ab gayle

Book Review: Mardi Gras by A.B. Gayle


I recently did an interview with Author A.B. Gayle, so I was a little hesitant about reading her work. The interview went well, in a way that surprised me. She asked questions as if she really “got” what I was trying to do with my books. My biggest concern about reading her work was that I might not like it.

However, the minute I began Mardi Gras I knew on page one I’d found something I was going to enjoy. I can tell by the first five pages, or less, whether or not a writer knows what he/she is doing with regard to actually crafting a novel or a short work of fiction. And nothing puts me off more than lack of knowledge and skill…said bookisms, dialogue tags with too many adverbs, no dialogue tags at all, too much dialogue that doesn’t help move the story forward. For those who know better, it’s not always easy to spot great writing. But bad writing is as transparent as low rent origin no matter how you try to dress it up.

From the first paragraph of Mardi Gras, I was drawn into the story by A.B. Gayle’s neat, clean, tight writing style. Instead of reading a mundane romance, I knew I was reading that rare combination of literature and romance combined. The next aspect that caught my attention was the setting. The entire story revolves around Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia, which is someplace I’ve always wanted to go. The romance alone, for me, with respect to Australia, was more than enough to keep me reading. And the way the setting is described, in more than one place in the book, creates a detailed explanation that made me feel as though I were actually there. This is the kind of escape I’m looking for when I’m reading anything.

It’s going to be difficult to get into the plot without giving out spoilers. But I will be careful. I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t read this book. The main theme revolves around Damien, an American writer, who travels to Sydney for Mardi Gras. He’s keeping his visit on the down low, because he’s a journalist/blogger and he recently trashed Mardi Gras on his blog. He feels the event has drifted away from its original goals, and there’s no political significance anymore. This, I believe, is something a lot of gay men can relate to these days everywhere. I’m forty years old and I’ve seen changes I’m not thrilled with when it comes to gay pride events. Damien, in the book, is fifty, and he seems to wish there was more integrity in these cultural events that used to mean so much to so many people. He’s a character I liked from the beginning. There’s nothing fake about him. He’s tough, yet vulnerable.

The first surprise in the story involves a character Damien meets at the airport. This character is twenty-five years younger and he was sent to meet Damien. At first, I thought I could predict what would happen next. But I was wrong. I can’t get into anymore now or I’ll ruin it. Just trust me on this: you’ll want to know more about this character, and his relationship with Damien, as the book progresses.

A few elements that resonated with me were things like Damien’s blog, and how he relates to his blog readers and the people who comment on his blog regularly. It’s a very current situation that a lot of people can relate to these days. And I don’t always see this in fiction in the mainstream. I also liked the little tidbits of humor, sometimes riding the thin line of cutting edge. This is a quote with regard to Australian accents that I thought was perfect:

Even Meryl Streep had difficulty impersonating an Aussie.

Even though the story isn’t too long…65…pages…I did see nice character development. Damien seems to grow warmer and more open as the story progresses. He drops a lot of his defenses. And he cares so much he’s willing to settle for nothing more than an online relationship if that’s what it takes to keep this young man in his life.

We’d only met physically for the first time less than twenty-four hours ago, but I knew, from months of interaction on the blog, just how stubborn he could be. If I crossed over the street before he saw me, he wouldn’t follow. That would be the end; he would drop out of my life forever. I couldn’t do it. No matter what had happened today . . . tonight, I hoped we could still have some degree of friendship, the ability to discuss issues that were important to both of us, even if only connected over the Internet.

Damien also seems to be planning for the future, even though he’s not quite ready to admit this to himself. And he continues to grow from there. And, once again, this excerpt is an example of how wonderfully written this book is. It was one of those passages that I read more than once.

Here’s something I think all of us can understand, men and women, gay or straight, when we become interested in someone younger.

This was too much information and too close to the bone. It was bad enough knowing I’d made an idiot of myself with a man so much younger than myself and now to find I came under the classification of ‘one of those,’ tired old men who chased boys who were barely legal.

I tried to pull my hand away, but he clasped it in both of his. “Instead, you were just so young, normal . . . .”

The author managed to pick up on all Damien’s insecurities in one neat, short paragraph…and all the things I was thinking while I was reading between the lines of this book. I was actually dying for Damien, hoping and praying he wouldn’t get shot down.

As for sex scenes and heat, there are a few. But I wouldn’t classify this as a m/m romance with tons of hot sex. The sex that is there is appropriate to the story. In this case, anything more would not have worked with the story. And if the sex scenes that are there were to be removed, the story would still stand on its own. As I said earlier, this story has a literary feel to it in more ways than one. And when I’m reading something literary, I want the sex scenes to be incorporated in a way that makes them relevant to the story. Though I don’t do this often myself, because I tend to write more sex in most books, I have done it with stories like Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza, and I know how hard it can be to make it work. A.B. Gayle did, indeed, make this work. The story didn’t need anymore sex than it had.

