Category Archives: Steven LaVigne

WC78 – Review of Zany Mystic

Rvu_white Tales of a Zany Mystic
by L. B. White
Booksurge, 211 pages, $14.99

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

Do you have books on your shelf that practically glow and demand your attention?  These books may be a rarity, but I’d like to recommend one for your shelf that not only has a glowing cover, featuring a beautiful picture of a rainbow, but explores a heartbreaking through a personal journey that becomes surprisingly uplifting! L. B. White, also known as the Zany Mystic, shares moments from his bumpy life in his autobiographical document, Tales of a Zany Mystic. 

While White’s experiences may not be as outrageous as those which Augusten Burroughs relates in his books, there are similarities.  Born of alcoholic, bisexual bohemian parents in southern California, his parents never attempted to have typical lives, with a house and a picket fence. White’s mother was more Neely O’Hara than Harriet Nelson.  Still, like the children of many dysfunctional parents, he found a level of normalcy with his grandparents, who shared a ranch near his hometown.

Over the years, White tries to lead the life of a “normal” person, marrying, working for a living and attempting a positive relationship with his father.  This was clearly not in the stars for White. He found himself continually sinking into the world of the addict, the high points of which included dealing. Treatment programs and bouts in jail worked for a while, but before long, White was back at his old habits.

A few years ago, I reviewed Ron Nyswaner’s memoir Blue Days, Black Nights in these pages. In that volume, Nyswaner took us to the dark side, but his tome was nowhere near the whimsical, refreshing trek that White takes us on.  He shares his journey with a marvelous blend of humor, spirit and authority, as he straightens himself out. and takes control of his cosmic consciousness. Taking a Kundalini approach to his relationship with higher power, White now shares his advice as the Zany Mystic with a blogspot and a weekly radio Fireside Chat.

Uplifting, readable and inspirational, Tales of a Zany Mystic deserves a place on that shelf of glowing books!

WC78 – Review of Murder Most Gay

Rvu_simpsonMurder Most Gay
by John Simpson,
Dreamspinner Press, 220 pages, $11.99
ISBN-13: 978-0981737225

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

When John Simpson contacted me about reviewing his mystery novel, Murder Most Gay, he was concerned that it wasn’t appropriate for readers of White Crane, because its an “erotic thriller.”  I assured him that I’d still like to read it, and could determine its value later. I’m glad I did, because Murder Most Gay is a delicious, entertaining contribution to the great tradition of cop and detective tomes. 

The book is told in first person by Pat St. James. Fresh out of the Academy, he finds himself sharing coffee and donuts with his superior officer on nightly patrols. That is, until evidence shows up that a serial killer is targeting gay men, attracting prey at bars and cruising areas and leaving their violated bodies all over town. Finding himself attracted to Dean, a successful investment banker, Pat finds himself in the difficult position of keeping his sexuality hidden at work. That is, until he and fellow gay rookie Hank are assigned to the case. The book draws the reader deeper into this intriguing case, as the murderous rampage reaches an almost epic nature before it’s concluded.

John Simpson has a method for storytelling that keeps the reader consistently at the edge of their seat. This is tough to put down. He even pays homage to the writers of classic thrillers, by creating descriptive sequences that are, for example, reminiscent of the manner in which, Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, was discovered in Hollywood. When he’s writing erotic passages about the sexual relationships Pat has with three different men, he’s created a tone similar to the manner Judith Rossner took in her terrific novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Erotically charged, but absorbing as well, I think Murder Most Gay is a sexy, intelligent and thought-provoking novel about the world we live in and the difficulties the men in blue face on a daily basis. I'm certain that White Crane readers will enjoy this.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC77 – Review of So Fey

Rvu_bermanSo Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction
Edited by by Steve Berman
Haworth Positronic Press, 370 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1560235903
Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

In his masterpiece, Peter Pan, Sir J. M. Barrie tells us that “Every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies, somewhere a fairy falls down dead.”  Fortunately, I do believe in fairies and so do the 22 authors who contributed to So Fey.

