This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Riptide
Released on December 7, 2019
Being true to yourself can sometimes be deadly. This thoughtful, tension-building romantic suspense grabbed my eye when I read the blurb and kept my attention for nearly a one-sitting read.
Anyone But You is a standalone and explores the world of office romance, drag queens, finding and acknowledging the truth about one’s self, and standing up for belief and happiness in the face of acute danger.
Jack Kieza is successful in the eyes of his family and the disinterested public as he establishes himself at a good legal firm and is quite attractive. But, Jack has a problem. He’s hiding his true self for fear of losing his family and this constant tug o’ war inside him has led to problems in the bedroom. He’s attracted, he’s ready, and its all systems go… until its not and he can finish. He’s determined that he will fulfill a private need before he turns thirty and that is to be with a man. He’s bi and is attracted to women, but its a man he really wants to share his life with. One night at a night club where drag queens perform and one performer in particular show him just the missing piece in his life. If only he didn’t fear losing everything to be with Sheila and didn’t fear losing Sheila because he’s afraid to let her take the wig and make-up off.
Ryan Swift, partner in a law firm and one of the best lawyers in the city by day, is Sheila Saltue by night. He is afraid of losing his steady career if anyone discovers this, but also wishes that the side of him who is Ryan were as brave and brazen as Sheila. Then the man he is secretly crushing on at work wants to be with Sheila. Ryan is Jack’s boss. He can’t, no, not even…. and he does. What is he to do with this new situation of wanting to be with Jack, but wanting Jack to want and acknowledge both sides of him. He wants to give Jack time, but how long will it take if ever, and besides, its downright dangerous to dress in drag as a serial killer is loose and taking out drag queens left and right.
I was attracted to this story because it offered a complex romance with character-driven issues that were challenging on the romance front while it also offered some action and suspense with the serial killer element. The coming out part to obnoxious family is, unfortunately, nothing new, but the added layer of just how much harder it becomes when the gay person is like Ryan and not a ‘man’s man’ so to speak is what made this thought-provoking and, for my part, an educational talking piece.
This is not a long story and trots along at a goodly pace, but it doesn’t shirk on building the world, the characters, and the relationship brick by brick. I liked that it had split narration so both Ryan and Jack’s perspectives gave me more access to what was going on with them as they felt their way through this beginning relationship.
There was also short interludes with the killer. This heightened suspense and curiosity and gave nothing away until the big reveal at the end. Honestly, I felt there were several nasty customers within easy reach of both of them that could have done the deed because their vitriol toward both men made me cringe. While this had a strong suspense element, the romance and personal needs of the lead pair drove the story rather than equal or more toward the other.
The focus at first for Jack is on his sexual frustration of needing a man, but feeling so wracked with guilt that he needed to visualize a woman when he was with a man. His anguish came through and he was not demanding that Ryan like it or lump it which was what kept me rooting for him even as I really wanted him to give Ryan the dignity and respect of being accepted wholly as himself and the joy of a real, open relationship. Now, granted, Ryan wanted to be open as a gay man, but was terrified to let people see further that he was a gay man who liked to dress up and perform as a girly-girl woman. For all their struggles, this pair were sizzling hot and my heart broke with theirs when the inevitable happened and I anguished until all was good.
All in all, I thought this first-time read by the author was abso-fab and I want to read more of his work in future. Those who enjoy m/m romance with a thoughtful focus about gender and a strong suspense element should give this one a go.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Mt. TBR #2
COYER Winter Friends #22
Literary Pickers #2 Same Sex
Romance BINGO #1 LGBT
About Anyone But You
Murder is one hell of a drag.
Jack Kieza has a problem. He’s deeply attracted to men, but his homophobic family has left him too afraid to act on it. With his thirtieth birthday around the corner, his curiosity gets the best of him, and he finds himself at a gay club. After spending a fiery night with drag queen Sheila Saltue, everything changes. Especially when he discovers her alter ego: his boss, Ryan Swift.
Ryan knew he should’ve said no the second Jack approached him. Now he can’t stop himself from texting Jack every chance he gets. But Jack won’t let him take the wig off during sex, and being Sheila off-stage is wearing thin.
The more time they spend together, the more intense their feelings get, but Jack isn’t ready to date a man yet. When drag queens start turning up murdered, it forces Jack to reexamine his feelings, because what if Ryan is next? While Jack wants their burgeoning relationship to work, it would mean having to admit who he is to the world. And that’s an idea as frightening as death.
About Brien Michaels
Brien Michaels was hatched shortly before the turn of the century. He grew up in the DMV area and has been creating characters for as long as he can remember, starting with an imaginary friend named Farquad Beaverhausen. Before turning his considerably wicked imagination to writing, he was an actor, aspiring film student, movie theater concessionist, and the first human to enter the seventy-second dimension. Though it is unclear whether he made it back or if Farquad’s evil twin, Brad, has taken control of his body. He’s currently on the run from the Secret Police, who want to bring him in for questioning regarding the whereabouts of erotica authors L.A. Witt and Lauren Gallagher. If you encounter him, please contact his publishers immediately, as he likely should be chained to a desk writing and not out walking children in nature.