3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but uneven,
This review is from: As Hot As You Remember: Gay Erotica (Kindle Edition)Hmmmm....this collection 13 gay erotica stories and two chapters from the author's separately available book is an odd little duck and one that is a smidge difficult to review in that I had two distinct reactions to it. On the one hand, I had a lot of problems with the writing, the prose style and the lack of characterization. On the other hand, I walked away with a warm, nostalgic feeling and an intense interest in seeing how this writer develops.
With very few exceptions, the stories are told from the first-person point of view in an almost stream-of-consciousness style. The result is that the prose in most of the pieces is a bit clunky, a smidge herky-jerky, as the narrator sometimes goes off on details that seem almost to be non-sequiturs or employs phrases that are just off somehow. "One of my favorite things about being an athlete was the smell of male bodies, the flood of testosterone hitting my senses! It was amazing I'd never done anything like that in a locker room, but even I had never thought I'd suddenly act out this way in the great outdoors." On the other hand, Lee will occasionally come up with the perfect phrase that encapsulates a lot in a very few words, that manages to capture the excitement of youth or the hopefulness of old age. "I don't know if he slept any, but I didn't."
On the wider view of the collection, the stream-of-consciousness does lend an air of intimacy, as if the reader is being told these stories by a close friend. The awkwardness of the words and the dialog gives it that feel of two friends just chatting. I'm not sure how much of this was a deliberate choice by the author or how much occurs simply by happenstance. Regardless, the realism and intimacy projected make me wonder what this author could do with prose that was just more fluid. Luckily, we get hints of where this author could go in some of the later, shorter pieces.
Like much gay erotica, characterization often suffers at the desire to get to the hot and sweaty deeds that are the heart of each story. So is the case here. There isn't much to differentiate the characters within individual stories from each other (other than brief physical descriptions), and the voice of each character sounds largely like the other. On a story level I, as a reader, never found distinct personalities in the characters. They were, by and large, completely interchangeable, and as a result, the erotic elements didn't really work for me as character and personality are always the key to me when I'm "watching" two men get it on.
On a collection level, however, the lack of characterization gives a universal feel, as if you are seeing one man looking back on his entire life and remembering only the good bits. This gives the collection a sweet, nostalgic feel that is really appealing. I think the fact that many of the stories begin with something akin to "When I was eighteen" or "I was in college when..."really adds to this feel. Deliberate? Again, I'm not so sure, but given the title is "As Hot as You Remember," it ends up working when the collection is said and done.
Despite the lack of full characters, what is appealing on a story level is the number of stories which end not with a Happily-Ever-After in the traditional sense, but with the very reveal that the characters ended up together or had been together since or had remained good friends. Sure, there are plenty of one night stands in these stories, but what lingers with you are those moments when the author throws in at the end "And we've been together the last 20 years," almost as an afterthought. Yes, it's slim and a bit old fashioned as a story-telling device, but it leaves you with an easy feeling that serves the collection well.
One aspect that I don't think works for the stories or the collection is that there isn't much descriptive about the locales in which the stories are set. Most seem to take place in the New Orleans area or nearby surrounds, but we never get a sense of the sights or sounds or smells of these places in Lee's prose. Like the men in the stories, the settings are nondescript, interchangeable. With New Orleans being a place of such richness and diversity, I expected to have a strong sense of place. As it is, the locales don't have any distinctive character themselves. A fatal flaw? Not by any stretch.
So, below I'll give some brief thoughts on each story, but overall I feel that this collection, when all is said and done, succeeds as a collection. It somehow manages to overcome the major flaws within its component stories to work as a nice, nostalgic trip down memory lane. I don't know that I would ever remember any of the individual stories in a few days, but I will remember the warm feeling I walked away with. And that ain't bad. More so than anything, I've very curious to see where Lee goes as a writer. There is something here that I really like, that feels relatively exciting, and I think if he hooked up with an excellent editor, there could be fireworks. There's an interesting talent here and I for one will be watching to see where Lee goes with it.
Originally reviewed for Uniquely Pleasurable.