Sex & Candy is the third book in the Arbor Heights series but the first title in this series for me. Having just checked the blurbs for the two previous titles, ‘Learning to live’ and ‘Learning to Breathe’ I think I can safely say this book can be read as a stand-alone title.
Brad has had a crush on his best friend Geoff ever since they shared a kiss when Brad was 14. Having waited for Geoff to come to terms with his homosexuality for years, Brad is devastated when he receives an invitation to Geoff’s wedding. Determined to forget about his old friend, Brad finds himself at a private party at ‘Blue Dogs’; a party where men leave their inhibitions at the door and enjoy themselves and each other.
Tristan has been throwing the Blue Dogs parties for years when he lays eyes on Brad. From the moment he sees the newcomer, Tristan knows he’s something special. One night of no strings sex leads to dates and deepening feelings. The path to love rarely runs smooth though and doesn’t for Brad and Tristan either. Geoff’s post-honeymoon regret is only one of the obstacles the two men will have to overcome.
I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book. I liked the basic story-line and I liked the two main characters but there were quite a few things I was less than happy with.
To summarize; there was too much happening in this story. In fact there was so much going on that not a single story threat felt sufficiently filled out. As it is we are reading about one character, Brad, getting over a crush he’s had for years, going to a sex party for the first time in his life where he meets and falls for the party’s organiser. Tristan has been organizing these M/M sex parties for years and feels real attraction to one of his guests for the first time when he meets Brad. If this book had only been about the developing relationship between those two men and how they deal with the disparity between their growing connection and the free-for-all atmosphere of the parties this book would probably have been perfect. However, that’s not all we’re dealing with. Thrown into the mix are Geoff’s denial of his feelings, his wedding and his subsequent turn-around; Geoff’s younger brother’s despair because he is also gay and Geoff’s homophobic parents throwing their youngest son out. And, to top it off, Brad and Tristan play cupid for two other side-characters.
This was just too many story-lines for a novella this length. As a result everything felt rushed and unfinished. I liked Brad and Tristan but never really got to know them. A parent rejecting their own children because they’re gay is a something I’ll never get my head around and definitely something worth exploring in a story. The problem is that it wasn’t explored in this book; it was only mentioned but didn’t get resolved.
My final quibble concerns the title. While there is plenty of very yummy ‘sex’ in this book, I’m not sure where the ‘candy’ comes into it.
I can’t help feeling that this would have been a brilliant romance if only the author had been able to resist the temptation to throw everything bar the kitchen-sink into it. The writing was smooth, the dialogue well done and at times funny while the characters – what we saw of them – were interesting. This was a very pleasant read that left with a yearning for a lot more.