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Plus Ones

Plus Ones - Hank  Edwards To start out, I have to admit I'm not a big fan of weddings, especially the five figure extravaganzas that seem to be the norm these days, so a book that features a number of the darn things might be one you would think I'd avoid. However, a book by one of my favorite authors about gay weddings is different. Not because the colors are brighter or the guests are sexier, but purely because until recently, for many men, getting married has been an impossible dream.This subtext of the political and cultural importance of the occasion runs lightly in the background of Hank's tale about two men who sincerely want their HEA. They want the white picket fence, the shared pet/s, the certainty of knowing they have someone to share the rest of their life with.In real life, many men have found this future and even more are looking for it. This book is about the latter. The sheer number of the false starts they make along the way is quite believable given tales I've heard from gay men today.Using at times, hilarious and at other times, pounding sex we see the two men weave their way around the metaphorical dance floor like one of those progressive dances where they meet up by chance only to swing away with a new partner.This isn't a case of the big misunderstanding that could easily be solved if only they talked. To have a misunderstanding you have to have a relationship that can be threatened in the first place. This is more two men both burned by love, not daring to act on gut feelings while the object of their affection seems involved with someone else.I really enjoyed the story. I enjoyed the insight into the wistfulness, despair and the insecurities often covered up by sarcasm and flippancy that I would imagine is quite common in gay men and their relationships. Often being too scared to commit for fear of being made vulnerable to hurt as they have been so many times before.The weddings that take place in the background, particularly that of their friends Alden and John act as a beacon of hope for the men in the book and probably reflects the situation in real life as does the bigotry and hatred that still threatens from the outside.I once asked the noted writing guru, Debra Dixon, how to introduce conflict into humorous romance as any book without conflict is boring. Her immediate response was embarassment. Hank uses this deliberately to portray his slightly clutzy hero Evan. This sort of character easily creeps into a reader's affection.The object of his lust, Paul, without having any of these audience grabbing attributes comes across as more aloof, but that's okay. Two people the same wouldn't work and Paul's slight off-handedness is more a product of his being betrayed on more than one occasion by people he gives or nearly gives his heart to. He recognises his faults in a very telling scene towards the end, when his boss, John, asks him to be his best man.Hank has also done a wonderful job of portraying his secondary characters, the unforgettable Miggy and the pathetic Meryl. Even Jeremy and Adam in a few short words take on a life of their own."Plus Ones" has everything readers are demanding in m/m romance. There is romance, emotional involvement and lots of hot sex. Sure, for most of the book the sex is with other people, but the quality of the sex with different partners was never the problem, it is the people they are having the sex with. The little things that turn them off like the high pitched voices or weird kinks and psychological problems. To me, this is a realistic view of the world of gay men dating even if possibly concentrated and embellished for our amusement.I have been a fan of Hank's writing for a while now, but I think "Plus Ones" is a step above the rest. There is still the light humor he does so well, but underneath that is this testament to marriage and what it means to so many gay men.