Simple Men by Eric Arvin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So I was kept up until stupid o'clock by Eric Arvin and sexual tension that you could cut with a knife.
Honestly the ST in this book is amazing, there is no way you can just stop reading half way through. So there am I bleary eyed trying to give the dog his insulin injection this morning after definitely not enough sleep - it was touch and go whether it would be the dog or me getting the jab. Reading, an extreme sport.
Simple Men, well it's a great book about relationships. About falling in love. There are four main characters or two potential couples. Chip, the American football coach and Foster the new chaplain, and two of the American football players, Jason and Brad.
Chip is the stereo-typical ball player/lad about town who grew up to be the ball coach/a bit better, but still lad about town. He's in a relationship with a fellow teacher, Lynn, neither of them are particularly committed to it, but it's convenient for now. Then Chip is introduced to Lynn's friend Foster. Now I've been at it with the highlighting features again because, well isn't this the best line? "Still, it was odd how Lynn disappeared. How the world froze and everything that wasn't the chaplain faded to the dullness of a haphazard etching." Gah, that feeling when everything else is just gone and all you are aware of is one person, that feeling, well Eric Arvin nailed it with that sentence, I felt Chip start the descent (ascent?) into love.
Of course Chip hadn't ever really considered that it would be a man he fell in love with, it had always been women in his bed before. Chip was confused about it to start with, and, when things weren't working between him and Foster, he did sleep with another woman but it didn't work. He tried thinking about other men - but that didn't work either. I think this is what I like about this story so much, the message is you don't fall in love with a sex or a gender - you fall in love with a person. Chip loved Foster, so until he met him and realised this nothing, man, woman nor beast (though just to be clear, there were no beasts in this story, at least not in the loving stakes) was going to be right.
Foster, the other part of this potential couple was gay, but he too had been in a bad relationship. The relationship where he was the novelty gay vicar, a bit of a finger stuck up to the world - that was until a bigger 'up yours' came along. So he started work at the university and hoped to quietly lick his wounds. Like Chip he wasn't expecting to fall in love. It is actually Foster who nearly causes this relationship to finish - his friendship with Chip's ex, Lynn, was nearly the end of them. Not wanting Lynn to be hurt, the way his ex hurt him, he called it off. Yep, after stomach clenching moments waiting for them to get together, he finishes it.
Oh okay, I'll just read one more chapter, it's not that late anyway (it is, it's really, really late).
Brad and Jason were the other main characters. They were the kind of 'before' glimpse into Chip's life, the way things could have been for him if he'd met Foster a couple of decades earlier.
Best friends they liked nothing better than a prank, except maybe a bit of rough-housing. They'll take on any bet - better than scrubbing the toilets out, right? So when they are dared to kiss each other in the shower they take it in their stride and happily snog away. They are both aware that this actually means a hell of a lot more to them both than the audience watching. Again Arvin let's us into Jason's head perfectly, "He had to push the kiss off like it meant nothing at all. A lie. A big one.......He wanted to know how the kiss felt for Brad. Adjectives. That's what he wanted."
Brad is feeling similarly confused, though being the biggest prankster, the biggest gad about, on the team he has a tougher time admitting how he feels than Jason. I loved how, even though there was all this confusion (and the damn sexual tension), their friendship was still front and centre, they didn't let that slip.
This book does have an HEA (phew), after the build up of tension I think I would have exploded if it didn't. In many ways this is 'Eric Arvin lite', the story lines are perhaps less complex, the 'between the lines' meanings thinner on the ground. It isn't however 'Eric Arvin light' - each sentence is beautiful, words are not wasted. With sentences like this - "Chip doused his anger, and they kissed harder and deeper than the college grounds had seen in some time. There were obscenity laws against such kisses", - how could you not love this book? Go on, read it, you know you want to.
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