Author: Ashley John
Genre: Gay romance
Page count: 316
On the surface, Ricky Thompson’s life is one long party. His razor sharp wit and unwavering sexual confidence masks his true pain and suffering, and that’s how he wants to keep things. Ten years after the death of his fiancé, Ricky has completely given up on the illusion of love. Wild nights in the bar and even wilder casual sex have become his coping mechanism, and he wants to keep the party going at whatever cost. When he is attacked in a dark alley and left for dead, Ricky’s life takes an unexpected turn and the party suddenly comes to an end.
Chase Brody doesn’t know where life is taking him. Between running his gym and raising his son, Dylan, the only time he puts himself first is his once a week trip to the gay bars. His family has convinced him he needs to find a mother for Dylan, so he keeps his sexual desires secret. He always believed women were for love and men were for sex, but he is forced to reevaluate everything he thought he knew when he stumbles across a helpless man in need of his help.
After Chase takes Ricky to the hospital, he offers him free self-defence classes, but it soon grows into something more complicated and both men are forced to listen to their hearts once again. Chase doesn’t know how Ricky will fit into his difficult life, and Ricky can’t seem to let go of his past heartache. With so much at stake, will these men admit they were wrong about love and surrender their hearts to each other, or is the risk too great?
Ricky is a standalone gay romance that occurs in the Timing ’Verse. It is first and foremost a character study of two men who each harbor deep-seated fears, insecurities and dysfunctional coping mechanisms. How they deal with what drives them when—in the space of a heartbeat—the world changes for the one and skids onto a new path for the other is the crux of this tale of coming out and acceptance in the face of hatred, ignorance and the threat of violence… and no small amount due to self-imposed roadblocks.
Ricky is Miss Kitty Litter, a drag queen and an alter ego wearing the armor that makes life bearable. He slips into the persona of she, not so much due to consummate acting skills—which is a large part of how Miss Kitty Litter manages to function—but as a manifestation borne of grief, loneliness and determination. Ricky keeps his secret safe, his heart secure and his complicated life on track with the help of Tom and Cole, his close friends and confidants.
Chase has been dealt an unwieldy hand of fate when the mother of his son dies and he must bring Dylan up alone, juggling work and parental duties, lack of funds and loneliness, and the pressures his family brings to bear on how he should be living his life. When he discovers Ricky in the alley, beaten and left for dead, everything changes as compassion morphs into something unexpected and quite unnerving for a man whose world view had always been binary. But feelings are feelings and what develops over a relatively short span of time must be dealt with if Chase is ever to find happiness and stability for him and his son.
There are several well-developed plot points that drive this story, minor characters that add to the richness of the main characters’ lives, sufficient angst and backstory to provide motivation, and opportunities to grow and evolve past the self-imposed barricades that are both strengths and weaknesses for Chase and Ricky.
Unfortunately, the resolution to the multitude of dilemmas that cascade nearly out of control was rushed and not entirely believable, especially for Ricky who is burdened with a drama ten years in the making and is such a fixture in his personality that when the façade finally cracks, the reader is left with doubts and worries that the HEA might only be temporary at best.
The narrative flow suffered from a repetition of phrases and wording. The scenes of affection were awkward, too frequently lacking in affect (too mechanical), and could have easily occurred “behind closed doors” without disturbing the story. Those minor characters who did add to the plot, on occasion, also overwhelmed it with actions and dialog that jarred and cried out for a different response, especially from Chase in the face of outright interference and passive-aggressive meddling.
All-in-all, Ricky was an interesting story that held my attention, with characters I could root for (plus a few I wanted to run over with a truck… twice), and a satisfying, albeit fairly typical romance ending. Four Stars.