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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rules of Engagement by L.A. Witt

Rules of Engagement by LA Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

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.

Sparks fly over an enticing game of pool when Dustin finally meets his match, in another guy no less. Dustin is just getting over a horrible marriage to a controlling and manipulative woman and he’s looking for something new that is as far from his ex as he can get. Little does he know that he’d fall for sexy Brandon over a game of pool. Although Dustin’s never been attracted to another guy before that doesn’t stop him from experiencing all Brandon can offer until the reality of their relationship comes crashing down on Dustin.

For those readers that adore and love their leading men as angst driven, soul searching characters, this story will be right up your alley. The book isn’t heavy on the angst though until the end when Dustin must do some soul searching to decide if his feelings for Brandon are real or merely an artificial rebound from a bad marriage. For most of the book though Dustin and Brandon engage in hot, sweaty sex in any number of positions, injecting a good deal of humor and some mild kinks into the relationship. There are a lot of sex scenes in this book but the author keeps them fresh and interesting while showing each man’s past and more depth to their character in between the erotica. Thankfully the sex gives more context to the relationship rather than just being for the sake of enticement so readers can enjoy the thrill of great sex without the empty calories.

Alongside the sex are scenes from Dustin’s family, who are overbearing, manipulative, and vaguely homophobic. However they are family so Dustin must balance their concerns and drama with his own feelings towards Brandon. Unfortunately this balance tips sometimes as Dustin struggles to be able to articulate his feelings, both to himself and others. The extended angst scenes at the end coupled with the few one night stands Dustin has to figure out his sexuality may wear on some readers and I found myself wanting to move on from his confusion to some kind of resolution. Unfortunately the ending is also somewhat weak and unresolved as there are several issues left hanging and the final scene is barely a happy for now ending. In fact I turned the page expecting more and was stunned at the hanging ending.

The writing is decent with a few great scenes of quirky humor and entertaining dialogue. There is a hefty dose of romance between the men and the passion is undeniable. There is a fabulous scene about dog tags and combat pants that turns up the heat quite a bit. The book does drag on a little too much with some plot wandering and over indulgent angst on Dustin’s part but fans of emotional men are not likely to be overly bothered. The secondary characters are not very important and exist mostly to help Dustin figure out what he wants in his life and what makes him happy, a revelation that I’m not entirely convinced of but not entirely against either. For the most part, I think readers will enjoy the story about two masculine, handsome men as they start, stop, and stumble in a passionate relationship. Just be warned that the ending is not as strong as most romance fans want so be careful if that is a must for your enjoyment.

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