Changes by Mary Calmes is an enjoyable little book from Dreamspinner Press (one of my favorite independent publishers of M/M Romance), and is a great read considering the amount of poorly written and way too short gay romance novels out there. The main character Stefan is traveling to the panhandle of Texas for a four day wedding extravaganza to support his fag hag bestie from school, Charlotte. He is wary of going however, as his boss pressures him into trying to get a little old lady nearby the location of the wedding to sell her land for some sort of generic superstore. He tells himself that at least, but the real reason he doesn't want to go is Rand Holloway, the homophobic brother of the bride who gets under his skin more than anyone he has ever known. I know its cliche, but I am a sucker for the whole "I like you so much that the only way I know how to express it is by picking fights with you, but if you give me a second I can prove how much I want you" storyline, and Calmes does a great job of getting the characters past some pretty intense historical dislike (with ample reasons for both) and getting them into the bedroom (or hay barn, or laundry room). The city mouse and country mouse cliche ain't broke either, so she went to town with that as well for a thoroughly enjoyable romp.
If the verbal fireworks between Rand and Stefan weren't enough, there are enough nervous bride and drunken country folk shenanigans to provide ample room for all of the main characters to enjoy themselves. Stefan may be a pretty boy with long hair and looks good in anything, but he can fight too dammit, which he does about four or five times throughout the book. Rand is good for cowboy eye candy, and some hot southern bedroom talk ala "sookie" (and yes, that was a Trueblood reference...). I love that m/m romance authors are always finding ways to show historically homophobic communities loving the gays, and instantly finding acceptance for the newly uncloseted characters (Rand), and Calmes doesn't go too cliche with her portrayal of the country folk either. I could have done without the scenes where Charlotte reveals something traumatic that happened in her past that allows her to fully transition from her first love Stefan to her true love husband-to-be Ben (though I fully understand the author's intention). I also was a little turned off by the subplot involving someone trying to kill Stefan, but it made for some dramatic moments, so it wasn't that bad I guess.
My biggest gripe with a lot of gay romance is the lightning speed with which characters get together. Granted, a lot went down in 4 days, and while I understand that Rand and Stefan had hidden torches for each other for a while, I am always turned off when characters get together, have sex, and suddenly they are in love. I guess that is why I prefer Quicklit as opposed to the romance variety, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy cute stories with some hot literary sex on the side. Speaking of sex, I found the "love" scenes pretty hot, but standard at the same time. Calmes has a writing style that is easy to read, and she is in a league far above a lot of the crap I have paid for in the past (at 5.59 it was a bargain!). For an earnest effort, minimal cliche and clever readable characters I give it 3 out of 5 stars, great for a light and hot summer read. In checking out Calmes online, she has written some other romance with some more supernatural flare, and while historically I find those too ridiculous to enjoy, I am probably going to end up reading them anyway. After all, a good romance author is hard to find these days.
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