Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reading Corner: A Private Affair

As a fairly consistent reader (I’m hardly without a book), however, I am a bit picky when it comes to fictional novels. I tend to judge a book by it’s cover length so right away I was apprehensive but the cover illustration looked hot so I took a gamble!

And surprisingly, it paid off…

The author, Mike Warren, introduces the reader to A Private Affair, a world filled with lies, secrets, lust and just about all other manner of freaky erotic lifestyle that usually pepper a “typical urban novel.” However, two things immediately helped set it apart from the riff-raff: setting and pacing.

The plot is about a young Army private, Sean Matthews, who begins to explore his sexuality and gradually delves deeper and deeper into a world he is unfamiliar with. Chance encounter at nightclubs, undercover military sex, down-low lust and even some forbidden Lord-have-mercy religious rendezvous keep Sean’s world upside-down and turned out. But along this wild journey, he begins to discover himself and has to make some extremely important decisions. As the author states, will he get the best of both worlds or simply turned out?

Now before I zero in on my complaints (and those who read my past reviews know I will!), I must compliment this fresh author on his intrepid novel. There aren’t many novels in the African-American SGL genre that feature the military as a backdrop, especially considering how homophobic both communities can be at times. Knowing some family as well as a few friends in the military, I have never been interested in anything remotely army-related so bravo for capturing my interest.

Nevertheless, this novel suffers from the same affliction that many up-and-coming SGL novels do: TERRIBLE EDITING! There is nothing worse than reading a novel (I’ve read quite a few) and keeping the Rosetta Stone tablet nearby to decipher what in the world he or she is attempting to convey! While I don’t want to criticize this author, I believe all these authors should take more pride in their work and keep on their publisher/editor’s.

Lastly, my other issue with this novel was the overall structure (pacing, continuity, loose ends). The last two chapters raced by at break-neck speed leaving a massive cliffhanger (to be resolved in his next novel Sweet Swagger). Another example is Sean’s friend we are introduced to from the beginning and seems to simply disappear as well as the characterization of his roommate, Cameron, which I find hard to believe someone this effeminate actually made it through boot-camp.

Yet on a positive note I found many aspects of the story endearing and relevant. While I can’t relate physically to the super muscular, hyper-masculine personality of Sean, I easily connected with his struggles as he “came out.” His constant denials, his disconnect with his wife, the encounters were all expertly detailed and slowly drawn out through the course of the book. Additionally, many of the events toward the end of the novel really moved things along and begged for resolution (“who don it?” “could it be..?” “oh no he didn’t!”) and I’ve already got Sweet Swagger on order.

I recommend this as a great summer-style read. The “intimate” scenes are very hot and steamy with just enough raw detail to excite without drowning it in “poetry-esque” prose or making it crude and classless. While the scene changes really take the reader for a ride, don’t expect the novel of the century. Simply put, if you take A Private Affair at face value, you’ll be begging for more too!

Look for my review of Mike Warren’s follow-up novel Sweet Swagger by early summer.

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