Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review Tuesday Moved to Thursday: Ross Deere - Handyman by Hans M. Hirschi (#review #glbt)

Ross Deere - Handyman by Hans M. Hirschi
Beaten Track Publishing, 2016

Normally, when I am doing a review, I try to ignore what authors say about their work. I like to consider each book as an independent artifact and draw my own conclusions, without being unduly influenced by the authorsown opinions. In the case of Hans M. Hirschis erotic gay novella Ross DeereHandyman, Im having some trouble with this policy, since this review is the direct consequence of a post on his blog.

The title of that post wasSex sells writing, they say, but when is enough enough?. In his essay, the author expressed some discomfort the amount of explicit sexual content he was encountering lately in fiction, and in the marketing of fiction. At the same time, he gave an almost embarrassed plug for his own new book, in which hed ventured into erotica for the first time.Sex, Sex and More Sex!, exclaims his light-hearted trailer for Ross DeereHandyman. When I indicated some curiosity, he generously sent me a copy.

I have to agree with Mr. Hirschi’s evaluation of the book. “Sex, Sex and More Sex” is a fine description. Ross, the title character, is an easy-going, attractive young man who more or less accidentally finds himself in the business of providing sexual services for pay, mostly to men. In addition to his carnal skills (which are considerable), Ross can also offer expertise in fixing broken faucets, assembling furniture, re-shingling roofs, and so on. Thus he’s “handy” both literally and figuratively.

The book is framed as a sort of confessional memoir, as Ross looks back at a decade working as a handyman/escort. He introduces the reader to his favorite clients, gradually sharing his history of erotic escapades. As the book proceeds, Ross reveals that he’s also involved in a serious relationship, that he thinks he’s falling in love, and that as a result he’s eager to get out of his current business, lucrative as it is.

Mr. Hirschi writes well. He captures Ross’s sexual adventures with skill and grace, successfully conveying the variations in personal dynamics and sexual preference that distinguish each of the clients Ross discusses. I found Ross charming and could well understand why he’s so popular. However, for the most part, I didn’t find any of the delightfully detailed sex scenes particularly erotic.

This is not due to my gender or sexual orientation. Like Ross, I consider myself atry-sexual. I often find gay erotica intensely arousing. The sex scenes in Ross DeereHandyman, explicit as they are, did not succeed in getting my motor running (as they say), even though that was clearly the authors intent.

I shouldn’t be analyzing, perhaps, but I believe that the key to this reaction lies in Mr. Hirschi’s own conflicted feelings about writing erotica. I get the sense that he believes sex and love are two quite different things, and that the former carries far less emotional weight than the latter. Indeed, this dichotomy is clear in Ross’s determination not to jump into bed with his lover John, though in other circumstances he’d be rimming a stranger within ten minutes of meeting him.

Ross Deere’s encounters with his clients feel shallow, all sensation and no feeling. I’ll admit that casual sex sometimes turns out that way, but not always. Even without love (or at least the sort of happily-ever-after, committed emotion that wears that name in popular fiction), sex can be a powerful, intense, moving experience. The recognition of this truth lies at the heart of the (admittedly fraught) distinction between erotica and porn.

I dont mean to suggest I didnt enjoy this book. I found it entertaining, and educational, too, in terms of giving me a more nuanced understanding of the nuts and bolts of gay sex. However, I wouldnt label it as erotica. My definition of erotica is fiction that explores the experience of desire. Ross DeereHandyman contains tons of sex, but very little desire.

Re-reading this review, I realize that it says as much about my own prejudices and predelictions as it does about the author’s. So be it. I guess there’s no such thing as an objective review.

If you want sex, sex and more sex, with an engaging, surprisingly realistic hero with whom anyone would fall in love, Ross Deere may be perfect for you.

And by the way, I love the cover. Though Ross is described as blonde, this guy has exactly the right attitude!

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