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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stray by Ash Penn

Stray by Ash Penn
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (191 pgs)
Other: M/M, Multiple Partners, Anal Play
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Rosemary

Bar worker and serial slut Terry Seymour is hardly charm personified when it comes to romance. In fact, he doesn’t believe in love at all despite his latent desire for his best friend of fourteen years, builder Marc Pierce.

Dan Hutchinson is a young, homeless man living in a derelict house Marc’s halfway to renovating. When Marc announces Dan’s moving in for a while, Terry is understandably miffed. After all, it hasn’t been that long since Marc spilt with his boyfriend of a year, so why is he intent on bringing a total stranger into their home?

It seems to Terry there’s more to this arrangement than meets the eye. Marc must be providing Dan with food and lodgings in exchange for sex. And with the lusty vibes Dan sends his way, it’s not long before Terry succumbs to the boy’s talents between the sheets. But carrying on with Dan behind his best friend’s back is not easy. Or desirable. And when Terry’s plans to oust Dan fail, he’s the one who finds himself out in the cold.

Stray is the compelling journey of three men who discover that love can help them heal the wounds of their past. It is, at times, difficult to like Terry, Marc, and Dan, but it is impossible to not be touched by their struggles to overcome the dysfunction in their lives.

Terry Seymour and Marc Pierce have been friends since their early teenage years, and they are living together as platonic roommates. Terry has been in love with Marc since they were teenagers, and he is hoping now Marc is free that their relationship might become more serious than friendship. Marc is dealing with the dual loss of his brother and his lover when he meets Dan and brings him home. Terry promptly sees Marc’s interest in Dan, and he tries everything possible to remove him from their lives.

Stray is written in first person from Terry’s perspective but it is very difficult to glean many insights into his character. In Terry’s case, actions speak louder than words or thoughts. While he has frequent one night stands, he has never had a serious relationship. Sex is about pleasure, not love or affection. I was convinced he had no redeeming traits whatsoever, but when tested, he ultimately rose to the occasion, and his good qualities began to shine through.

Dan is younger than Marc and Terry, and he is grappling with parent issues. He is attracted to Terry from their first meeting, and he pursues him relentlessly. Terry uses his pursuit to his advantage in trying to oust Dan from their home. It is amazing to see Dan transform himself from needy and clingy to the strong man who helps Terry find his way when his world is turned upside down.

Surprisingly enough, Marc plays a rather minor role in all of this even if it is his actions that set everything in motion. In spite of all the turmoil going on, he is a rather likeable and sympathetic player in the novel.

Stray takes some interesting twists and turns, and I honestly had no idea how the novel would end. Ms. Penn had me hooked, and I could not wait to find out what she had in store for Terry, Dan, and Marc. I absolutely loved their emotional growth, and Ms. Penn was spot on with the ending of the book.

Ash Penn has written a powerful first novel. Stray is not always an easy read, but the outstanding ending is so emotionally satisfying that you will be glad you read it. I am definitely looking forward to Ms. Penn’s next book.

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