Review of The Delaneys and Me by Anne Brooke

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 2 comments
Title: The Delaneys and Me
Author: Anne Brooke
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: Short story, 8k
Primary Relationship(s): M/M/M
Category or Genre: comedy, romance, contemporary, erotica
Does this Review contain spoilers?: yes
Did you own this already, or was a review copy provided to you?  Provided by Author for Guest Reviewer (Heidi Belleau)

Anne Brooke’s The Delaneys and Me is an erotic short that reads shamelessly like the plot for a gay porno. Narrator Liam has just broken up with his boyfriend in a spectacular public display at a local restaurant and is sweating bullets because his boyfriend just happens to be a member of the local crime family, who’ll surely be seeking retribution. Enter the Delaney twins, local bruisers (bosses? IDK, the actual politics of organized crime here are seriously fuzzy), who follow Liam home from work, pull a gun on him, and give him a choice: have sex with them both after a public apology, or have his balls shot off.

I’m sure you can predict which option he picks.

The story was hit and miss for me, although I don’t regret reading it. It was a light, enjoyable read that carried me through this morning’s workout and gave me a few good tingles, so for what it is, it works. Liam’s voice as the first-person narrator is pitch perfect for a dark comedy, veering between comic distress and absurd-but-somehow-you-buy-it-anyway arousal. This story and this plot could have easily veered very dark indeed, but Brooke keeps it madcap enough that the constant sense of danger titillates you versus filling you with sick-making dread.

Which brings me to my first criticism. I’m a fan of non-con and rape fantasy, the darker the better, but I also enjoy stories like this where violation of consent is treated more lightly, as it is here, the ole porno “I can’t afford my rent this month so I’ll sleep with my landlord” conceit that in the real world is horrifying but in erotica can be quite fun and sexy. What I don’t like is when the two are mingled. I have no problem with a story like this not being dark and horrifying with heaps of humiliation and abuse, especially when a talented author makes it so easy for me to suspend my disbelief and take the fantasy for what it is: a fantasy. But at least twice in this story, Liam uses the word “rape”, which made that suspension of disbelief difficult. I’m up on my politics of consent, so I know what’s being described here is rape, but within the text, it’s not being treated as such. Sure, Liam is scared for his manhood, but that sense of danger is as artificial as riding a roller coaster. He’s also enthusiastic and turned on and clearly enjoys the sex. If something is explicitly named as rape, I kind of expect it to be treated like one. This is My Issue, of course, but I do genuinely feel like I’d have enjoyed the fantasy more if I hadn’t been slapped with the brutal real-world implications of what I was getting my jollies to. So you know, there’s that.

Other complaints were pretty niggling: the story’s opening, while brilliant and compelling in the voice department, sags with unnecessary info and backfill of backstory. I’m a fan, especially in a short like this, of starting the story with the story, and the story is the Delaneys’ blackmail, not the main character’s job or his relationship with his parents or even how things went down with his ex. I think the scene in the restaurant that really acts as a precipitator for this whole scenario should have been fully fleshed out as a fully realized scene, or only come out through Liam’s interactions with the twins. Starting with a summary just doesn’t work for me, although it’s to Brooke’s credit that the opening still does work thanks to Liam’s voice and the great biting humour that soaks every line, even the info-dumping ones.

For me, the buildup to the sex was hotter than the sex itself. The way Liam teased the brothers is searing hot, as was his public humiliation in Luigi’s restaurant. The sense of danger hit me right in the id, a perfect blend of anxiety and arousal that made every scene give me butterflies. Once they got into bed, though, it was pretty straight forward blowjob-fingers-anal-both ends, with nothing really distinct about any act and somewhat unrealistic recovery times (okay, I know this is a porno, but it did seem kind of silly for a guy who’s just blown his wad in an awesome blowjob be ready and raring to go for another one immediately after. At least have him watch awhile or something). Really, though, my dissatisfaction with the actual sex was just testament to how good the buildup was. I don’t know what, if anything, could have lived up to this story’s “foreplay”. It’s really something else. I will say the sexy-factor recovers nicely by the sloppy final kiss, which is hot even for someone who doesn’t have a twins fetish. I just wish the rest of the sex could have been more like that.

If you’re looking for a crime story, though, you’d better look somewhere else. For all that the Delaneys are scary to Liam and visibly throw their power around in the restaurant scene, you never get the sense that these men actually have blood on their hands, and as such all their shows of power feel artificially constructed. They’re crime bosses who do their own dirty work? Do they do any dirty work at all? Why are they so scary? Dark Soul this ain’t, although for what it is, it’s very good indeed. I know there’s a sequel coming out, so I sincerely hope that Brooke takes the opportunity to give this a bit of edge. With her voice and the set-up, she could easily make this into a gay-porn Lock Stock or Layer Cake, which I would find immensely satisfying, but until this story grows some teeth, it’s the literary equivalent of the twink who’s unable to pay for his pizza.

Which is to say, it’s really, really sexy.

- by Guest Reviewer Heidi Belleau


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