dated two women at once. Recently his girlfriend tracked him down and knocked on his door—and his live-in girlfriend answered. Now he has no girlfriend and a mortgage he can’t pay by himself.

Vinnie Rosello needs to change his life—get a better job, stop drinking all his money away, find himself a serious boyfriend… and move out of his parents’ house. Aaron needs help with his expenses, so they become housemates.

Even though Aaron harbors some misconceptions about gay men and Vinnie misses his large Italian family, both men find comfort in their friendship. It’s a good arrangement until everything between them changes

Vinnie falls in love with Aaron, and Aaron is shocked to realize he feels the same. There’s only one problem—he’s still straight. He’ll have to overcome his fear of labels in order to love the man who’s captured his heart.

Dani's review:

~~~While I can’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy reading the story (on the surface, it’s all fluff and candy and forever), I find the author’s dismissal of bisexuality extremely problematic. The more I think about it, the more I realize I cannot overlook this troubling trend. As such, I am not comfortable rating this book. You'll find my honest review below.~~~

The Straight Boyfriend is a friends-to-lovers, GFY story set in the same world as Loving Jay. Indeed, Jay and Liam, as well as Kee and Tate from Don't Twunk With My Heart, are fairly present in the story (although Jay isn't nearly as fabulous here as he was in Don't Twunk With My Heart).

Aaron is Liam's red-headed, burly straight best friend. Aaron loves sex and sometimes dates more than one woman at a time because he's insatiable. He also has trouble staying faithful. He's a bit of a bastard, honestly, but he's also laid-back, funny, and accepting.

Vinnie comes from a poly Italian family consisting of his mom, his dad, his aunty, and many brothers, sisters, "cousins" (really half-siblings), and THEIR kids. When Vinnie finally moves out of his parents' house and in with Aaron, he has trouble sleeping alone, so he sleeps with Aaron.

Vinnie pines for Aaron, but Aaron is straight. Aaron is VERY straight. Aaron tells us that he's DEFINITELY NOT GAY dozens of times. Aaron has no interest in other men. Watching two men get it on does nothing for him. But he likes Vinnie. He likes Vinnie A LOT.

Vinnie flirts with Aaron and pushes Aaron into a sort of friends-with-benefits situation. I was really uncomfortable with how sneakily aggressive Vinnie was. Aaron tells him no, but Vinnie keeps manipulating the situation. And, yes, eventually Aaron wants Vinnie to get him off; it feels good, and Aaron loves sex.

The running theme in the story is that loving someone doesn’t need a label. Liam and Aaron have this long discussion about it, and Liam says that he's now gay because he’s with Jay ("It was never a choice to me, Aaron. I never had to choose between being gay or not. I never consciously sat down and decided one day to turn my whole life around because I wanted to be gay."). And that it doesn't matter what you call it anyway.

For a long time, Aaron won’t do anal, because that’s SO gay, more gay than oral apparently. He won’t say he’s bi, even though he’s aware of the Kinsey scale and that sexuality is more fluid than just straight/gay. Vinnie refers to Aaron as his "straight boyfriend," which, hello, is an oxymoron.

For a story that’s all about NO LABELS, there are a hell of a lot of labels used. The word “gay” appears 216 times! Aaron thinks he can’t stay faithful to Vinnie because at some point he'll want to fuck a woman.

[Aaron] looked down and nodded . . . . "I want you to help me fight my feelings if I feel like I want to go with a girl. I don't know what you can do, because since we've been together, I haven't really felt a great need to be with a girl. "

"You mean you feel gay now?"

[Aaron's] face brightened . . . "No. See? . . . I'm straight. I'm definitely straight. I can feel it. I still feel the attraction to girls . . . I want to be with you, even if it means people think I'm gay. I don't mind. I'd do that for you . . . But I don't know how strong the attraction to a woman will be if I start getting itchy feet."

This made me think of the ridiculous, ignorant stereotype about bisexuals who supposedly can’t ever be satisfied with one partner because they like both sexes, and their partner can ever offer them only half of what they need. That’s so fucking wrong and offensive, I can’t even.

I’m so torn about how to rate this book. On the one hand, this is a cute, readable story. I liked the dual first-person POV. I loved Vinnie’s loving family. And I adored the sweetness between Aaron and Vinnie, all the cuddles and tender moments. The HEA is completely gooey.

On the other hand, well, I wanted Aaron to have some kind of breakthrough about his sexuality (and acknowledge that he’s not a zero on the Kinsey scale!), but that never happened. In the last chapter, he tells Vinnie he’ll try not to cheat with a woman. Now mind you, there is no cheating in the story, but the implication is that Aaron will struggle to stay faithful because he finds both women and Vinnie, a man, attractive.

If I were rating this as mere brain candy, I’d go with 3.5 to 4 stars. But I can’t disregard the utter dismissal of bisexuality (the insistence that Aaron is straight made me want to scream and hit something) and the assumption that a man who's attracted to both women and men (or, in this case, one man) is innately a cheater.

Get the book:


I could spend the rest of my life reading.
~Malcolm X

An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Download links are provided as a courtesy and do not constitute an endorsement of or affiliation with the book, author, publisher, or website listed.

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