Dustin Walker has no idea that avoiding the search for Mrs. Right could send him into the arms and bed of Mr. Right Now. According to Dustin's mother, he should be out looking for his next wife so he won't be the divorced black sheep of the family. Instead, he passes his free time at a local bar and pool hall, where he meets someone who's everything his ex-wife wasn't: funny, caring, faithful...and male.
Is Brandon Stewart just Dustin's way of getting over a bitter divorce? Can Dustin really care for him, or is it simply that Brandon is the complete opposite of his ex-wife? Dustin keeps their affair as quiet as possible, because if it continues, he knows he'll eventually have to come out to his homophobic family or walk out on the man he's trying not to love.
©2009 L. A. Witt (P)2016 Dreamspinner Press
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"5 stars up til the end..."
Dustin just got out of an awful marriage to an evil, cheating ex-wife. He’s not looking to get involved with anyone. And a man never crossed his mind.
Brandon is a bi-sexual professor who likes to play pool. He’s had some bad exes but no heavy baggage. When he sees Dustin one night at a bar, he’s immediately attracted and when Dustin sends him some mixed signals, he approaches him for more than a game of pool.
Though Dustin has no idea why a man is suddenly so attractive to him, he acts on his impulses and goes home with Brandon. The two start a brief affair but Dustin leaves after a couple weeks, freaked out about dating a guy.
Brandon gives him space, but doesn’t desert him, and when Dustin thinks he’s got it figured out, he allows himself to get involved with the still very confused Dustin.
I am a big fan of LA Witt and Nick J Russo, so when I saw this in audiobook format, I was psyched!
I vaguely remembered not loving the book when I read it years ago, but I didn’t remember much one way or another.
As I got into the book, I was surprised because – at the beginning – it was hitting all my buttons. Two men, one obviously bi-sexual and the other looking like he was too – that’s a hot button for me. The sex is scorching. Very well written and lots of it. I really like Brandon – he’s confident, sincere, smart, cocky but tender. At first Dustin seemed great, too – open, willing to explore another facet of his personality, interesting… but as the book went on (and it’s a fairly long book) I began to really get mad at Dustin.
First, I DO NOT understand his relationship with his ex wife. How could he have been married to someone literally as psychotic as she was for TEN EFFING YEARS? Then there is the OTT mother and homophobic brother – UGH – they were so, so UGLY and just didn’t seem to fit with either Dustin or his sister or his other brother. Then there’s the a**hole best friend, Dan… so many ugly people in his life that seem out of proportion to the reality that is in Dustin’s head.
Since this is told from Dustin’s POV I wanted a bit more understanding of how he could be the person he is with the baggage he carries.
Then there’s Brandon, who just KEEPS letting Dustin treat him like crap.
Now – here’s a bit of a spoiler - ********
Even at the end, when Dustin has admitted to himself that he loves Brandon, he doesn’t have the guts to tell him. And the story ENDS there! I remember – now- being SO MAD!!
After all the nonsense – and including the fact that he experiments with a man and a woman after he splits with Brandon – I NEEDED some serious redemption to make me like him and the story again.
On the one hand I appreciated the fact that he needed to KNOW if he was gay, bi, whatever – and I can almost concede the need to see other people to verify that – but I wanted more remorse, more guilt, more SOMETHING so that when he gets back together with Brandon it feels good again.
Given the recent hubbub about bi erasure, I was glad to see that not only did Dustin acknowledge his attraction to both sexes, but many times throughout the book it was great to see Brandon extoling the virtues of being bi. I was worried at times that Dustin was simply going to jump on the “gay” wagon despite all those years married to a woman, so though I was upset with how he arrived at the conclusion, I was pleased to see him open to the possibility that there was more than just gay or straight as options.
End of spoiler section.
Given that there’s a book two and book two gives me the ending that I really wanted I can forgive book one for it’s ending. But at the time, I didn’t have book two to fall back on – so I’m advising you now, read book two before you judge book one.
Really, it needs to be read one after the other to fully appreciate their relationship because I was left with a bad taste in my mouth at the end of book one.
Now, for the AUDIO – Nick J Russo absolutely makes this worth the frustration. He is so dang sexy and he’s so good with emotion and pacing that I was immersed in the story and willing to move through even the ugly parts so long as I could listen to him narrating.
So… for the original story I give it a 3 of 5. Nick’s narration a 5 of 5 and Overall a 4 of 5 taking into consideration book 2.
"Narration is great"
Nick J. Russo has a smooth voice, a cool style, and the ability to make panties burst afire when he starts on L.A. Witt’s steamy sex scenes – all of which lends itself to a wildly entertaining listening experience.
Dustin Walker just got out of a ten year marriage to a manipulative, habitually chronic cheating harridan who was basically hand picked by his true harpy of a mother. When he goes to the local bar and pool hall he ends up meeting Brandon Stewart, who’s proudly bisexual.
Dustin and Brandon get together and Brandon is everything that Dustin’s ex-wife isn’t. They get along great, the sex is phenomenal, and they really click. But being with a man is a complete mind blower for Dustin, who isn’t sure what this means: is he now gay? Is he bisexual or straight but gay only for Brandon? Then there’s the worry of what his family will do once they find out Dustin is in a relationship with a man.
