Author: Heidi Belleau
Rating: 4 Stars
What I’m Talking About:
Robert Ng fully accepts what he is: a shy, gay, nerdy gamer and art student who has always felt eclipsed by the shimmering, magnetic personality of his beloved older sister. But, the somewhat self-imposed isolation of his youth has turned into loneliness and an earnest desire to be someone that others are naturally drawn to. The only time he feels strong, confident, and desirable is when he’s playing as Bobby: the only female, orc-slaying member of an online RPG guild, who is not only accepted by her peers, but is the subject of their flirtations as well. She is beautiful, outgoing, witty—everything Rob wishes he could be. If only he could be Bobby every now and then in real life, too.
Being new to this series, I had no idea what to expect from Wallflower, and I’m glad to say I was very pleasantly surprised. This story is about Rob’s journey towards self-acceptance, not just a telling of events that lead to a conclusion. Every step he takes towards discovering who he’s supposed to be is regarded with honesty and respect, giving the character a veracity that was easy to accept. In the beginning, Rob believes that in order to break out of his shell, he has to be someone else entirely. But, by the end, he’s arrived at an entirely different opinion.
Dylan, Rob’s new boyfriend, is likewise a terrific character. He is understanding and kind, and has no filter between his brain and his mouth whatsoever. He is completely devoid of artifice, his compassion shaped by his own, sometimes difficult, experiences. In general, he has a unique and welcome point of view. This is especially apparent during a wonderful scene that takes place in an art gallery, when he talks about the fallacy of perception, not only of celebrities, but how much of ourselves we either discard or alter before presenting what we believe to be an “acceptable” version of ourselves to the rest of the world. It’s good stuff all around.
In the end, Rob didn’t need an alter ego to find the confidence he so desperately desired. He just had to accept that Bobby wasn’t a completely different persona, but rather, a facet, and an equally deserving part, of who he really was. He learned that no one’s path is guaranteed to be free of pain and misunderstanding, and that friends who wouldn’t try to change him were worth keeping. Mostly, I think he learned that his particular happiness could be found in the journey itself, final destination unknown, without fitting into anyone else’s definitions and preconceptions.
Although Wallflower is intended to be read as a standalone, I’d like to read the first story in the series, Apple Polisher, as well. Ms. Belleau has proven to be an adept and insightful writer, creating characters that are relatable, and a story that really made me think. While there are a few explicit scenes between Bobby and Dylan, they are sexy and sweet and serve to further illustrate each character’s personality, not just take up space as gratuitous filler. (Even though they are very enjoyable scenes.) All in all, I think this series is a keeper, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Belleau has in store for the roommates next.
4 stars: Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
About the Book:
This gamer geek has a lacy little secret.
Art student and MMORPG addict Robert Ng has always been a loner, but he’s recently made it his goal to make more (IRL) friends. Which is how he winds up working nights at Rear Entrance Video, shilling sketchy porn and blowup dolls as a favor to his roommate. The longer he works there, though, the more he realizes he’ll never be truly happy until he becomes the person he is online: his female persona, Bobby.
Bobby is cuter and funnier than Rob is, and a thousand times more popular with boys. Becoming Bobby IRL presents its own set of challenges, though . . . especially when you’re sitting on the fence between two genders, only one of which has caught the attention of your seriously cute customer/classmate.
Dylan Ford is a six-foot Inuit comic book artist who always says what’s on his mind, and screw anyone who doesn’t like it. As rough as he appears, though, Dylan has a soft spot for Rob. But will out-and-proud Dylan still want Rob if he’s not all man?
Release Date: October 21, 2013
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Series: Rear Entrance Video #2
Genre: GLBT – m/m romance, Contemporary Romance
Format(s): Paperback (205 pgs), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley
Wallflower (Rear Entrance Video #2)