Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Keeping Sweets by Cate Ashwood

I have been dying to read a porn-to-love romance novel, mostly because I found it surprising it became such a trope in MM romance (wouldn't it be a tad raunchy for most readers, provided it really aims to portray gay porn?). Now, I can totally see why it works for so many readers. I have always associated porn stars with loneliness - I feel like whenever someone works in a line of business that requires them to check their humanity at the door (think prostitutes, or clowns for that matter), it becomes very hard to make a meaningful connection with another person, particularly if that line of work is porn. Granted, Keeping Sweets is not exactly the kind of story where one person needs to get over the fact that their love interest is a porn actor; indeed, both heroes are, albeit in different stages of their respective careers. Yet, I give huge kudos to Cate Ashwood for keeping the porn aspect of the book both arousing and integral to the plot and character building.

The novel concerns Evan, a recent high school graduate who is all too happy to move away to college from his abusive stepfather. In order to pay the tuition, however, he decides to appear in a porn film, which leads him to a meeting with a veteran porn star Brandon, whom he instantly feels attracted to. Brandon, on the other hand, is looking to get out of the business and settle down, but can't help the butterflies he feels for the young and naive Evan, and he soon finds himself compromising his work ethic and the facade he has built over the years.

I really, really enjoyed the character of Brandon. He is a man bruised by life and further disillusioned by his work as a porn actor. He was really the character through which we got the most opinions about the business, and I liked how Ashwood managed to portray pornography both as a job, an emotional strain, and even a fetish for some. Brandon really shone when it came to his protectiveness of Evan, and I was very much invested in their relationship. The scenes where he takes Evan shopping or to see the ocean nearly slayed me. Granted, Evan was a little too naive for my tastes, but I liked how he went from a lonely, marginalized youth unaware of sex or his own body to someone who was deemed very alluring on the set of the porn movie, and not just for his body. Thus, the pairing of Evan and Brandon worked not only on the physical level, but on the emotional one as well, each learning a lot from the other person.

Although I did have minor problems with the book (the whole I won't do what I want to do because I don't feel like I should, even though I will obviously have to at some point because this is a romance novel argument that Brandon kept clinging to got old rather quickly), I just can't bring myself to rate it anything under five stars. The snappy pace of the novel and Ashwood's obvious writing talent made Keeping Sweets a heartwarming and engaging experience I am not afraid to recommend to any romance afficionado - and this is her debut novel, so she is definitely an author to look out for. Also, I am really hoping that the minor character of Colt gets a spin-off novel, he was such an alluring mystery!


Find Keeping Sweets on Amazon, or add it to your to-read list on GoodReads.


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice review! That's great this was such a wonderful debut book. You don't always find that. I'm glad the romance worked- always an important aspect.


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Hey Nikola! So glad to see you back. Hope you are doing well. :) Glad to see you found a story that you enjoyed here too. :)