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Hard as Teak

Hard as Teak - Margie Church Hard core m/m readers may be put off by the fact that Hard as Teak opens with a couple of (very short) traditional male/female sex scenes. Don’t be. These are crucial to the plot as they immediately show that while Kevin Mark’s body might be performing, his mind and heart aren’t in it.What follows is an exploration of self as he heads for the northern part of Minnesota to see if he can recapture the magic that is lacking in both his love life and his other passion -- photography.Once there, he meets a man who reignites his interest in both spheres, acting as both his muse and initiating him into the pleasure of sex which for him had become a chore.This story isn’t a “gay for you” or even an “out for you”, it’s a story about a man finding the courage to explore his sexuality.If Teak had been exclusively gay, the story might have been different, but Margie, by having her second protagonist bi gives him the confidence and experience to know what Kevin is going through. Reader expectations are going to play a large part in their enjoyment of this book. Personally, I believe in accepting whatever characters a writer wants to use in their story and see how they grow. I don't care if the characters are a hundred percent likeable at the start or not. I don’t even care if I don’t “approve” of the choices they make as long as they learn from those choices.While some readers may have their buttons pushed with the notion of a man being unfaithful to their girlfriend, Margie Church has been at pains to limit this reaction. They haven’t been living together and while expectations may have been there on Chiyo’s side, Kevin has warned her that he is having difficulties, and she hasn’t exactly been supportive of him working through these before or after he goes away.I mentioned this to Margie in a conversation and her comment was: “I've yet to write a book that doesn't have characters with warts.”Margie writes hot, sizzling sex scenes and these need to be seen as such, because it’s their raw, viscerality that demonstrate the difference for Kevin once he gets together with Teak. Sex is no longer a chore, it’s something he can’t get enough of.But apart from the sex, Margie has a great knack of showing scenes so you feel like you’re in them. I especially liked the one where Kevin’s fishing with Drew, another gay guy, and the depictions of his photo shoots with Teak. You can feel the easy camaraderie of their interaction as distinct from the on-edge confrontations of his dealings with Chiyo and his manager, Gail.Other secondary characters jump off the page: Maddy, the redhead who was more Teak’s fuck buddy than a girlfriend and Lucien, Kevin’s agent.While some people might query the likelihood of a local paper being interested in exposing Kevin’s sexuality, for me if the author says it’s so, it’s so. The plot didn’t hang on this aspect, more it showed another stage in Kevin’s growth. In the end, this was the main point of the story to me. Kevin learning to recognise who he is and working out how to fit in with other people, then once he accepted the truth, taking control of his life and rediscovering his passion.Infidelity and a character suddenly finding they are gay or bisexual are difficult subjects to write about, but I believe Margie has done a great job. Any marks I may have deducted for the occasional typo and formatting problem (if this is an issue for you, contact Margie) are balanced by her bravery on tackling these subjects head on and giving us real characters in a setting not often visited. You can just feel the ice and cold jumping off the page.As a sort of disclaimer, Margie asked for some feedback from me early on in Hard as Teak's incarnation. The book has almost doubled in size since with changes throughout, so I feel quite justified in rating and reviewing it as a regular reader. Like Kevin, it grew.....