It’s funny this thing that reviewing books is, at least for me. The more a book affects me the harder I find it to review. If Grif’s Toy was difficult to review because there were things in that book that just had me going through every human emotion possible then reviewing Wes’ Denial is bordering impossible to review. This review has taken me close two months to master.
Those of you who read my review on Grif’s Toy and who happened to catch some of my comments on Facebook while reading it knows very well my reaction to that book. In all honestly when picking up Wes’ Denial I was in doubt how the hell Joseph Lance Tonlet was going to pull this off, first, because Grif’s Toy was not only a really great book pure fiction wise but the message in that book was so loud and clear. Grif’s voice was strong and there were no doubts left at the end of the book about who Grif was or who was truly in charge in that relationship and (pardon my French) it sure as fuck wasn’t Wes. I was afraid that I was going to read a doublet of Grif’s Toy but from Wes perspective together with having Tonlet tying up a few lose ends like the big significance of Wes tattoo and who Henrik was. Even if my worry was slight, there had been no need for it slight or other. Wes Denial is just as good and I would say even better than Grif’s Toy for no other reason than the end.
Books like this touch me, because not only have the author, Joseph Lance Tonlet, managed to convey a magnificently emotional story but like I’ve said before managed to convey a message, or several messages, in a subject matter that is very complicated for most of people to understand, especially those of us who don’t live in the BDSM lifestyle or anywhere near it. Yet, we all tend to have a lot to say about it. Funny how that is, isn’t it?
One of the issues I have when reading MM books in general, if to generalize for a bit, is that I find a lot of them to be all about sex and I’m not talking about how many acts of sex there are. There can be a book with 5 scenes with actual sex acts but not have very much to do with sex or vice versa. You following? The clichés of BDSM books with the dark clubs, whips and chains, dungeons (and I am sorry but it doesn’t matter how much white or yellow painted walls you have in these dungeons they are still play rooms set out for one thing to “play” to indulge in whatever play it is that get a certain couple off), sex and more sex, child/parent play as I call it, which is about the dominant telling the submissive what he/she needs like they don’t have a clue themselves about that because first they need to be saved, it is all the typical encounters when reading a BDSM book. It might seem a bit harsh but it’s true, and I’m not saying they are bad books just that because of this they become very one sided or people who don’t tend to question things they know little about get the wrong idea.
Like so many other “things” BDSM is in my opinion over sexualized, it is the desire of having great sex that is the drive to seek out the BDSM lifestyle and that fact alone gives people a somewhat skewed view of what it's really about. After reading Wes’ Denial, not reading Grif’s Toy, but reading about Wes and what experiences forms his life I can finally say there’s one more book (to a very short list of books) that desexualize and, lack of a better words, re-humanize the BDSM lifestyle and makes it out to be what it’s meant to be a way of living your life together and getting your needs/interests met in more than just your sex life because it has to do with a state of mind and emotional needs that many times have a physical way of being satisfied.
Wes has this confident way about him but at the same time he has secrets and things that makes him vulnerable. Through life he finds out things about himself that in many ways disturbs him and makes him feel like a freak and like I said in my review on Grif’s Toy, it isn’t until he meets Grif that he truly understands himself or rather allow himself to do so. You learn throughout the book how he finds out what he is and what that means and how he struggles to find acceptance in being him. Thomas and Henrik are two of those people that he meets and two people who seen sides of him that are both good and bad. There are things in Wes’ past (that I won’t go into that are dark and to the point of cruel) that he’s shamed by, things that forces Grif to take on a role that is not his typical role for no other reason than to help the man he loves to deal with his past. Does this remind you of anyone you know? It does, doesn’t it, because we all do it at times to help others deal with things buried in their past, we shoulder tasks or situations, accept the burden of crosses not really ours to bear for no other reason than to help the people we love. Tonlet says himself that submission are gifts given from one person to another and I agree but Tonlet taught me something else too, that no matter how many labels we put on people or on ourselves in the end we are all the same. We bleed the same, we love the same, we want and need the same thing for those we love to accept us for who we are.
Wes’ Denial is about everything but sex, and there’s plenty of sex scenes in this book. Wes and Grif shows us it’s about the same thing every other relationship is about, which is love and commitment, about helping your partner through the worst thing they experienced in their life so they’ll be able to move on. Wes’ Denial is not a repeat of Grif’s Toy, nor is it an easy story to read both because there are scenes in it that are very graphic both in violence but also when it comes to the D/S structure of things.
