Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hunting for Clay by N.J. Nielsen

Title: Hunting for Clay
Author: N.J. Nielsen
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 24,000 words

Two years have passed since Clay and Hunter met on that fateful morning in Tello’s Diner. Getting passed the fact Clay was stalking Marlowe was the easy part. Clay Montgomery’s life changed for the better the day he found the man who was meant to be the other half of him. Hunter understood him well, and knew how to give him exactly what he needs to be happy. Hunter Weldon knows what he wants, and just how to get it. For two years he has loved the man in his arms and now it was time to up the ante.

Hunting for Clay follows on from another work which I have not read, although there is enough backstory included here that I didn’t feel lost. Two established couples, Hunter and Clay, who are the primary couple of this story, share a house with Marlowe and Angelo. They’re all friends now, and have a pleasant, easy-going friendship.

Two of the men’s families have serious issues with their gayness, which unfortunately requires much sneaking around for them to spend any time with their younger brothers. Both younger brothers are gay as well, which complicates things further. The subtext of the story is what makes a family? and the efforts everyone makes to spend time with the younger brothers is a large part of the story.

Unfortunately, the theme tends to wander through several subplots that meander through in little snippets, but 80 pages/24K words isn’t enough to explore all of them, so none gets examined in any detail. This gives a “slice of life” feel to the story rather than a coherent plot arc. A large number of secondary characters sail in and out, again, too many to spend any real development on in this length. The overall effect is a series of mostly unconnected events, although the arc becomes more evident in retrospect. But no sooner does one start reading a bit of one character’s actions than someone else waltzes in to take attention.

The style of the writing was making me uncomfortable in a way that took a while to identify: the language is very simple and without contractions in the dialog. This may suit other readers better than it suited me, but I felt like I was reading something meant for middle grades on style, but for adults on content.

Hunter reached down and gave the plug in his arse a twist and relished in the way Clay moaned. “I will be back in a second to help you, love.”

The contrast was jarring, and was not improved with numerous proofing errors, enough to become intrusive. I can cope better with constant endearments if the rest is done correctly.

The Aussie slang was fun, I now know what “full as a goog” means, and it helped to give a nice sense of place as well as characterization. (A goog is an egg, and the saying implies you've eaten or drunk too much.)

The element of BDSM-lite didn’t feel consistent, because while Hunter and Clay trotted out the toys, Hunter “couldn’t live with himself if he ever hurt Clay,” which was said in the context of getting out the nipple clamps and ball gag.

The ending is very happy – it all comes together in one huge celebration that resolves absolutely everything in the story, from the big family issues to the relationship. It was cute but hasty, and involved much handwaving on some major problems.

The story was certainly ambitious in what it was attempting, but with a main couple, two secondary couples and some strays looking like they’d get paired off, and some absolutely enormous issues, all in 80 pages, this is a sweet rush-through with little depth. 2 Marbles

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