Melissa reviews Rules of Engagement (Rules of Engagement #1) by L. A. Witt, published November 30th 2009 by Dreamspinner Press. 296 pages
Dustin Walker has no idea that avoiding the search for Mrs. Right could send him into the arms and bed of Mr. Right Now. According to Dustin’s mother, he should be out looking for his next wife so he won’t be the divorced black sheep of the family. Instead, he passes his free time at a local bar and pool hall, where he meets someone who’s everything his ex-wife wasn’t: funny, caring, faithful… and male. Is Brandon Stewart just Dustin’s way of getting over a bitter divorce? Can Dustin really care for him, or is it simply that Brandon is the complete opposite of his ex-wife? Dustin keeps their affair as quiet as possible, because if it continues, he knows he’ll eventually have to come out to his homophobic family or walk out on the man he’s trying not to love.
Why I read this book: This week is award winning week and Rules of Engagement holds the place as Rainbow Award Nominee for Best Gay Erotica Contemporary – Honorable Mention (2010), and this book has been on my to-be-read shelf for a while now and thought this would be a good time to read it.
The book started off great, with Dustin and Brandon sharing some eye contact over a pool table. The chemistry between these two is hot and neither shy away from it. What I really loved was that Dustin didn’t have any fear over what he felt towards Brandon. Dustin has never had feelings towards a man and yet he isn’t running for the hills when he meets, and has the lust, for Brandon. They gay-for-you trope can be a hard thing to sell, and LA did a great job of making these two men act like adults. Brandon and Dustin’s first contact, hot! Very steamy and also romantic; these two are strangers yet treat each other with respect even though they both think it’s a one night stand.
Things started to fall apart the longer the story continued. I learned early on that Dustin’s soon to be ex-wife was going to play the villain in this story, which is an aspect of gay romance I don’t like. There is no reason to make the ex always the bad guy; they could have been supportive friends. The ex-bashing was very frequent, very, very harsh, and very off-putting to me liking Dustin. I understand she did a number on him, but when Dustin and Brandon kept coming back to that subject, I started to skip them because it was just the same discussion. There were other aspects in the story that didn’t work for me, such as the overbearing, helicopter mother of Dustin’s. It was a lot of drama that didn’t need to be there in my opinion.
I did enjoy Dustin’s relationship with his sister, Kari, and co-worker, Kate. They were both very supportive to Dustin in his relationship with Brandon, as well as great characters. They gave Dustin a much needed safe haven and sounding board for his issues. The bedroom scenes were another win for the book. There were a lot of them (a lot), which I did get tired of, but enjoyed seeing Dustin and Brandon learn about each other. They talked and learned about each other before, during and after. It was very sweet and I felt the connection between these two. Overall, it was an okay read for me.
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.
She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…
Visit her website at http://www.gallagherwitt.com/