Told entirely from Dustin’s POV, I would have really loved to have gotten inside Brandon’s head. I also would have really liked the chance to get to know the characters better, instead of spending most of the time in bed…don’t get me wrong, the sex scenes are hot and plentiful, but I wanted a little more meat to the story. I know, I know – what the hell, right? I love sex scenes! But there really were too many here for me.
This was an interesting and entertaining book for the first 60%. It has a really compelling premise and I was really keen to explore the bisexuality angle. Though I had some issues with Dustin not standing up for himself with his mother and, again, the constant sex scenes got a little old (I seriously can’t even believe I just wrote that sentence!), even with all that I was enjoying it overall…then it all went to hell for me. Cue rage explosion.
Suffice it to say I am more than disappointed personally with the direction the story took. To top off my serious disappointment in the direction of the story there is a very short, very unsatisfying HFN ending. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what happened with Dustin’s family, and how they dealt with being a couple…but – nada.
Bottom line: for those who like an angstier story with lots of sex, a HFN and excellent narration, you should check it out – otherwise I would recommend giving this one a pass.
Before reading "Rules of Engagement," I had never encountered a book in the gay erotica genre. Now, I understand what makes the genre so addicting! I listened to the book in two weeks, and couldn't stop listening once I got half-way through. Although the story line was hyperbolic (What "straight" man has sex with a gay man on their second date?), the characters felt real and the main character's doubts, mistakes and fears felt relevant.
I was disappointed that the author depended so heavily on sex to carry the rising action. Instead of repeating, "his masculine scent," "sent me into orbit," and "the taste of his mouth" over and over again, the author should have employed synonyms, metaphors, similes, allusions and symbolism to make the writing more engaging. Lastly, the story lacked a palpable setting. What area doesn't have a gym, diner, lake, steak restaurant, and university? The story might have felt more relevant if it had more specific setting.
I loved the scene when Dustin finally told his mother to "Fuck Off." The experience of learning to say, "fuck off" to the people that condemn homosexuality is central to the gay experience. It drives gay men to embrace confidence, humor and resilience as a way of life.
I listened to this book on my commute to and from work. I could not have listened to 8+ hours of gay sex in one sitting.
The narrator, Nick Russo, was my favorite part of this listening experience. Russo has a voice like dark chocolate - rich, bass, and addicting. He has the ability to create a unique inflection for each of his characters, including a falsetto for the female roles. More impressively, Russo's voice subtly indicates when a character is thinking versus speaking, a difficult feat for any narrator.
I loved this book especially the sexy voice of Brandon BUT THE LAST 8 percent of this sucked!! Dustin didn't deserve Brandon what's so ever!!!!!!
"Love this narrator"
Rules of Engagement was one of the very first M/M books I read years ago, and when I saw it was coming out in audio, I was SO excited. When I saw that the narrator would be Nick J. Russo? Well. My squees of joy could not be contained. He is one of my very favorite narrators out there and as always, his performance was stellar.
As I listened to this story, I vaguely remembered Dustin and Brandon, but the farther along the story went, the more Russo brought them back to life. His pitch and the level of emotion that he uses for the characters has them practically alive as if they were speaking right in front of you.
The storyline itself has it's frustrating moments, quite a few them actually, but Russo kept me wanting more. His voice is just so smooth and can I just say there are very narrators out there that can convey all the nuances of a sex scene quite like he can! Whoa.All in all, this was a win for me. The story itself is just okay, but Nick J. Russo's narration is another home run.
"Dustin's emotional journey to love"
I enjoyed this story. I liked the friendship between Dustin Walker and Brandon Stewart which allowed both characters to grow as men.
Dustin had been married but it was to please his mother. So when Dustin walked in on his wife and one of her lovers, Dustin had to admit that this marriage wasn't working at all. When Dustin goes to hustle pool, he meets another pool shark Brandon. A tentative friendship begins and soon they have a sexual encounter.
This new relationship is everything Dustin's marriage wasn't. But Dustin's mother would never accept his sexuality and that affected how Dustin treated Brandon. The problem is that Brandon has already been someone's dirty little secret and he swore he wouldn't be that again.
Will Dustin choose to be open about his relationship with Brandon and his sexuality or will familial pressures lead him to let Brandon go?
I appreciate the emotional anguish it took Dustin to accept himself and stand up for himself. It takes a lot to go against one's family and even societal expectations even if keeping up a facade is detrimental to one's happiness. I love that Brandon was support but put his foot down when he needed to. He was forgiving but he was also very clear on his desires and expectations in a relationship.
I love that the author manages to balance very hot sex scenes with solid story telling. I didn't feel like the sex overshadowed the characters journey. I was very pleased with the ending of this one.
"Escape from a Wife and Mother from "HELL""
It was a good story of a grown man finally getting a "back bone" and living his life the way he wanted.
There were three first when he knocked on the hotel room door, second when he finally told his mother off and third when he went and found Brandon and told him he did matter.
I like the way Nick J. Russo did the performance
No extreme reaction I didn't cry or laugh just said "FINALLY" when Dustin did what "HE" wanted to do
This was a new author for me and I enjoy this book and will be on the look out for other books.
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