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Body image issues once belonged only to women and gay men,
but now even straight guys are prone to the problem of thinking everyone else
looks better than they do. Good (he said facetiously). We gave them goatees,
tattoos, and earrings. It’s about time to roll some crap downhill. Rick R.
Reed’s latest offering, Chaser, explores desire, shallowness, romance,
betrayal and—yes—excess pounds.
Caden DeSarro likes ‘em big, much to the dismay of his
toned, tanned best friend Bobby. Despite Bobby’s misgivings, Caden falls for
Kevin, a husky blonde bear, but before they begin to explore their relationship
outside the bedroom, Caden’s mother falls ill. He takes a few months out to
nurse her back to health and Kevin, confused as to why someone as skinny and
good looking as Caden would want him, embarks on a weight loss program. When
Caden returns looking for a big bear hug, he gets someone forty pounds thinner.
Can he still love a skinny Kevin? He might be able to if his best friend will
Reed negotiates the waters of fetishism and the root
shallowness of gay men with depth and sensitivity, but he never sacrifices plot
for philosophy. Instead, as we expect with a writer of Reed’s gifts, he points
out our preoccupation with the superficial by personifying it in Caden’s
loathsome best friend, Bobby. Bobby is a cock chaser of monumental proportions
who has never had a serious relationship in his life, and Reed’s scorn for this
character comes through.
Bobby’s machinations prevent Caden from really examining if
it’s Kevin or Kevin’s build he’s in love with, and the steps Bobby takes to
screw up their budding romance are deliciously evil—which is why it’s so
bothersome that we never get a chance to take part in Bobby’s downfall. As with
Reed’s Bashed, he spends a great deal of time building up to a
confrontation we never get to see. The reader wants to know Caden and Kevin’s
love will conquer all, but at the same time, Bobby is a loose end that we need
to see tied up—and preferably thrown into the river.
Unfortunately, this never happens. In fact, the book ends
abruptly after a pivotal scene, and it would have been nice to have had a
chance to see more; to wind things down and deal with Bobby—perhaps even
revisit Caden and Kevin in a few months to see if Kevin is still slim or
whether his penchant for Ben & Jerry’s has reasserted itself. And to see if
Caden is still interested in his formerly bearish boyfriend.
That said, Chaser is a fine romance, full of good
dialogue, interesting turns and sharp, focused writing from a prolific writer
not afraid to take a chance or two.
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©, 2012, Jerry Wheeler