Title: The Rotten Game
Author: Pepper Espinoza
Length: 7,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary Romance
Paul fell hard for Simon when they met Paul’s freshman year, and he’s done everything since then to prove it. Except tell Simon his feelings. Or even ask the other man out on a date.
Now, three years have passed without Paul making a move, and as Simon’s graduation date approaches, Paul’s desperation grows. He can’t stand the thought of living without Simon, but he can’t begin to tell Simon the true depths of his feelings.
Until Simon comes through with the unexpected assist, and Paul realizes their destiny was always in his hands…
This story is one of those ‘I love him but I can’t tell him’ stories which sometimes works for me and sometimes not. Paul has been in love with Simon since he first met him at College. He’s made sure that he’s in all Simon’s classes, even taking a subject he didn’t really like so as to be close to him, but he’s worried about being rejected and so never makes a move. Simon is due to graduate and Paul is in agonies trying to decide whether to make his feelings known.
On one hand I could understand Paul’s dilemma, although you would have thought that after three years of practically stalking Simon, he would know whether he was gay or not. On the other, he seems rather weak and ineffectual. Why not just ask the guy out? what difference would it make if he said no? At least then Paul would know where he stood rather than spending his whole life pursuing someone who may never be interested. What redeemed the situation slightly is that Paul knows how ridiculous he’s being and the self-effacing narration was appealing.
When things finally come out in the open, I was rather annoyed with Simon. He seemed a bit smug and self-satisfied and even cruel to have left Paul hanging for so long. His excuse as to why Simon didn’t make a move seemed lame and even rather arrogant. I ended up not liking Simon after that.
Spoilers in this next bit.
However, what made this a C story for me was that towards the end of the book the pair get so caught up in passion that they have sex on the lawn at College. It’s not late – the College cafe is still open at this stage – and there’s a bright moon. During this sexual encounter, Paul rims Simon out in the open, and notes on several occasions how Simon’s body gleams in the moonlight. Instead of getting caught up in the moment, I spent the whole time wondering how many people were watching the rimming. It wasn’t furtive and both men had stripped off so it’s not like they were hiding what was going on in case of passers by. I’m not wholly fond of scenes of public sex like this (unless it’s in a situation when people have specifically asked to watch) and this scene made me feel uncomfortable.
So overall, whilst the writing was good and I liked Paul as a character, I wasn’t keen on Simon or the outdoor rimming scene and that meant that this was only an average read. Those readers who like public sex scenes with potential embarrassment will probably want to give this a go.