A sexy and poignant novel that could have done well with a more original exploration of gay mores.

ARCADE

A Texas-based debut novel about a man controlled by his sexuality.

When Sam finally realizes that his sexual orientation might be different from what society expects of him, he resorts to the internet to find satisfaction. But the Missed Connections vertical on Craigslist is not enough for him. To his surprise, he happens upon a roadside arcade that guarantees anonymity to its customers, that allows for a quick release, and that carries the potential for a connection. For all intents and purposes a XXX video store, the arcade is where the confused Sam soon spends most of his days and nights. There, he meets a cast of men, ranging from a “tweaker” to “a big bull of man,” and engages in a variety of activities—most of which will elicit chills and a raised eyebrow. “I could have something like an encounter [at the arcade], a vicarious experience completely free of any fears of infection or the face-to-face intimacy I didn’t know how to process,” Sam says. The novel oscillates between telling Sam’s story outside of the arcade and framing it only in terms of his homosexuality (“I had seen porn magazines before…I remember shaking all over and coming in my pants….I kept shaking after that, searching my room for a hiding spot where no one would look….That was the moment when I knew…I might really be the kind of person you weren’t supposed to be”). Smith has created a narrative that entrances its readers, constantly giving us excitement and depicting with audacity the rawness of sexuality. However, the text rarely explores the complexity of coming out in a contemporary environment, reverting to hypersexualized stereotypes of gay men. Smith offers few glimpses into Sam’s life outside the arcade, with brief appearances by the genuine love interests and connections Sam has made, but quickly returns to the arcade—as if sex was the only thing on his mind or the only thing he was capable of. Nevertheless, Smith has crafted a daring and compelling debut that sheds light on a rather unusual lifestyle.

A sexy and poignant novel that could have done well with a more original exploration of gay mores.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939419-72-9

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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