This is an outstanding collection, because without a direct chronology, the reader time trips from modern times with the hero of Tom Cardamone’s “A Faun’s Tale,” who discovers the pleasures held within Central Park’s Rambles, to Delia Sherman‘s medieval “The Faerie Cony-Catcher,” as the queen of Elfland (borrowed from Purcell’s Faerie Queen) and her handmaiden lead their prey, a smith, into gay sexual fulfillment. The queen of Elfland makes another appearance in Sarah Monette’s “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland,” as a young wife is drawn to the queen, in spite of her husband’s pleading to stay with him.

Three tales focus on tragic love with objects from nature: Danny finds a tragic love with his perfect man in Kenneth D. Woods’ “The King of Oak and Holly;” a monk is fascinated by Craig Laurance Gidney’s “A Bird of Ice,” and an Asian princess discovers love in the Tolkien-like, “Year of the Fox” by Eugie Foster.

Some of the pieces collected here are drawn from or are renovated versions of classic literature. The myth of Orpheus and Euridice is used by Holly Black for “Coat of Stars as Rafael,” a young gay dancer, Rafael, returning to his hometown and visiting a strange underworld where he makes a bargain to reconnect with his deceased love. Laurie J. Marks’ “How the Ocean Loved Margie” borrows from the same Celtic tale which John Sayles used in his film, “The Secret of Roan Inish.”

Two stories toward the end of the volume held special interest for me.  Because I recently completed the first volume of His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass, I loved Lynne Jamneck’s “How Laura Left a Rotten Apple and Came Not to Regret the Cold of the Yukon.”  Told in first person, Laura leaves Manhattan for a place called Poniwok. There, she finds herself attracted to Gwen, the town’s police sergeant.  At first rejecting her friendship, Laura finds herself fascinated by the woman who shows her the Northern lights.

Borrowing the names of Jane, George and Michael from P.L. Travers, Joshua Lewis was inspired by the aforementioned J. M. Barrie in his lovely piece, “Ever So Much More Than Twenty” (the words Wendy uses tell Peter Pan that she’s no longer a child). In this enchanting story, Michael’s daughter, Jane, recommends that they return to the cabin of her father’s childhood. It was in the magical woods that both Jane and Michael encounter the joys of his youth, as they both encounter a fairy who is every bit a modern incarnation of Barrie’s most famous hero.

A sublime experience for any gay reader, So Fey has 22 remarkable stories you’ll return to on a frequent basis, and if you don’t already, will have you believing, once and for all, in fairies!

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Aside from his role as a regular contributor and reviewer for White Crane, Steven LaVigne is also a teacher, playwright, reviewer and director who lives in the Twin Cities.  His work appears regularly online and he frequently adapts literature for children’s theatre.  His most recent play, based on the Arabian Nights, was presented this past summer.  He’s presently doing research for a new project.

WC77 – Review of The Voyeur

Rvu_luongo The Voyeur
By Michael T. Luongo
Alyson Books, 308 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1593500177

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

Any book that begins with its leading character fighting off an attacker with a wooden dildo deserves attention.  That book is Michael T. Luongo’s deliciously entertaining novel, The Voyeur. Write what you know, and always have an opening that will grab the reader are valuable pieces of advice for all writers, and Luongo’s novel definitely fits the bill. Inspired by Rudy Guiliani’s moralist campaign to clean up Manhattan, it’s the story of Jason Green whose job as a sex researcher will earn him a Ph.D. When a reporter misconstrues the facts, it sets the comic tone for the upheaval of Jason’s life.

Following the press coverage, Shelley, his boss, who’s always looking for methods of raising funds for her projects,  She puts Jason in charge of an NIH study on HIV+ Gay men, that will take him into sex clubs, the baths and other dark Gay locales.  Due to his upbringing, Jason’s a little like a fish out of water here, but he’s got the support of his office staff, including David, whose stiff and formal demeanor hide an interesting secret; Alicia, Jason’s close friend, who sometimes camps out in the office overnight rather than going home to her husband and family, and Ricky, hip, handsome and horny, whose attitude often forces Jason to question the realities of his life.

