Review: Taking the Long Way by Max MacGowan

Male escort Rye Bellamy is looking for a way out. Any way out. He’s getting older, and clients are getting more dangerous. If he doesn’t find something better, he knows he won’t survive.

He sees his chance in Marcus Townsend, a functionally blind Army veteran. Marcus, who refuses to accept his condition as immutable, has a shot at seeing a specialist who might be able to help him—but that doctor’s based on the other side of the country.

When Rye and Marcus meet, they realize they can help each other. Marcus can’t drive, but Rye can. Marcus knows what Rye is, but he likes him anyway. In fact, he more than likes him. Driving cross-country with a near stranger is a daunting task, but Rye’s biggest risk is falling for the gentle, stubborn-hearted soldier—and it might already be too late to stop that.

They plan to part ways when they reach their destination, but plans change as the affection between them grows. Now neither wants their journey to end, but continuing means finding a way to bridge the distance between who they were and who they'd like to become.

Rentboy...legally blind former solider...three guesses why I jumped at the chance to read this.

SRAL: on the prowl for rentboy romances. I wonder if I could add this to my business card?

Debut author Max MacGowan's "Taking the Long Way" does literally that. Apt title is apt. Old in the tooth hooker at the age of twenty-five, Rye gets an unexpected break from his rough life and forced 'retirement' by way of legally blind, sexually straight former soldier, Marcus. Marcus encounters Rye on the street and is drawn to him. But he's straight, so it's got to be that he's worried about the life the hooker leads, right? Marcus just falls into an easy friendship and invites the stranger he barely knows to escort him to friends.

A different type of premise. And readers who don't like rentboy stories to be too gritty, might enjoy this. The tone is easy to follow, the characters are light and likeable. The men leave California and embark on a road trip through Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. Some states were more interesting than others for the men. Overall, they drive their way into love.

This is tagged as erotic romance...hmm...romantica? *tilts head* Maybe. This is low/no angst. Nothing rocks the plot into anything crazy. Just a road trip from California to Atlanta, and somehow these men fall in love. They say the right words, at decent points in the novel...but I'm still on the fence with the couple. It could be they didn't make a hard enough sell in buying their relationship in the beginning.

There isn't as much sex (less penetrative) in the story as I'd have thought in an erotic romance. But the men's connection was nice. I like the progression into gay sex for gay sex virgin Marcus. Plus, taking his disability and struggle with his diagnosis into account, it was handled well enough. But there were some stronger and weaker parts.

Interesting parts:

- Demisexualism - this story is probably going to be tagged as 'gay for you'. A man who was heterosexual all of his life is now sexually attracted to a man. Not every man, just the one, Rye. But the author makes sure to introduce the term demisexual (being attracted to a person when a strong emotional connection is formed) Marcus hadn't been sexually attracted to anyone in some time. The author also made a point that it didn't matter of about the person's gender who Marcus was attracted to without making it too technical (pansexualism - term's not introduced though or properly used). I liked that they used Jessie the kid to introduce the demisexual term and get Marcus to understand. (Though the emotional connection was a little too soon for Jessie to call it nor would Jessie be able to tell really, would she?)

- Jessie - she wasn't too annoying for an eleven year old. She was my favorite of the secondary characters. Prim and Celia, the lesbian couple from Louisiana are a close second. They helped when the story dragged.

Things that weren't as strong:

- In the beginning and other spots (but mostly the beginning): the main characters weren't distinct enough in their own voice. They shared the same thoughts. An example, 10% - both main characters are strangers and yet they see the same man and refer to him by the same nickname? It tapered off somewhere before New Mexico, which leads me into my next issue.

- The story could have been shaved some: I get it. It's a road trip and the trip is supposed to intensify the bonding especially into shorter time frames. But some of it was unnecessary to the plot. New Mexico - that entire section? Not needed. Added nothing and read like filler. I would say the same about Shadow. But...I guess it worked for the Louisiana subplot. But...something about the entire thing felt wonky to me. *shrugs* I am happy with the outcome. I am a dog lover and go crazy for the pups, so what do I know?

- The story is very low angst: but it reads too easy in some aspects. It could be the lack of depth of the main characters. But the story is serviceable, more than memorable. (Could be because my last story was bombastic.) But I just finished the story and I struggled to remember character names and parts.

For a first time novel, it's good. It brings two men together who weren't looking for love much less a relationship together. I think the last chapter was necessary. But I'm iffy on the way the story ended. Don't worry, no cliffhangers involved. Everything is wrapped up...maybe a little too neatly for my tastes.

But it got the job done.

Recommended for readers who like low angst, damaged men with baggage getting together and don't want to end up being wrecked at the end of the story.

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