To sum it up, this is a story where two people meet for the first time, one twenty-five years older than the other. They come from different backgrounds and cultures, and yet they have a great deal in common. But then they already know each other fairly well through an online experience, where they’ve already exposed many of their true feelings. It’s also a story about confusion, and how online interaction can often mislead people into believing things that may or may not be accurate. As the story progresses, we feel hints of sorrow at certain points. We also feel the frustration and we want things to work out for Damien. I can’t go into any more detail because I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. But if I did have a rating system, I would give this book five stars. And I will recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading m/m fiction without thinking twice.

About the author:

Unlike many authors, A.B. Gayle has not been writing stories all her life. Instead, she’s been living life.

A. B. Gayle’s Review of GAY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE


This is one of those times I’m thrilled with a review, and it’s all because the reviewer “got” what I was trying to do and I never had to explain myself once. For a writer, this is the ultimate experience. I honestly don’t care about how many stars I get or what kind of ratings readers leave. I’ve been around too long not to know and understand how subjective the reading experience can be and how people will react in many different ways. If you don’t believe me, just go over to goodreads and check out a few of the reviews left for The Great Gatsby.

But when a reviewer actually sees what an author was trying to do, without doing anything other than reading the book, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you at least touched one person. And I never did get into any long explanations about what motivated me to write GAY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE the way I did because I was on the fence about the title and how closely related the title was to the classic Pride and Prejudice. As you can see in the review below, the book isn’t much like the original classic. I figured I just keep my big mouth shut and see if readers knew what I intended with this book.

Here’s a link to the review. And below is the actual review copied and pasted verbatim. There are no spoilers, but I should warn that there are a few words and phrases with adult content and this is an PG rated blog, so if this sort of thing offends you, please feel free not to read it.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So far, of all the remakes I enjoyed this one the most. Mainly, because Ryan does such a good job of translating the pride and prejudices to the gay community.

Don’t expect a scene by scene remake. This takes the aspects that are at the core of Jane Austen’s book: the cutting observations about people and society and what people of that ilk are proud and prejudiced about but putting them into a modern gay context. So, we’re not getting dry 1800 social observations of character but 2010 characterisations from a gay POV. They’re none the less apt.

This means that the characters will be different. Tristan is no Eliza Bennett, but he shares some of her qualities, her honesty and her embarrassment at the behavior of her relatives, and most of all in being opinionated. Likewise Miller is no Mr Darcy, but he also is bound by the strictures of his parents and background.

In this case the prejudices and pride are linked up with new vs old money, gays vs straights, old queens vs new age gay.
I want you to stick with our own kind, and I don’t want you screwing around with all these straights.

There’s also the more normal kind of pride:
Ellen’s face gleamed with pride; she gazed at her big strong straight son with love and affection.

I love that the alternate love interest is a stud ex-serviceman just back from Iraq.

The parallel works really well in this case, as the whole topic of marriage is at the core of the original. Who should marry who and why and again in this case, all Tristan wants to do is get married.

“As I got older and legalized same-sex marriage became an issue within the lgbt community, I started to realize I deserved to fall in love and get married just as much as heterosexual couples deserved it. I made a decision a long time ago I wouldn’t settle for less. Call it pride, call it being stubborn. But I won’t settle for less.”

In this case “Mr Darcy” is still not exactly pro marriage. He just wants to fuck.

There are some priceless bits eg when one main character comes up with this:
“Do you want to suck my xxxx?” Miller asked. He adjusted his position and spread his legs wider.
Tristan smiled. He had a feeling Miller was trying to shock him on purpose. “That’s not very romantic,” Tristan said.
“You haven’t sucked my xxxx yet, so you don’t really know that for sure. It might be the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to you.”

And later, the other MC says this:
Though Tristan would have laughed at clichéd expressions like dripping xxxx or weeping xxxx in public, and he would have frowned if anyone had used these awful, trite, clichés in ordinary conversation, when he had one right in front of him it was a different story.
you have to smile!

Ryan has the equivalent faux pas down pat. The comments about the price of things, never done by someone who really is “old money”. And I loved this bit:
And Clint had been giving him fashion tips. Eldridge hadn’t worn a bow tie, a crew neck sweater draped over his shoulders, or a pair of pink plaid slacks in weeks.

But Ryan doesn’t neglect sharing real facts to educate people about factors affecting the LGBT community. In this case:
“There are many older gay couples who have been together for years. Just like straight married couples, they own property together. When one of them passes away, the surviving partner is forced to pay inheritance taxes on their own property. It runs into thousands and it wipes them out.”

He also doesn’t pull his punches on a couple of occasions about hypocrisy.

Ryan Field’s “Covers of Classics” can be a bit hit or miss, but to me, “Gay Pride and Prejudice”, does exactly what he has set out to do.