Because he’s so involved in his work, Jason has been ignoring his boyfriend, Mark to the point that their sex life is nonexistent. Convinced by Ricky that he needs to peruse the internet, Jason discovers that not only is Mark cheating on him, but the cheating has changed his health status, and that he’s now a likely candidate for Jason’s research.  The Voyeur, then, becomes Jason’s personal journey toward self-discovery. Luongo adds a cliché character by drawing his mother as a bossy, but loving 1960s housewife, whom Jason loves teasing. The conclusion even pays homage to the cinematic version of Valley of the Dolls, and the reader understands how Jason will be able to face his future, with or without Mark.

Anyone who’s ended a relationship can appreciate how much Luongo’s writing captures the situations and can take comfort in the manner that Jason endures and articulates his feelings. The Voyeur is an enlightening and enjoyable read.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Aside from his role as a regular contributor and reviewer for White Crane, Steven LaVigne is also a teacher, playwright, reviewer and director who lives in the Twin Cities.  His work appears regularly online and he frequently adapts literature for children’s theatre.  His most recent play, based on the Arabian Nights, was presented this past summer.  He’s presently doing research for a new project.

WC76 – Review of Michael Tolliver Lives

Rvu_maupinmichaeltolliver Michael Tolliver Lives
A Novel by Armistead Maupin

HarperCollins, 288 pages, $25.95
ISBN-13: 978-0060761356

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

When debating the greatest collection of Gay novels following Stonewall, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series is an obvious standout. Readers have long been drawn to the residents of San Francisco’s 28 Barbary Lane, where the “trannie landlady,” Mrs. Madrigal sees her special residents as her children. They consider Mary Ann Singleton, Brian Hawkins, Mona Ramsay and Michael “Mouse” Tolliver their friends and they hold a special place among American Gay literary characters. We’ve followed their activities through six books, until Maupin ended the series in 1989.

Denying that Michael Tolliver Lives is a sequel, this volume brings the denizens of 28 Barbary Lane into the new century. Michael, now close to 60, has met, fallen in love and married Ben. Over two decades younger and aware of Michael’s HIV status and reliance on testosterone injections and Viagra, Ben is the genuine love of his life. Of all her “children,” Michael is, perhaps, closest to Anna Madrigal, who, at 85, has mellowed only slightly following a trio of strokes. He’s the one who stayed close when the others moved away and she sold the property. For one thing, Michael’s connected her with Jake, a female-to-male transsexual who rents her his garden apartment and takes on the position of caretaker.

There are too many loose ends of plot to recap in a review, but this is Michael’s story. Michael is Maupin’s literary alter ego. Just as Michael married Ben, Maupin himself married Christopher Turner several years ago. Like Maupin, Michael is a transplant to San Francisco, so Michael’s conflicts toward and commitment to his family, both his genetic and his adopted one, are one reason he’s managed to survive for the past 15 years.

Michael Tolliver Lives takes readers across the country. Michael and Ben visit Florida, attending to family business, when it’s announced that Michael’s mother is on death’s doorstep. While there, he learns of conflicts full of sexual politics between his mother, brother and hyper-religious sister-in-law. It seems that everyone is either leaning on Michael or they rely on him for various reasons. With Ben’s complete support, he realizes where his genuine commitment lies, and, of course, he comes through for everyone.

There’s no guarantee that Maupin will return to the Barbary Lane characters, and after reading Michael Tolliver Lives, there’s really no reason he should. Michael’s story is a stellar coda to this significant contribution to Gay literature.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Steven LaVigne is a contributing writer to White Crane.  His book reviews have graced the pages of our magazine for many years.

