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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Uncorked by Andrew Grey

Uncorked by Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (254 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Bobby Bielecki is heading home from art school to help run the family wine store so his adopted father and partner can take a vacation. While filling in, Bobby will have to deal with his once-best friend and lost love, Kenny, who pushed him away from their burgeoning relationship, encouraging him follow his dreams and realize his artistic talents.

Despite the tension between them, Bobby and Kenny decide to put their differences aside and work together to figure out what happened to a case of expensive wine. Their investigation leads them to a young runaway and people from Bobby's past, and dealing with them reminds Bobby and Kenny of how close they once were. But despite their growing feelings, Bobby is afraid Kenny will do what he’s done before and push Bobby away for his own good.

The premise of falling in love with your best friend, and the hazards thereof, is a familiar one in romance, but Uncorked adds an extra twist: for a time, Bobby and Kenny also lived as brothers. It takes a bit to uncover the how and why of this unique blended family. The tale of two dads with two adopted sons unfolds slowly, but the extra complications of family dynamics adds an interesting layer of emotional landmines, and pretty much guarantees that no one can simply turn his back and walk away.

The writing, despite a bit of a stilted feel to the first few paragraphs, flows smoothly and the love scenes are beautiful, sweet interludes lovingly described. The building of the relationship between the principles, the twists and turns of their realizations and misunderstandings, are where the writing and the dialogue hits its stride. Bobby and Kenny are fully realized people, driven by very real hopes and anxieties, with strengths they are on the cusp of discovering. Like any of us, they need to face the specters in their past, and quell their doubts about the future, before they can make a life together. This internal journey is handled with sympathy and often heart-wrenching detail.

The supporting cast, the settings, and the subplot of the missing wine are not so well-fleshed out. I had trouble picturing certain secondary characters: I couldn't see either Sam or Sean (the dads.); Except for being pregnant, I have no idea what Katie looks like. The wine shop, as well, where so much of the scenes take place, is a bit sketchy for me, so some more detailed sketching here and there might have been in order. The missing wine, the central ‘mystery’ in the story, was not as crucial to the plot as the reader is led to believe, and, I’ll confess, I found the solution a bit of a letdown and a little difficult to swallow (the plot device, not the wine). The actual emotional climax comes a little farther on, and one wonders if the wine plot could have been dispensed with.

The story is a lovely one, with likeable characters the reader wants to root for. These are two of the good guys. The reader can’t help but hope they overcome the anguish of the past and the self-doubts that germinate from it in order to find each other. Mr. Grey’s voice is passionate and sweet at once, a perfect blend for the genre, a voice I will look for again.

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