Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review Tuesday: All Play and No Work by Carol Lynne - #MMM #ReviewTuesday #LGBTQ


All Play and No Work

All Play and No Work (Cattle Valley Book 1) by Carol Lynne
Total-E-Bound, 2008

Male-male romance written for female readers has become extremely popular. When I first read it, ten years ago, Carol Lynne's All Play and No Work was my initial exposure to this sub-genre. I was eager to to understand why women wanted to read about men making love, and given Ms. Lynne's popularity, I thought she would make a fine teacher.

The novel centers around a trio of sexy guys who have a committed three-way relationship. Ryan, a rough-looking, tattooed biker type, has just been hired as the sheriff of Cattle Valley, Wyoming, a mountain town founded by a wealthy rancher whose son was murdered by gay-bashers. Rio, long-haired and equally dangerous, was Ryan's lover before the two of them met and adopted Nate, saving him from a lowlife who had drugged and was about to rape him. Nate hails from Chicago, where he worked as a private investigator. Superficially, he's not as tough as Rio and Ryan, but what he lacks in physical brawn, he makes up for with sharp observation and emotional insight.

The book begins with Rio's and Nate's arrival in Cattle Valley, where Ryan has already settled. Through several subplots involving Rio's job as "hired protection" and Nate's discovery of an abusive relationship involving two of the gay-friendly town's inhabitants, we get to know the three men better and to see them interact. By "interact", I mostly mean have sex; these guys are so horny that it is amazing they get anything else accomplished in their lives! Ms. Lynne also makes it clear that these men truly love each other. When Rio's work threatens to take him away from Cattle Valley, the men make the hard choices that will allow them to stay together.

The sexual encounters in this book are not that different in tone and even activities from those in a heterosexual romance. There's quite a lot of kissing, caressing and massage, as well as plenty of fellatio and penetration. Some of the scenes involve all three of the protagonists, others only two. In the paired scenes, though, the third member of the trio is always present in the minds and hearts of the participants (and sometimes is listening in over the phone!)

I've read quite a bit of gay erotica. In contrast to Ms. Lynne's work, those stories seem incredibly raw. They glorify rough sex and anonymous conquests. Ms. Lynne's characters always use plenty of lube. There's always gentleness woven in with the force, love mixed in with the lust. She proves that literary gay sex does not have to have an "edge" to be exciting.

Of course, All Play and No Work is a bit of a fantasy. The dynamics of the threesome are too perfect, too balanced. In a real three-way relationship, there will always be tensions, jealousies and shifts in the depth of connection. On the other hand, perhaps fantasy is more satisfying and more fun. I see now why Ms. Lynne has such a devoted following. She offers readers an idealized relationship that women can admire, as well as attractive, masculine characters who love to indulge themselves physically - while the readers watch.

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