We’re up to E! Miss Bates’s E is an intriguingly different old SuperRomance, Mr. Family by Margot Early
Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane
This is a very apt choice for the alphabet challenge, because the main character was named alphabetically, after his four sisters Allegra, Belladonna and so on. His birth name is actually Evan, but when he starts working for the porn site “Johnnies,” he immediately assimilates his stage name, enjoying the chance to distance himself from his parents.
Ethan is a very interesting character, and I was absorbed in the first section of the book, which is about his fucked up childhood. I don’t think he’s autistic, but Sensory Processing Disorder comes to mind: he’s clearly a sensory-seeker, desperate for touch, and he stims a lot on textures. His need for human touch was complicated by the fact that he was molested at a young age, and his mother blames everything about him — including his sexuality — on that one incident. She also cut him off from her affection, because he’d been “defiled.”
Geeky virgin Jonah — who Ethan calls kid even though he’s two years older than Ethan’s twenty– is mostly interesting for his family situation. His teenage sister Amelia is an unusually long-lived survivor of Cystic Fibrosis, and her portrayal is as far from “inspiration porn” as you can get: she’s resistant to treatment, disobeys doctor’s orders, and generally drives her family crazy. Her dad is so upset by it all that he actually moves out, though continues to be supportive. I really appreciated this sympathetic portrayal of a caregiver who loves his family but has just reached his limits, and who acknowledges this in a sane way. Amelia is also very human and sympathetic, and Jonah recognizes that her contrary behavior is partially her way of insisting that her family accept her as who she is, rather than as a poster child for disability or survival. And despite her frailty and highly unglamorous illness, she gets to have a boyfriend and have sex.
The conflict between Ethan and Jonah is firstly Ethan’s feeling not good enough for him, and secondly his attachment to his porn career. Since all his coworkers are friends, it means lots and lots of good touch for him.
I loved the first book in this series, Chase in Shadow, and in my memory it was a tight, compelling read. But the second book and this one are so… chatty and gossipy. All three are set in roughly the same time period, and so we see a lot about the events of the previous books — this can be very interesting if done well, but here it just felt flabby to me. As did pointless paragraphs like this one:
Donnie came up on Ethan’s left, his bright-blond hair so distracting that the girl actually looked up to see him. He was drinking a coffee, and Ethan looked over to the attached Starbucks and thought that was maybe where Donnie had been hanging, waiting for them.
Why is that even there?
The constant emphasis on the other characters made me feel as if the author wants readers to be madly in love with all of her characters, all the time.
So while there was a lot I liked, I’m not sure this author’s style is really for me. Maybe I’ll read the next book from the library.