WC74 – Review of The Master of Seacliff

Rvu_pierce Book Review

The Master of Seacliff 
by Max Pierce
Harrington Park Press, 201 pages
$16.95 ISBN-10: 1560236361

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

Classic romantic Gay literature and the gothic novel were made for one another, because they often share similar elements. Set in an earlier time, such as the idyllic 19th century of Henry James, there’s a peculiar setting, frequently an old, possibly haunted, dark house by the sea. One of the leading characters is struggling with his homosexuality, so he’s angry, and brooding, hiding his mysterious past. The other leading character is a young and virginal hero, who, like a fish out of water, meets other characters who’d love to relieve him of his virginity. Throughout the story, there are assorted lascivious secondary characters, although one of them wisely dispenses advice to this virginal hero. Finally, there’s the domestic who knows everything, and reveals nothing.
Nowhere are these elements this more evident than in Max Pierce’s terrific novel, The Master of Seacliff. Furthermore, like those gothic novels, this is a pleasurable, entertaining read.

The story focuses on Andrew Wyndham, a talented artist. In order to earn enough so he can relocate to Paris and continue his studies, Andrew accepts a position tutoring Tim, the young son of Duncan Stewart, an industrialist. (Does this sound a little bit like Jane Eyre?) Stewart supposedly murdered his father so he could control the family business. Although this hasn’t been proven, when Andrew arrives at Seacliff, a dark, old house, which reminds us of Misselthwaite Manor, the setting for The Secret Garden. Andrew’s immediately at odds with both the son and the father. Alternatively attracted and repelled by the handsome Stewart, Andrew sets about doing his work, but he’s soon drawn into unraveling the mystery and scandal of the murder, and the disappearance of Stewart’s former lover, the talented pianist Stephen Charles.

I was halfway through this novel before I realized that it The Master of Seacliff is really a Gay variation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic, Rebecca, Duncan Stewart is this version’s Mr. DeWinter, the manservant, Fellowes filling in for Mrs. Danvers, and Andrew is the narrator-wife character. Pierce fills his novel with plenty of the right twists and turns, including a pair of lusty siblings to confuse Andrew, plenty of action (softly sexual and otherwise) at Seacliff’s various locations, and more than a few red herrings.

The Master of Seacliff is a real page-turner. It’s perfect for curling up in a comfortable chair with during those chilly Autumn nights alone.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC73 Review of The After Death Room

73rvu_mccollyBook Review
The After-Death Room:
Journey Into Spiritual Activism

by Michael McColly
Soft Skull Press, Transition Books
360 pages, $15.95, ISBN: 1932360921

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

A vampire story should envelope the reader, transplanting them into another dimension as it casts a spell. Michael McColly’s The After-Death Room is vampiric in the Bram Stoker manner. Constructed of diary and journal entries, HIV is McColly’s vampire, and the experiences of those afflicted with the virus are its victims. It weaves its own spell as it accomplishes McColly’s basic goal: to document the lives of those who are surviving without the benefit of modern medicine and health care.

Living with HIV himself, McColly is a bisexual journalist and instructor of Kundalini Yoga, who once attended divinity school. Following his experiences at an International AIDS Conference in South Africa, he began traveling the third world, and parts of the United States, interviewing and teaching Yoga. From Africa to Thailand to India to Viet Nam, he reveals a much deeper crisis than we ever imagined.

He frequently observes for example, how the body either traps or frees the soul, as it does with sex workers, both male and female. Among the more vivid and memorable personalities in The After-Death Room (and there are too many to write about) are Andre, whom he encounters in a Cape Town dance club. Using make-up to cover the Kaposi’s sarcoma scars, he’s survived beatings and stabbings, while trying to survive following his lover’s death; the family of Sekar, whom McColly meets in Chennai, India, was shunned because of his HIV status, but he boldly cam out, enduring hardships to address various groups about the disease.

Finding it ironic that he’s teaching yoga to the Brahma and those who invented the practice, he discusses the facts on the disease in an overpopulated country where the health system has been overextended, due largely to political pressures. The family and duty to them are always first, thus, thousands are succumbing to AIDS daily. On this note, we learn from Dr. Yepthorani, that fears about the disease has kept people from fulfilling these family duties. A relationship increases peoples’ survival rates, but even this doctor can’t reveal his own status unless he’s certain that it will help his patients.

