Review: One Real Thing by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox

Since I missed last week, this is the first SBD of 2011 for me 🙂  My goal (not a resolution, since I never keep them, being a not very resolute person) is to do at least 26 SBD posts this year…assuming Beth keeps doing them.

Title:  One Real Thing
Authors:  Anah Crow and Dianne Fox
Publisher: Carina Press (excerpt available)
Release date: January 3, 2011
Format/Source: eARC from Net Galley

Nick Addison has taken care of Hollister Welles since college. Though the responsible grad student and the uninhibited partier were total opposites, they had always shared an inexplicable bond. Nick knows he should stop saving the out-of-control Holly, but when Holly hits rock-bottom hard—and publicly—he can’t resist coming to his rescue one last time. Can’t resist the feeling of having Holly need him again.

Bringing Holly back to New York City, Nick gives Holly the chance to face his demons and break his dangerous habits—while keeping Holly’s presence a secret from Nick’s wife. He doesn’t want to face Caroline’s hatred of Holly…or the reasons she might have to resent him.

Then the tables are turned. Just as Holly pulls himself together, Nick’s life falls apart. Now it’s up to Holly to bring Nick back from the brink—and to make Nick finally face the desires he’s long denied.

There’s no polite way to put it: Hollister is a complete fuck-up. He’ll screw anything that moves, drinks, drugs and parties to excess, and has essentially blown his career, friendships and family off and or away. And yet Nick, his college friend/mentor, can’t let him go and won’t let him utterly ruin himself. Nick is living the perfect life: married to Caroline, his college sweetheart, a successful investigative journalist, wealthy but not too much so. But when Holly self-destructs in an extremely public way, Nick rides (flies) to the rescue, despite the fact that he has to lie to his wife to do so. Holly doesn’t really want to be rescued at first: he’s a bundle of insecurities and addictions, and he likes it that way. The sex and drugs keep him from missing his estranged and/or ill family and Nick, whom he has adored since college. Nick’s intervention changes things for both of them: he’s Holly’s bedrock, the support Holly uses to begin to wean himself from destructive behavior, while Holly eventually becomes the crack in the foundation of Nick’s safe, yuppie life.

Why this book?  A while back I read Anah Crow’s Uneven, a S/M romance; while I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it exactly, it was an extremely thought-provoking read for me. Later I read the Crow/Fox collaboration, Becoming Us, the coming out tale of a young man in college, a sort of gay-for-you love story that managed to be very sweet while also including copious amounts of very hot sex.  Although GFY is not my favorite gay romance trope, I enjoyed the story.  So when I saw this among the eARCs available at Net Galley, I clicked the "request" button.

What did I think of it? Spent the first half of the book really uncomfortable with the dynamics of any kind of sexual relationship between Nick & Holly, BDSM or otherwise, because Holly is so vulnerable and ill — mentally ill, addicted and broken — and they are so clearly NOT equal at that point, in terms of ability to make decisions and give informed consent.  I wasn’t sure Crow & Fox would be able to move their relationship past that vulnerability.  But then as the plot progresses, Holly manages to clean up his life; he is able to function independently (and does so successfully) without Nick’s intervention or guidance. The role reversal that follows outlines that growth or change in Holly, so that when their M/s relationship resumes, or really begins anew and moves in a sexual direction, they are on a level footing. The BDSM or M/s aspect of their relationship reminds me in some ways of the relationship of the characters in Laney Cairo’s A Bad Case of Loving You, in that they never label what they are doing or engage in any stylized or scene play; it just is what it is, and that’s how they work best together. It’s just who they were.

What else?  Nick came across as a bit of a Gary Stu.  I liked that the story was not overwhelmed by sex. Loved the secondary characters Jules & Danner. Perhaps the only knock I have is that I was disappointed by the use of the cold/snooty/snotty wife as excuse for Nick’s poor choices rather than having him own his path to disaster, and especially the emphasis on physical infidelity vs. emotional infidelity as the fulcrum for Nick’s meltdown.  Frankly, he checks out of their marriage long before his wife even if he pretends otherwise to himself, and I felt kind of sorry for her, which I don’t think the authors intended.  

Grade from me: solid B.

Would read more from Crow & Fox.


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