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M/M Romance Reviews by Maybedog

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Review: Deadly Dreams by Victor J. Banis

Deadly Dreams  - Victor J. Banis

Book summary: A painful past. A mysterious stranger. Footsteps vanishing in the fog. All Stanley wants is just to hear Tom say, "I love you." All Tom wants is Stanley safe. And the stranger? Ah, there's the rub--what exactly is it that he wants?


Be careful what you wish for, fellows. You may get it. Dreams can be deadly.

 

This was a really hard book to rate. I loved parts of it and hated others.

 

The good:

The plot was good and much of the mystery as well. Some parts I figured out immediately but not everything.

There was some good action and thrills.

There was near-death and melodrama.

There was trauma, and an emotionally charged beautiful scene where one MC showed his love for the other.

The characters are well-developed for the most part. The two MCs are definitely very different and distinct.

The book was dark and twisted in parts, which I really like.

I was left wanting more which was impressive considering how mad I was throughout it.

The bad:

A town is divided by tracks with the haves on one side and the have nots on the other. How trite can you get?

A couple of drug users who also deal to support their habits, have a big stash of marijuana and something bad happens. There is no way anyone, not authorities nor family, will realize anything happened for quite a while if ever. They don't want to be caught so they know they need leave town even though they have no money. Yet instead of selling the marijuana and then leaving a couple of days later, they leave immediately and dump the pot off a bridge. Seriously?

The couple never stretch or use lube when they have intercourse. They don't even have foreplay. Ouch. They don't use condoms, either, but they have just moved in together so I assume they're exclusive so I'll let that pass.
The couple can't conceive of someone being bi. One thinks he's straight except for his affection for Stanley. He can't be gay because he still loves women. Stanley pretty much agrees and it bothers him that Chris isn't gay. Hello, can't someone be bi? Can't someone love both men and women? I do. I've been out as bi since I was 12 and I'm in my 40's now. I've had long term relationships with both men and women. I never felt that I was missing something or unfulfilled.

The two men never want the same thing out of the relationship at the same time. When one is flighty, the other is clingy. When one is satisfied, the other is discontented, and the sides change both between and within the books. It gets annoying, like the author is trying to force conflict in there.
Major info dumping. For example, there's a secondary character who is really only important as a way to see how the two MCs would deal with an intense issue and also as a minor plot point. But we get to know pages and pages of her back story, where she grew up, how, why, etc., etc.; stuff that just wasn't necessary at all.

One protagonist thinks love and hate aren't judgmental. Huh? They're the ultimate in judgment.

Sometimes one or the other of the MCs is too stupid to live.

I find it annoying when characters recite bits from books and poems verbatim, especially when they're not wildly known works. It's incredibly unlikely that when two characters meet for the first time that they will know the author of the words and the title they came from, and even the exact same passages. When it happens over and over and over again, I can't suspend my disbelief. It's hard enough when they're two professors in the same field. It's just ridiculous when their jobs aren't ones where they need to know that stuff and there's no indication they spend tons of time memorizing. I have a graduate degree in the liberal arts and I don't remember anything word for word, even stuff I once had to memorize. I know the gist and can recognize some stuff, but very little and rarely do I know which specific book something came from.

The ugly:

Both are complete assholes: Chris in the first half of the book, Stanley in the second half. They deserve each other. It was ugly being in the MCs' heads. Maybe it was realistic but it wasn't likeable. I lacked sympathy because they just didn't come across as nice people. Sometimes each doesn't appear to love the other or even be that attached because they don't have real emotions. I know men don't talk about their feelings, that they repress them even, but this is ridiculous. The people portrayed here aren't capable of true love. They are way too self-absorbed and out of touch with their emotions. The only exception was at the very end where everything had to come together for the inevitable HEA.

This was the ugliest thing to have to witness: (Medium spoiler)

One of them cheats on the other. They are at an event and a person comes on to one of them. That MC flirts right in front of the other MC and basically ignores him. MC 2 goes to get them all drinks and while he's gone, MC 1 goes into the third person's private residence within the building. MC 1 only kisses the other person and ends up not going through with it, but to me, kissing is cheating. He also basically had eye sex with someone when his partner was right there. And the reason he left was that he realized it MC 2 would probably not be okay with it, not because he realized he didn't want sex with anyone but MC 2 (he even tells MC 2 later that he wanted to very badly), not because he loved MC2 too much, not because he was berating himself and feeling guilty. MC 1 later told MC 2 that he stopped because he would rather be with MC 2. "I just gave it up finally, told her I was sorry, and came home. Boy, talk about dick whipped." I actually said, "What?!?" out loud when I read that. Dick whipped?

 

 

We  were only told this reason as MC 1 told MC 2. MC 1 never thought that in his head that we were privy to. It was tell rather than show so how do I know this is really what he felt? This should have been a heavy, emotional scene and it felt like how the media likes to pretend men are. But men are just as possessive and jealous as women, sometimes more so, and none of this felt like the reactions of someone in love. I also never felt he really regretted it or felt guilty or anything. Cheating is bad enough but to do it in front of the other MC? I didn't see how they could even stay together. But...

