Monday, October 4, 2010


Occasionally there's a story that comes along that crosses a line – and this one crosses two. Usually you can pretty easily categorize a work of fiction. Is it m/m? Is is gay? Is it mainstream?

And with PAINTING STEPHEN, which was Jayne DeMarco’s debut, you’d have to answer “yes” to all of those questions. I’ve read a lot of gay books … books written by gay guys, for gay guys, published and promoted by gay guys. They’re not often anything similar to the boy-boy romance that are so popular right now. There’s a certain brand of “nitty-grittyness” about gay books that gets to grips with the realities of being gay and just gets on with the process of living. On the other side of the fence, there’s all that deliciousness of discovery that makes m/m something of a joy! With m/m stories, you get the feeling that “the novelty hasn’t worn off being gay yet” …!

If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then read some of the great gay novels I’ve reviewed on my blog, and then read a rucksack full of m/m, and compare the two. Gay novels are fantastic because they actually feel like a slice of real life. M/m stories are fantastic, because it’s like the shine and glitter hasn’t worn off your Christmas pressies yet. And as a reader you get to love *both* …and ooooh, but you get to wish that there was something, some kind of story, that actually embraced both side of this literary coin!

PAINTING STEPHEN is just about spot on the target. It’s 45,000 words, which is a nice length for me to read. I don’t have a heck of a lot of time any more, and the spare time I do have is usually spent rocking around on a bus. I read on a palmtop device, with earbuds stuffed into both ears to kill the sound of the diesel engine…

And Jayne DeMarco came close to owing me a bus ticket, because I got so absorbed in the piece, I nearly missed my stop. It’s a very involving story, with some magically spicy bits, and some real thrills at the end, too.

In the first chapter you meet the hero, who’s an artist of 40 years old. He’s feeling his age, and his ex has not long before departed the scene, taking with her the bank balance. John’s bi, and he was married for about ten years. Right as the story starts, he’s in a deep blue funk about life … having a rough time, so he’s quite entitled to the funk!

His best friend is his agent, a gorgeous older man called Barry Provine. If anybody else likes old, old movies, you might known an actor called George Sanders. I would swear that the part of Barry was written for George Sanders. He’s lovely! He’s also smart enough to know what John needs. The best medicine would be something to snap him out of the Deep Blue Funk he’s in, and get his artwork away from the “too real” stuff he’s painting, and back onto something “semi-fantasy” and that Barry can actually sell through his galleries. Check.

The magic Barry works comes walking into the story on two beautiful long legs. His name is Stephen. He’s a knockout. He’s about 22. He’s a cross between siren and ingĂ©nue. He’s sexy as all get-out. He likes mature guys (thank God!) and he’s going to be John’s new model.

He’s also going to be the force of nature that rips John’s whole world to shreds like a tropical cyclone going through -- and John wouldn’t have it any other way. As the story progresses, you soon learn that Stephen is in big trouble, and by this time John has fallen for him, hook like and sinker. Of course he has to help! And Barry is right there to stand by them when the barrowload hits the fan in a big way.

This book isn’t very long, but it has a kick like a mule. The sexy scenes are delicious as well as being just a bit understated by today’s standards. The writing is expressive and emotional, but there’s nothing really sweet about it. The treatment of the Real World is *so* real, it puts you right there inside the artist’s loft, and in the street while they’ve being stalked by Stephen’s nemesis.

It’s the way the whole thing’s handled that makes PAINTING STEPHEN straddle the line between gay book and m/m … and -- at least for me -- it also crosses over into the mainstream as well. I say thing because the story is so “real,” and so strong, it stands on its own feet anywhere. Stephen could have been Stephanie, and it would work just as well without changing anything major. (I know that a couple of mainly-hetero readers Beta-read the manuscript before it was passed along to the publisher, DreamCraft, and the feedback was unanimous: terrific story.)

So, your bottom line is that this is something for *almost* everyone. It’s out in ebook format, and it’s going to be released in Kindle very soon. The price is between $3.99 and $5.99, depending on when and where you get it. Highly recommended, and I’m looking forward keenly to JDM’s next one. I also loved UMBRIEL, which was a co-work with Mel Keegan, and DreamCraft says JDM’s next one is an SF story. Great -- I have a passion for gay sci-fi. Aricia’s verdict: five stars and big fun.

Length: 45,000 words,
Format: ebook (PDF; Kindle due at this time)
Genre: m/m romance with a thriller's sting in the tail
Cover by Jade
ISBN: 978-0-9807092-3-0
Publisher: DreamCraft

 Add to Cart Buy now, for $3.99, right here! (Also available at GLBT Bookshelf, Rainbow eBooks, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and soon at Kindle)