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Summer Book Award: Favorite M/M Romance

With summer fast approaching, we both decided to reread one of our all time favorite books. And, the decision to select this book was unanimous! So, without further ado, we're announcing to the world that our selection for Favorite M/M Romance Book for 2011 is:

My Summer of Wes
by Missy Welch

In the interest of full disclosure, I (Matt) have had some chatting with Missy on the website Plus, we've exchanged some e-mails back and forth. I told her we wanted to review this book and would let her know when it went up. She wrote back and encouraged us to give an honest review, both good and bad. No if, ands, or buts.

We were over at Missy's home page (Missy Welch) recently and were reminded all over again how pleasurable and important this book was, and is, to us. That's right, "important." When I (Matt) decided to buy the book, I had no idea at the time it would become an important book. I was just barely old enough to legally read it when it was published. I turned eighteen in May 2010 and her book was published 3 months later. Whew! Just in the nick of time!

I had just met Brad and we were early in our relationship and hadn't had sex at that point. What had happened, however, was that we were falling in love -- or had fallen in love (I mean, how do you measure these things?).

This was the first erotic story I had ever read, and, to be honest, I was just looking for some well-written sex. I thought I was going to be reading some sizzling hot porn story and nothing else. I sorta ignored the "blurb" which talked about the storyline. I mean, the cover of the book told me everything I was looking for was in this book.

Well, let me say I like porn as well as anybody, but I had only seen the stuff you get on the internet. Oh, and a buddy of mine had discovered his older brother's stash of DVD porn and I had watched that. These two sources of porn had satisfied me well enough for all the obvious reasons, but internet porn and my buddy's brother's vids didn't have an interesting storyline. Plus, the vids my buddy had were all hetero.

So, in the interest of self-education (!), I felt I owed it to myself to see the story leading to the sex. My parents always emphasized the importance of education, so, why not educate myself on how other guys go about the sex thing? And the guys in the book were about my age (one is 18 and the other is 24). Prior to meeting Brad, I had only kissed a few guys (none more than once) and touched a few body parts (thoroughly covered with clothes!).

After reading the relatively short first chapter, I realized I had been crying. Very unlike me -- both to cry as I'm reading, and not even realizing I had some tears going down my face. What the hell was going on? I mean, I didn't totally identify with either of the two characters at this point. Mal, the eighteen-year-old, didn't even realize he was gay (at least he wasn't realizing it yet), and he had been horribly bullied in high school. I came out when I was 16 and was beaten up once by a gang of assholes, but nothing like what Mal had endured.

And, I never knew anybody like the other character, Wes. He came out when he was a teen and had always been totally confident and self-assured and comfortable. He didn't go around shouting in everybody's face he was gay, but just lived his life without hiding anything. He always stood his ground if anybody had an issue with it, and had this "presence" about him that told others that if they wanted to mess with him, bring it on.

I loved how the story unfolded. I mean, it was probably 5 or 6 chapters into the story before there's any sex. Wes, the older one, was totally amazing in how he never, ever pressured Mal into anything. Mal insisted he was not gay, and even though you get the feeling Wes knows he is, he totally, I mean totally, respects Mal and never once pushes the issue. Things just unfold at a very natural pace.

I think what affected me emotionally about Wes was how much integrity he had. He's the kind of guy you want around if you're unsure about your sexual orientation. Nothing is forced -- there's no condensation -- there's total respect for where you are. I'd also say he's the kind of guy you want around whether you're gay or straight or bi or whatever. A totally awesome friend!

Both Brad and I had this powerful emotional reaction toward Mal. He talks about the extent of the bullying (really violence is more like it) he endured while in high school. When we we talking about our feelings toward Mal, we both said how angry we felt at all the guys abusing him throughout school. I wanted to jump into the book and start hunting down all the assholes who hurt him.

The other emotional reaction we had toward Mal was watching how he very slowly at first came to trust Wes. I mean, this was the first friend the guy had ever had in his whole life! You just want to jump in and be his second and third friend. You wanted to surround him with all the love you have and be there for him every step of the way.

So, who was the hero of the story? Well, they both were. Mal deserves so much credit for risking everything to find himself -- his true self -- and to find love for the first time in his life. Wes deserves so much credit for his total integrity and for very slowly showing and giving Mal love, with a capital L.

The other thing that was so powerful about this book is the erotica. When we both first read this book, it was the first story we had ever read with very explicit sex scenes. I have to say here for the record that I wouldn't let Brad read the book after I finished. He was still seventeen at the time and there's this scary and stern warning on the title page that all sorts of bad things might happen if you show it to somebody under eighteen! I gave him his own copy on his eighteenth birthday. I certainly didn't want to contribute to corrupting the morals of a minor!! {ouch! another "love shove" from Brad!}

In terms of the erotica, at first Wes takes the lead and everything is initiated by him, with total respect for how Mal might be reacting. As Mal gradually discovers his true self, he starts initiating things. When you read the scenes where Mal starts initiating the affection and sex, I started having tears running down my face while at the same time having this incredibly intense personal sexual reaction. I gotta say, we both got a good education on all the different ways and scenes that are possible sexually when you truly love someone.

So, is this book "porn"? Not by our definition. It seems to us that porn needs very little storyline. And porn is all about the sex. You never get any clues about who these people are, what their story is, nothing. It's all about the sex, and the storyline is irrelevant. The purpose of porn is just to get turned on watching other people have sex and then to get off. Hey, nothing basically wrong or bad about that. I mean, we both have our little stash of porn vids now and they serve their purpose.

We started this review by saying that My Summer of Wes was an important book for both of us. It tells the story of how Mal comes to know his true self and to trust another person after years of horrible abuse. It tells the story of how Wes lives that life once you know your true self and how to truly and fully love another person.

After reading this book, I did a lot of hard thinking. I did some writing in this journal thing I keep about my life and somehow came up with two "guiding principles" for my life, both coming out of a reading of this book: (1), Always be true to yourself (which involves discovering your true self), and (2), Always be honest with others. The first principle came from Mal as he seems on this search to discover who he really is. Wes has already discovered himself. The second principle is initially from Wes. Throughout the book, Wes truly lives both principles. After Mal discovers his true self, he then begins moving into the second principle.

So, for us, this is a book about several things. How to discover your true self. How to trust another person and take all the risk involved in that. How to integrate love and sex into this totally beautiful gift. Most importantly to us, however, it's about hope. And isn't that ultimately what life is all about?

(If you'd like to comment on Missy's book or this review, please feel free. Also feel free to share your own favorite M/M Romance book.)
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