McColly addresses the shocking disclosure that a pair of doctors in Thailand claim that they’ve not only found a cure, but also an immunization with the V-1 Immunitor, examining its validity.

I realized that I’ve barely begun to discuss the extraordinary evidence revealed in The After-Death Room, but I assure you, it is a spell-binding journey.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

The After-Death Room won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award after we went to press.

WC73 Review of The Only Sun I Need

73rvu_secoBook Reviews
The Only Sun I Need
by Jorge Luis Seco translated by Aletha Hanna
Centurion Press, 156 pages, $14.95
ISBN-10: 0963905473

Reviewed by Steve Lavigne

Sometimes you discover authors in the strangest places, and my first encounter with Jose Luis Seco was in a chat room (I decline to reveal which one). After a visit to his website, Seco was gracious enough to send me a copy of his novel, The Only Sun I Need, which I found to be an enchanting read, perfect for summer at the beach or while commuting to and from work.

Born in Cuba and now residing in New Jersey, the story is told from several different narrative perspectives. Its hero, Jose Lopez is a rising attorney in a New York firm, conflicted about his career and sexual orientation, due, largely to the strict upbringing he and his sister, Margot, received from Dolores, their widowed mother. At a time when they both want to break free and experience the freedom of adulthood, they’re manipulated by a parent critical of their every move, mentally abusing them about her needs as she ages. Readers may be able to this modern day “wicked witch of the West.” (I have a student enduring just such an existence as I write this.)

Dolores refuses to listen as good things begin happening to her children. She won’t take pride in Jose when his boss assigns him to a lawsuit involving his gay son, Tom, a designer who’s been accused of drug trafficking. She won’t support Margot when a man casts a romantic eye in her direction or when she indicates that she wants to attend college. Things start to unravel when Jose’s college roommate, Bob, arrives from Boston with his lover, Rene. A successful surgeon, Rene is a practitioner of Santeria (the Way of the Saints), a faith that holds respect for our ancestors and the spirits among us. Aware of an apparition following Jose, which has manifested itself because of Dolores’ complete disrespect for those around her, Rene helps develop the changes required by all of Seco’s principal characters.

Translated from the Spanish by Aletha Hanna, The Only Sun I Need reads like those romantic gay novels of the 1970s, (remember Gordon Merrick?) but the situations Seco has created with deeply involved plot twists, the emotional awakening of characters and an inevitable, and enjoyable, climax will keep the reader interested, making this a sweetly told and beautifully fashioned romantic novel.

I hope I encounter more writers whose storytelling skills are this good in future chat rooms.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

White Crane #70 – Elizabeth Cunningham’s The Passion of Mary Magdalen

Rvu_cunningham The Passion of Mary Magdalen
by Elizabeth Cunningham
Monkfish Publishing
640 pages, $29.95
ISBN: 0976684306

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

“The road to the country of life is hard. It blisters your feet and breaks your heart” writes Elizabeth Cunningham in her remarkably exciting new age biography, The Passion of Mary Magdalen. Subtitled The Maeve Chronicles, this massive, but refreshing feminist approach to the woman who’s a hero for many who draw strength from the Bible’s most enigmatic character couldn’t have been published at a better time. The worldwide sensation of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code has raised so many issues among the Christian population, it was only a matter of time before alternative viewpoints regarding the key people in Christ’s ministry would appear.

Cunningham takes us into the world of Maeve, nicknamed Red, who’s the daughter of the warrior witches of Tir na Mban, including Cailleach, Bride, and Dugall the Brown.  Using traditional Biblical concepts that she’s a reformed prostitute, rather than the theory she was born into a wealthy French family, Cunningham’s take on Biblical history and her epic storytelling style are unique.  Often The Passion of Mary Magdalen is written in the romantic style of a Harlequin Romance (she even asks readers if the story is “starting to read like a romantic novel,”), yet by combining modern phrases, such as “get a life” or “get over it” with such beautiful metaphors as “the wood is so still you could hear the leaves breathe,” Cunningham gives us a feminist hero for modern times.
Sold into Roman slavery, Maeve’s saga moves quickly from the brothel to servitude to Paulina, the virgin wife of the ancient Claudius. Befriended by Reginus, a gay slave, Maeve’s spiritualism is recognized and after an encounter with her stepfather, Bran, a Druid warrior who, as Rex Nemorensis, guards the holy tree in Diana’s forest, she’s raised to the level of priestess in the Temple of Isis.

