SBD: what subgenre was that?

Prove It by Chris Owen

(c) 2011

Torquere Press Publishers


Let me begin first by saying that I enjoyed this book as I read it.  Most likely I would not have sought the book out but for SarahF’s review over at Dear Author.   While I read Owen’s 911 early in my m/m romance reading career[1], the few other Owen books I tried didn’t compel me to add him/her to my autobuy list.  But this one sounded good based on the review.

Warren and Silas meet for the first time at the age of five. It doesn’t go well.

When they reach junior high they have a truce in place and Tal, a new guy in their class, acts as a catalyst, bringing them together as best friends. Together all through high school, they survive school plays, Tal’s girlfriends, Silas’ boyfriend and Warren’s endless studying. College is more of the same, until Silas and Tal coax Warren out of the closet.

For Warren nothing changes, but for Silas the world has unexpectedly changed forever. He had no idea he was in love with his best friend at all, and when he finally tells Warren the reaction is another surprise.

Prove it.

Warren knows all about Silas, knows the tricks, the games, the very best and the very worst about him, and Warren loves him back. But Warren also knows that if they’re going to be together it’s got to be forever, and he can’t just risk everything for what might be another one of Silas’ whims.

Silas has to prove he loves Warren, and he wants to do just that. But how do you win the heart of someone who knows you better than anyone else?

The summary makes it pretty clear – friends to lovers theme, youngish heroes, the big conflict being entirely internal.  All good.

Once again, let me reiterate – I enjoyed the book.

So it pains me a little to say that Prove It, as a genre romance novel, was somewhat forgettable.  It worked much better for me as a coming of age or senior YA book, as boys transition to young men and figure themselves out.

The friendship dynamic between Tal, Silas, and Warren was by far the best developed relationship of the book.   Owen did a great job showing how Tal as buffer of sorts made it possible for the two of them to be close friends despite disparate personalities and interests.  The alternating narration early on, when the boys go on their own “Stand by Me” type adventure was excellent.  The way readers learn about each boy’s sexuality suits each boy:  loud and out in front for Tal; abrupt and then all-in for Silas; followed by a rational observation from Warren.

The maturity the boys demonstrate in some areas required significant suspension of disbelief.  Perhaps the boys of my acquaintance, in college and now, were immature, sex-crazed twits, but they would seldom have aired the concerns that Silas and Warren did about sex generally and what it might do to their friendship more specifically.  Sometimes it seemed that someone years older than the characters were supposed to be was talking.  On the other hand, Warren is depicted as being extremely thoughtful and utterly brilliant, so maybe it shouldn’t be such a stretch?

Warren’s reservations about any sort of romantic relationship with Silas were reasonable and credible.  And yet his position felt like a line drawn in the sand and an indictment of Silas’s approach to life and relationships.

The majority of the sex in the book is Warren’s…with people other than Silas: his first fumble with his roommate’s brother and then a full-on sex scene with his regular booty call (for lack of a better description).   It didn’t offend me – I don’t need for the hero to only have sex with the other hero in the confines of the book, as long as it isn’t cheating.  But I’m not certain what purpose it served for the romance narrative, other than to show that Warren really did have sex, wasn’t a virgin or abstinent.

Which circles back to the romance vs. other subgenre labels.  Is this book a romance novel?  Well, the latter third of the book was about the negotiation of their relationship and moving toward an HFN or HEA, so yes.  And yet so little of their actual romantic relationship occurred on the page.   Warren gives an ultimatum and also announces that he’s moving across the country for grad school, and Silas decides he can deal with what Warren wants and go slow and that he’ll follow.  Much more of the book was spent on the three guys together and their friendship, which expanded/changed in college to include their changing lives and goals.

In many ways, this book (again, for me) suffered the same problem as several other m/m romances have lately:  attempting to be too many things, or perhaps being mislabeled.  I’ve begun to wonder if this sort of thing is a reflection of growing pains of the sub-genre.  As a reader, I’d love to see more genre-bending…but I’d also like the books to be labeled and/or marketed carefully so my generic expectations are consistent with the content of the books.  If I had approached this book as mature YA, my expectations and filters reading the relationship(s) would have been rather different from those I’d set in my mind when I first began Prove It.

[1] That was way back when my primary e-reader was an eBookwise and Fictionwise was my main source for ebooks .  In real time, only three or four years ago, but a long time in ebook/reader years.



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3 responses to “SBD: what subgenre was that?

  1. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t offer suggestions about how to categorize it. But based on your comments I’d have trouble too. On the one hand I’m pleased that there are so many hard-to-classify books in m/m, because the genre is still developing and the experimentation is great. But on the other, I’m not thrilled with the plethora of books that seem to be primarily about the characters exploring their feelings or having sex. Call me old-fashioned, but I want a *plot.* Nothing fancy, but some kind of arc to hang the characterization and sex on!

    • Call me old-fashioned, but I want a *plot.* Nothing fancy, but some kind of arc to hang the characterization and sex on!

      This exactly! It’s what was missing. An author might be able to get away with lack of plot, if the character study is excellent, but that was not the case here.

  2. Pingback: August as I read it | Shuffling Through A Bookless Desert

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