A Bit of Rough, by Laura Baumbach

>> Friday, August 18, 2006

I picked up A Bit of Rough (excerpt), by Laura Baumbach because of jmc's post about it. I was especially interested in what she mentioned there at the end of her review, about how this one differed from other m/m books she'd read.

BTW, I read the electronic version, but the cover I've put there is from the print book. It's much nicer. Sexy, but subtle... you have to take a closer look to really get what is going on.

Architect James Justin impulsively lets himself be picked up in a biker bar by seductive hunk Bram Lord for a one nightstand that turns into something bigger. The physically impressive, forceful stranger meets, matches and exceeds James' sexual fantasies, but can shy, uncertain James be everything the strongly committed Bram wants?
My opinion of this one is actually very similar to jmc's and I, too, am wavering between a B- and a C+. Hmmm, I think I'll go with a B-, simply because Baumbach actually got me liking a relationship tinged with d/s, which is not really my thing and because I'm feeling generous today.

The plot is simple, and completely character-driven: young architect James Justin is feeling a bit down and goes to a local bar (a bit rougher than his usual haunts) to pick someone up. He finds someone almost immediately, big and brawny Bram, and they have very hot and very rough sex right outside, in an alley. They are both very attracted to each other, and Bram, a man who knows his own mind, sweeps Jamie off his feet and they start dating.

And that's it, really. The whole book is basically about Jamie and Bram having hot, rough sex, building a relationship, having more hot, rough sex, falling in love (and yes, that seems to happen a bit too soon), and having yet more hot and rough sex. There are some minor blips going on around them (asshole neighbour tries to bully James, James has to decide whether to take Bram to a work dinner party, etc), but they are just that: minor.

What's most interesting and different about this one is what I mentioned above that made me seek this one out: like jmc says, James is assigned the more "female" characteristic, while Bram gets all the "male" ones. I thought this was interesting, because you know how ignorant idiots are always all "heh-heh, I wonder who's the guy and who's the girl" when they see a gay couple? (Or maybe this is just a Uruguayan thing?) Well, I'm not particularly well-read in the m/m subgenre either, but I've read a few, and in none of them did I feel like one of the guys was the guy and the other the girl. They were all very far from that stereotype. Both heroes were perfectly masculine. Here, James and Bram seemed to conform to some very traditional gender roles. To be honest, I'm not completely sure about how I feel about this. After all, in heterosexual romance, I prefer to stay away from this kind of thing. Maybe I enjoyed it here because of the novelty?

More problematic for me was the fact that this gender role thing was mixed up with a good dose of d/s, too. It's not something I've liked much in other books, but I was pretty ok with it here. The reason? James actually says it very clearly: he likes a man who'll dominate him and run things in bed, but he's perfectly capable of running his own life out of it, thank you very much. And it's very clear in their relationship that no matter how dominant Bram is in bed, he's all about what James wants. This wasn't completely clear at first, and I did find him a bit scary at first, but it soon became obvious.

The one negative I did see was that there were too many sex scenes. Yes, yes, I know this one is supposed to be erotic romance, but I'm not really complaining about the actual frequency. I've read books where the entire relationship was developed through sex scenes, and they worked. Here, my feeling was that too many scenes were gratuitous. If a sex scene isn't really adding anything to the story, it tends to bore me, and at times, I felt bored while reading ABOR. I actually ended up skimming a few of the sex scenes.

Other than this, ABOR was a nice read. I've been looking at Baumbach's website and she's got other m/m titles that sound interesting. I might give them a try.


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