The Fascist emperor, Tiberius Caesar forces changes in Rome and the story moves to Judea for its second half, where it really takes off.  Using William Blake’s poem “And Did Those Feet” as a basis, Maeve explains that the lost (Gnostic) gospels are mostly speculation, when Esus (the Celtic name for Jesus) aka Yeshua, enters the story in Chapter 37.  Franco Zefferelli modernized the Virgin Birth by having Mary go through labor pains in Jesus of Nazareth and Cunningham further modernizes the Mother by drawing an unflattering portrait of Miriam/Mary.

Cunningham creates a complex woman, conflicted in her love for Jesus and her need to serve Isis.  She has a sexual relationship with Jesus, thus humanizing the man, and she connects the tale of the Good Samaritan to Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert, having the Samaritan deliver him to the Temple Magdalen, built to worship all goddesses and gods, because “all things are possible.”  Baptized by John in the river Jordan, Maeve dislikes Simon Peter, calling him “Rocks for Brains,” and Cunningham focuses on Maeve’s passions, especially in the saga’s compelling second half.

The Passion of Mary Magdalen has been rightly compared to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon.  Just as that book told the legend of King Arthur from the women’s viewpoint, The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham brings its title character into modern times by creating an extraordinary perspective of the woman loved by Jesus.  For the novice, the Biblical scholar and the Feminist, this is a book that’s not to be missed.

Steven LaVigne lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a contributing writer to White Crane.

White Crane #70 – Lawrence Schimel’s Two Boys in Love

Rvu_schimel Two Boys in Love
by Lawrence Schimel
7th Window Pub
170 pages, $13.95
ISBN: 0971708940

Review by Steven LaVigne

If you pick up a copy of Lawrence Schimel’s Two Boys in Love, your first impression is that it’s a beach read. Two hunks are facing away from one another, the blond cruising the dark-haired man in the foreground. But what riches are hiding inside this delicious collection of short stories.

The first half features nine stories, all of them told in a second person narrative that creates both a comfortable mood and an erotic tone. In “The Book of Love,” one man cruises another at the bookstalls of Barcelona’s Ramblas, taking a chance on love, while “Marchen to a Different Beat” brings Hansel and Gretel into Cinderella territory with a high school dance, a gay fairy named, of all things, Mary, and a Prince Charming named Jack, complete with a comment about his “beanstalk.” In another gay fairy tale, a young man asks a witch for help by working to earn a love potion.

Two of Schimel’s erotic New York tales are rich in sexual images. In “Season’s Greetings,” two men pleasure themselves at the window across an air shaft, while “The Story of Eau” has never made bathing seem so exciting. By far, the most compelling story in the collection, however, is “The River of Time,” wherein the narrator disposes of his best friend’s ashes in the water near the Christopher Street docks, only to encounter strange happenings later on. This story is remnant of “The Brocaded Slipper,” the Vietnamese version of the Cinderella legend, which brings redemption and resurrection to the story.

The second half of Two Boys in Love is a series of five short pieces about Carles and his mysterious boyfriend, Javi. Throughout the tales, told from Carles’ point of view, he fends off the feeble advances of a Frenchman, fantasizes that the motorcycle man who delivers Javi for a date is David Beckham (who’s evidently had gay affairs if you read the tabloids, although no one’s ever come forth to confirm this), and learns about Javi’s relationship with a straight couple who wants to experiment. In the end, though, it’s clear that these two boys are really in love with one another.

Two Boys in Love may be a book for the beach or the bathtub, but it’s a pleasurable experience wherever you partake in Schimel’s exquisite writing.

Steven LaVigne lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a contributing writer to White Crane.