“Gobsmacked”, by L.B. Gregg
Disregarding the title (because it takes a bit to warm to it, I confess) “Gobsmacked”, L.B. Gregg’s debut story, is 125 pages of awesome. Can I get away with saying that and nothing more?
Okay, then, let me write something a bit more review-like. First, the usual warnings: this is an adult story, so minors should steer clear of it and my review. Further, it is an m/m (or homosexual) erotic romance, which means that adults who have issues with homosexuality in general and/or graphic language should probably avoid this as well.
Here is the blurb from the publisher’s site:
No more Mr. Nice Guy.
Mild mannered Mark Meehan’s good judgment flies out the window when he finds his lover banging another man. Things go from bad to worse as Mark’s crazy revenge scheme uncovers shocking secrets-sending him straight into the arms of hunky lawman and old friend, Tony Gervase, a man of limited patience and secrets of his own.
The events narrated in the story unfold in a period of barely three days, and are presented exclusively from Mark’s point of view. I found this to work very well for me because I found Mark both utterly likable and one hundred percent believable.
As the novella begins, Mark interrupts Ash Wednesday Mass to let his live-in boyfriend Jamie know that cheating? and on Mark’s bed, in Mark’s bedroom, in Mark’s apartment? Not only not cool, but not tolerated. And what better way to get that point across to a cheating asshat than a nice heavy Bible smacking upside the head?
After such an auspicious beginning, Mark reacts like any self-respecting human being confronted with such a revelation: he goes through his abode collecting every single last item of Jamie’s and transports them unceremoniously to the town’s dumpster.
Burning them was also an option, you know, but *cough*common*cough* sense prevailed.
The story would have been much shorter and way less interesting though, but for the second figurative anvil dropped on Mark’s head: it also happens that Jamie-who is also the local bank manager-has been playing with Mark’s money.
The next couple of days we follow Mark as he tries to figure out how to get even-in more ways than one-while staying on the right side of the law. This last bit being mission-critical since one of his oldest friends (and long time crush) Tony Gervase, is keeping an eye on the situation and a closer one on Mark.
The plot is neither terribly complicated nor completely straightforward, managing a nice balance between pure romance and the suspense elements. The action scenes and the dialogue are realistic-this is how people move, how they talk. The sexual tension and, later, the consummation, are very well realized (and I know I’ve said this before, so forgive me for getting back on the hobby horse: writing believable sex? Not. Easy. Try it sometime-if you manage not to make yourself convulse with laughter, we’ll talk).
However, the real gold comes from Mark’s internal dialogue. His reactions to Jamie’s betrayal are visceral, instinctive and rather stupid (from physical assault in front of dozens of witness to destruction of property). Mark is not a stupid excuse for a plot device-once he calms down a little he realizes all this and takes steps to protect himself as much as possible. But, like a real living breathing person, after suffering from such a shock, he reacts first and thinks second.
I have one quibble-which I mentioned to the author upon finishing the story-and that is that after some oral/anal contact (i.e., rimming) there is some mouth/mouth kissing. See, when real people are having sex? A lot of the health/clinical/hygiene information and the so-called common (but in fact rarer than that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) sense go right out the window. I get that, I honestly do-and the fact that Mark is a health professional himself doesn’t change that (who was it who mentioned that there are tons of physicians and other health people who smoke, drink or do drugs? and who should know better than them, right?)
The upside of all the above is that “Gobsmacked” gest 8 out of 10.
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2012 update: This past October, L.B. Gregg posted on her blog about issues with Mountain Aspen Press, the original publisher.