Mostly it’s a hard book to read because of the emotional journey, Wes journey is so completely gripping and heart twisting at times it is hard to read because of the tears you shed. What Wes’ Denial really is about is finding and forgiving yourself, it’s that easy. It is about accepting yourself for who you are, good and bad, with the good choices and bad choices you’ve made, that you are not a weak man or less dominant because you need help and that being turned on by what you are turned on by isn’t wrong if with the right partner, the yin to your yang. On the contrary, Wes’ over and over again kills the stigmas of BDSM not being abuse, it isn’t just about sex, it isn’t weak or mean but it is just about two consenting adults, loving each other as much as the next couple, doing everything they can to make each other and themselves happy and also being openly proud of the life choices they made. Wes’ Denial is really a Cinderella story about true love and fighting evil for that love. Finally, this is a book that says all the things that every BDSM conversation should start with: Once upon a time there was a submissive boy who fell in love with a dominant boy…. And then they lived happily till it was their time. There’s a quote from Wes’ that I like to share from the book that is so spot on about what is about. To as the author says he done for himself and his own life too, the important question isn’t why (and trust me I am a very why asking person), the important question is, Are you happy? Or possibly, What makes you happy?
“Thomas had taught me there was nothing about either—sadism or masochism—which made either of us better or superior to the other. We were what we were; I was simply Wes and he was simply Grif.” From Wes’ Denial by Joseph Lance Tonlet
Joseph Lance Tonlet didn’t only give us an amazing and hard story telling us about Wes but he also gave us the most magnificent ending (and don’t think I don’t see the raised eyebrows because I do). But even though as I sit there and realize what is going on, there on the last pages and wanted nothing else but to yell at the author for being so damn cruel, I can’t picture another ending for Grif and Wes, because this end is the ultimate proof of how much Wes and Grif really loved each other and how deep that love truly goes. That nothing about them or their life together was driven by anything else but respect and love that they felt for each other’s. So, Mr. Benson move over the throne now belongs to Mr. De Luca!
I love books, I love to read, I love the written word and I love to read in a lot of different genres. I read everything from classics of Kafka, Brontë, Austen, Shakespeare, to horror or crime such as John Grisham and Dean R. Koontz and so on and so forth to contemporary romance novels. There’s not much I don’t read, or many genres I can’t find authors to love.
However, there's one thing I’ve noticed with the LGBTQ community of authors, including myself, is that very few just write books. Books for the masses books about people who just happen to be something other the standard straight, white, christian. This thing we call sexual orientation is very important in the quest of not having it be so important. Mind you now I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, talking about matters will defuse them and eventually whatever made a hype out of one thing will be gone and commonly accepted, I’m just claiming it is how many people in MY oppinion write . Nothing wrong with it it’s just how it is.
With Debbie McGowan’s books, sex and sexual orientation is something distant, it’s not this huge statement or discussion, sex is something everyone has so it's like "knock yourself dead" and sexual orientation, it’s who you are no matter what that is so what's there to discuss. I am not saying it isn’t important factor in McGowan books but she has a way of wording things that makes them so acceptable that you just sort of nod and goes along with whatever she says. It's all the norm.
In the Wag and the Scoundrel Debbie McGowen’s characters are diverse but yet familiar that it doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is or gender or color of their skin or political views they could all be you in one way or another. Gray, the widower, Rob the soon to be divorced, Will, the animal rights activist and ex banker gone surfer, Aaron and Naomi are so freaking brilliantly done I might actually have whooped a little; but they are all regular dudes and dudettes with very much of the same type of problems. Debbie McGowan is one of a small group of authors I'm currently reading that truly know how to make, all those things we all want to be non issues, into just that a non issue. That is a gift in itself.
When it comes to The Wag and the Scoundrel it’s a suspense and crime story, and I love those kind of stories, I prefer them when reading in a way, or rather I prefer stories that are about more boy meets boy or girl, I like stories about real life. Just like John Grisham, McGowan, focuses the drama on the actual case of “who’s done it” instead of the act of violence of seeing the crime being committed. That doesn’t just cause the story to become more of a suspense story because she as a writer can focus on more calm details in the investigation instead of the hard quick actions in the crime moment.
What I like most about this particular book are two things, one, the flow between keeping the pace of the actual case of investigating the murder going, so it doesn’t stagnate and sort of just flimsy out around in the course of getting people together as couples or sorting their personal lives out. The story is the crime committed that involves a lot of people whose life are intertwined. That is the second thing I love about this book, all the different characters that we get to follow and their personal lives as a side story to the crime investigation. It is a nice side step from the crime story, to say it lightens it up maybe a bit over exaggerated because damn these people got issues the size of a small European country, I am not jealous but we get to follow them on their personal journeys as well and I liked that a lot. I can tell you this I usually don’t spend too much time dwelling on who will end up with who, because let’s face it most romances are pretty easy to figure that one out, but since this isn’t a romance and that was pretty clear from get go I was muttering quite a lot and was ready to kick ass if Gray didn’t get his head out of his arse.
In all, Debbie McGowan write books for the masses, they are not simply LGBTQ books, well they are but I hate labels, books are books, and if I want a crime I look there and there’s where this book fits in. The Wag and the Scoundrel will have you turning that page after page till you come to the last one, because you just want to know who one done it and what the heck happens to everyone and I’ll tell you Debbie is goooood at keeping you on your toes! Finally what I have to say is move over John Grisham there’s a new crime author in town!
You can find Debbie at:
Beaten Track Publishing
Dreamer, Writer, Reader and Metal Head.