(show spoiler)

 

The other MC's, MC 2's, reaction to this was actually even more bothersome.(medium spoiler)

He was somewhat hurt but he got over it almost instantly.  He  admits he's cheated on other partners, who hasn't? Me for one and I never would. He also says that he almost wished MC 1 had actually done it because otherwise he had nothing "to be sore about." Huh??? Instead, he thinks that maybe he should be happy with MC 1 because he'd been tempted and managed to resist. Seriously. They make up in a few sentences then have hot sex. When they're done, MC 2 basically says it's all okay. MC 1 is sorry because he made MC 2 "unhappy." Not hurt, just unhappy and MC 2 says, "Don't be. It's okay." No, it's not okay. It means they have a serious problem. It's one thing to want others. It's even different if someone makes a poor choice when he's out in an odd situation. But the fact that this happened while his lover was standing right next to him is beyond just a problem. Oh, but get this: MC 2  understands it wasn't about him and that his reaction, his hurt (which he never expresses really, and certainly not to MC 1) is "my problem, not yours. Nothing ever goes right all the time. Life doesn't work that way, for anybody...It isn't just the ups, the good times, that make a relationship special. Probably they're the least of it." Then it is never is mentioned again. MC 2 takes all responsibility for being upset.

I'm not making this up. True, in theory no one can make you upset, you're ultimately responsible for your own emotions, but you've already given your trust to your partner. They do hold certain emotions in their hands. And when they violate that trust, they are the ones who need to take responsibility for it. The one who has been cheated on has a right to be hurt and upset and denying that they other isn't at fault is unhealthy and sounds like abuse to me. I honest don't think the author has ever been cheated on. Maybe he's cheated and his partner took this position, maybe he wanted his partner to, but it's not realistic and although it sounds healthy, it isn't. You can't ignore emotions like this and you can't pretend that the relationship doesn't have a problem.

(show spoiler)


MC 2's reaction to the climax is even worse. He takes the whole thing fairly mildly even though he should be furious. (Major spoiler)

The killer horribly mutilated and nearly killed MC 1 and MC 1 is angry about it. MC 2 says, "Wow. Somebody's got his dander up."

(show spoiler)

 

Also, (major big ass spoiler that will ruin most surprises)

someone accuses MC 2 of maybe not being able to give up the killer because he's genetically related. Even though MC 2 had only known the killer a few days and the killer had tried to kill him and his partner (see above), his response is, "I could. If I had to." [Emphasis mine.] I just sat there in shock. My reaction would be, "Of course I could. I'd put the cuffs on myself." That would be my reaction to being asked if I could turn in anyone I cared about who had tried to kill me and my partner. Or even just my partner, especially when it was as a criminal act.

(show spoiler)


I've never quite gotten the whole "I love her so I can't let her go to jail even though she is an insane serial murderer. So I'll just help her escape." If I did that, I would be as responsible as she was for every new crime she committed. I might as well put the gun in my own hand. I couldn't live with myself if someone I loved killed someone because I hadn't prevented it when I could have. If you're Christian or Buddhist it's even worse because you're letting your loved one ruin their Karma/go to hell without having an opportunity to repent. (I'm not either but it still appalls me. I'm not going to let someone kill someone else because I'm too selfish to do what needs to be done. Anyway, in this instance where the only link is genetic, it's ridiculous that MC 2 would even consider the possibility of not turning the other in.

But the worst part for me is this which comes at the end of the book but isn't any kind of a spoiler:

"He loved [the other MC] for his bravery as much as for anything. But he knew, too--every gay man did--that gays had something extra, some different kind of courage and strength, to keep them going, but no less real for the difference. How could they endure their lives otherwise?"

There is so much wrong with that sentence. 1. Why is living as a gay person something to endure? That's the kind of thing homophobes think. Being gay is wonderful. It's dealing with homophobia that is hard. But the lives of many gay men don't encounter homophobia every day, especially in San Francisco where these two live. 2. Why are courage and strength necessary to deal with these issues? Patience and having a thick skin might simply be enough depending on what you're talking about. It's not like middle-America everywhere. 3. Gays is not a noun. Or it wasn't until people started abusing it ("The gays are moving into our neighborhood Agnes!") Using it as a noun sounds homophobic. 4. Gays have something extra others don't have? It's that much harder to be gay than African American, severely disabled, extremely poor, Native American, etc.? Being gay can be very hard just like it can for other minorities. Just like it can for those who are constantly abused or those who are harassed regularly for being a woman in a job traditionally male, or being extremely poor and going to school in a middle-class neighborhood, or being illiterate and trying to get a job. I just hate it when people say one form of discrimination is worse than another. I don't think that's what the author means, but that's how it comes across and it makes me angry.

Despite all this, I do want to read the next one. Maybe they'll finally start treating each other right. With what happened in the final scenes, there's going to have to be more emotional content in the next one or it will be just too stupid. I have faith.

2.5 stars but I'm rounding down because I really couldn't stand each of the MCs at different points. For me, that's not preferred.