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Right Side of the Wrong Bed Paperback – November 27, 2007
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But, faster than you can say "Opposites attract," Kenny is hooked on the younger man, and ignores the warnings of his friends and ex who point out the age difference and the fact that Jeremy secretive nature isn't conducive to honesty and is likely to result in Kenny being hurt. It's much more than sexual chemistry, and defies any theories that Kenny's attraction is based mostly on his need, after the failed relationship, to be desired by a man who turns heads wherever they go. When they go to one of Jeremy's fraternity parties, which is later raided by the police, and Kenny meets the young man's ex, who contradicts what he had been told about their relationship, Kenny begins to doubt his feelings, and has a background check done on the boy. But Jeremy charisma and considerable charms keep Kenny from even reading the results of the investigation, as he tries to justify staying with the young man despite his own common sense starting to agree with his friends that it is a bad idea.
"Right Side of the Wrong Bed" is an apt title for this captivating, somewhat lyrical story, a character study of two complete opposites which fate decides to bring together, which provides surprising insights into why we often feel strongly about relationships in all defiance of our comon sense dictating otherwise. The novel is sprinkled with a significant amount of "street slang" language, but not to the point where the average reader would have problems understanding what is going on. I give it four stars out of five.
It is against this colorful backdrop of this ditzy but delightful city where no one is really black or white, that Frederick Smith sets his ditzy but delightful sophomore novel, "Right Side of the Wrong Bed," a story where, too, nothing is really black or white or exactly what it may seem.
When it comes to love our narrator Kenny Kane, a handsome thirty-three-year-old African American and otherwise intelligent college administrator, is an educated fool. Not only did he not see it coming, but financed court cost and paternity suit battles leveled against DeVon, his drop dead gorgeous firefighter partner of six years who had at least three children by two different baby-mamas during the time of their `committed' relationship. Only after all of this does Kenny put the brother out of his sprawling home in the toney hills of Monterey Park.
Five months later at a gay bar in West Hollywood, Kenny is hit on by Jeremy Lopez, a six feet tall, baggy low-rise jean wearing, twenty-one-year-old Mexican/Dominican straight up East L.A. hottie boy-toy. Sparks fly and before he knows what hit him, Kenny is caught up in a whirlwind of sex and romance with the youngster.
But one incident after another involving drunken club hopping, police-raided frat parties, jealous ex's, arson investigations, unexplained hickies, and the plain old capriciousness of youth, keep Kenny in a tailspin. Even as his best friend Carlos, and his mother caution him about being on the right side of the wrong bed ("Do I have to come down there and slap some sense into you?" straight-shooting Mom warns), Kenny is, alas, stuck on stupid when it comes to Jeremy.
And one can almost see why. Almost. Aside from his golden good looks, Jeremy is a passionate lover who is sexually talented and accommodating in every way imaginable. He is young and proud, a young macho homosexual very much in touch with his sensitive side, and not the least bit concerned with public displays of affection when it comes to his man which he lavishes with hugs and sloppy kisses at taco stands, in front of chi-chi gyms, at family gatherings, on campus, anywhere he feels like it, which is everywhere, knowing that his youthfulness is giving his older lover a new shot in the arm.
And Jeremy is very smart for his age (if not very mature), and talented; a gifted poet who was a contestant on "Teen Jeopardy." He is loyal to his friends and family (if not to his lovers, of which there are many) and dedicated to his college studies and efficient at his job as a student affairs aide for a city college.
But the kid has a lot of problems, most of them related to just growing up. Eventually we realize that Kenny has not grown up either, as he forgives almost every unforgivable transgression and totes too much of Jeremy's devil-may-care baggage, not to mention a lot of his own, time and time again.
But as exasperating as Kenny can be (like his mother, we want to slap some sense into him too) the poor guy is just unlucky in love, even though he tends to bring the bad luck on himself.
There are hints in the story that even before Kenny's cheating fireman, he was batting zero in the romance department although he'd been up to bat numerous times. As we listen closely to his narration, we come to realize that Kenny is just a poor sap in deep denial who should have stayed a little longer in therapy he was once undergoing.
The story breezes along gleefully though, fueled by Kenny's endearing, if frustrating emotional bumbling, and Jeremy's charming and irresponsible youth. But just when it seems that there may be a glimmer of hope for these May-December lovers, tragedy strikes, adding an unexpected but deeply moving poignancy.
Late in the story, writer Smith gives Kenny a beautifully rendered thought on all the beds we occupy through life, and how we must take responsibility for the beds we make for ourselves (even though emotionally, I doubt Kenny ever bothered to change a sheet). Nonetheless, this is the best piece of writing in a novel that overall consists of wonderful and easily digestible prose; fast paced, at times funny, very conversational, and humane.
I suppose that's what makes us like Kenny, in spite of all his missteps, bad judgments, and denial; and why we like Jeremy, in spite of all his naughty, childish little ways. They both possess that special save: humanity.
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1. there aren't many novels being published whic deal with the love lives of gay men of color