Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: All the Wrong Places
SERIES: Bluewater Bay #14
AUTHOR: Ann Gallagher
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 240 pages
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2016
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.
As I sit down to write this, it has been almost 24 hours since I first heard of the shooting in the gay club in Orlando. Over the intervening hours the injuries and terrible loss of life increased in front of our very eyes. Those of us across the country, and the globe, couldn’t do much more than grieve and rage as the story unfolded.
There are no words for my grief, and yet what I experience safe here with my family and friends around me, is nothing compared to what others deal with right now. For the people who were in that club and those who have had loved ones killed and injured…what can I say? How do you give words to an overwhelming grief, anger, loss of perceived safety, and an awakening determination that we will stand together?
As i sit here, trying to write this review, it has been almost 24 hours. It feels like no time at all, and yet I feel stretched thin by each tick of the clock.
As I sit here, I am at a loss. How do I do something so mundane as this; as if these hate fueled murders never happened? I have been writing reviews for more than three years and never before have I felt so lost when staring down at a blank page.
I don’t believe in fate, and even less in god, but I think if ever there was a book to review, at this moment, at this time, All the Wrong Places might be it. A story about a man finding himself and falling in love with an asexual Muslim single father, all the while learning that–in the words of the ever incomparable Lin-Manuel Miranda–
Love is love is love is love is love.
My reading of this book was bisected by this tragedy. There was before Orlando, and after. Before grief, and after rage. It was a strange thing to come to this story from two such places. No doubt it colored my view of these characters, of their story and their love. I cannot remove myself from that. I don’t know if I would want to if I could.
Because no matter when I read, there’s never going to be a difference in the simple, yet heartfelt message that love is who not how.
There is no perfect way to love, just many wonderfully messy ones.
In a world that would seek to divide us with hate and fear, I think we need to remember that. A book about a biromantic man of the Muslim faith…could anything be better for us right now? A story that doesn’t hide our differences, but celebrates them…is there any better lesson for us right now?
Books that teach us about love, in all its forms, are desperately needed. I can count on one hand (probably together) the number of books I’ve read with asexual or with Muslim MCs. That I can actually number both of these things is not good. We need more. So much more. We need more love, not less.
This is not the review I would have written, given the chance. But I don’t think I am the person I was 24 hours ago. I wish I could find in me some place that matches this wonderful, lighthearted book. It was my shelter for a few hours in what had become a nightmare. It deserves better than this. But I cannot yet find that part of me, not even 24 hours on.
Love is love, they say.
Be it for another person, or yourself, I have to agree. Love is love.
And it is by reading books like this one that we are reminded of that.
Zafir and Brennan are not perfect characters. I loved them all the same. For a book that never got heavy, it sure did a damn good job of making sure all its hits counted. It also treated its characters with respect, but didn’t stop them from messing up–if only so that they could learn their lesson. Nothing about realizing such intimate and at times profound things about yourself is easy. I can attest to that. I’ve been there and got the coffee mug, T-shirt, and novelty slippers to prove it. But it is what you do with that struggle that matters. Learning to love yourself is probably the hardest thing in life. It is worth it though.
With everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, I am glad that I had some place to retreat when it all got too much. And I’m glad it was this book. Despite not knowing how to say it, I am glad I get the chance to share this book with others. On days like today we need to remember that love is worth it.
Zafir’s weight shifted, and rocks and sand crunched as he stepped a little closer. His shirt was a light breeze away from touching mine. He lifted his hand off my forearm, and I held my breath. Even before his fingers moved into my peripheral vision, I knew what was coming.
Eyes locked on mine, he touched my face. My heart was going impossibly fast now. I was vaguely aware that we were out in public, and someone might lean over the guardrail above and see us, but I didn’t care.
His hand slid around to the back of my neck, and with the faintest pressure from his fingertips, he drew me toward him.
Our lips met.
And everything . . . faded.