All The Wrong Places
Author: Ann Gallagher
Despite the risks of his career as a semi-pro skateboarder, most things in Brennan Cross’ life are good. He’s got a job he likes, good friends, and is working towards his dream of competing in the X Games someday. Even though his personal life is a little shaky at present, his biggest problem isn’t that his girlfriend cheated on him—it’s that she’s the third one to do so. And the fact that all three have blamed Brennan’s inability to meet their sexual “needs” has left him more than a little confused. Now, Brennan has questions. Where better to find some answers than the local sex shop?
As a single father and a Muslim working in an adult toy shop, Zafir Hamady knows he’s an anomaly. Being asexual as well just adds to the list of complications that has kept him single for so long. Sure, he’s lonely, but all he really wants to do is give his son a good home and every opportunity to have a better life. The last thing he needs is to fall for the seemingly straight, yet very lost, skater who wandered into his store right after an ugly breakup. Too bad his heart has other ideas.
I’ve been very excited to see an increase in Ace titles and characters in the last year or so, and not at all surprised to see the topic addressed so well in a Bluewater Bay story. Asexuality is a broad, multifaceted, yet little-explored topic, but I think that the author of All the Wrong Places approaches quite a few of these issues with compassion and respect that I appreciated a great deal.
I liked both Brennan and Zafir a great deal, even though they are about as different from one another as possible—at least in the beginning. As the vehicle for self-discovery, I thought Brennan was very likable, for the most part, and was especially pleased to see that he was both serious and introspective, rather than a flaky caricature of skateboarding culture. It is Zafir, however, who is the heart of the story, and it was his cautious yearning and affection that really drew me in.
While this story could easily have turned into a “How to be Asexual” pamphlet, I found it to be so much more. From the support group where Brennan begins to feel less isolated to Zafir’s steady guidance and affection, All the Wrong Places goes a long way towards redefining what it means to be “normal,” if not eradicating the need for such a definition in the first place. Zafir shows Brennan a world where his asexuality is only a portion of who he is, as is true for everyone.
One of my favorite things about All the Wrong Places is the distinction that is made between sex and intimacy. Zafir and Brennan’s relationship evolves gently through snatches of time during lunch breaks and text messaging, over popcorn and movies, and with a tentative trust that becomes something altogether richer and irrevocable—and fragile. All of which happens without sex. In fact, it is through the absence of sex that Brennan’s heart is unfettered, and he finally learns what intimacy and love really are.
Despite my inability to reconcile Brennan’s knee-jerk reaction to his cheating ex-girlfriend’s inquisition with the thoughtful, affectionate man who won Zafir’s heart, I found a lot to like about All the Wrong Places. Through their mutual journey, Ms. Gallagher successfully conveys that there’s no “acceptable” time frame when it comes to learning about ourselves or asking questions when the existing answers just don’t work anymore. Even better, All the Wrong Places goes a long way towards showing that not having all the answers is okay, too. Although this story is intended to work as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the entire series.
Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.
Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.
Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.
Release Date: June 13, 2016
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Series: Bluewater Bay #14
Genre: Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, m/m
Format(s): paperback (273 pages), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Reviews in the Series:
Bluewater Bay series
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off Ann Gallagher’s backlist (excluding All The Wrong Places, but including books written as L.A. Witt or Lauren Gallagher) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 20th, and winners will be announced on June 21st . Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
This giveaway is sponsored by the author/publisher. Open to participants who are legally allowed to participate in such a contest as allowed by their local laws. All federal, state, local, and municipal laws and regulations apply. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. By participating in the contest, participants agree to be bound by the decisions of the contest sponsor. Prize will be delivered by the contest sponsor. This blog, its reviewers, and the owner are not responsible for items lost in the mail. By entering this giveaway, participants agree to abide by these terms.
Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.