Monday, November 26, 2012

The Party Boy's Guide to Dating a Geek by Piper Vaughn and Xara X. Xanakas



Author: Piper Vaughn and Xara X. Xanakas
Cover Artist: Aisha Akeju
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 270 pages


Ashley Byrne only wants one thing in life: to finish his tattoo apprenticeship and fulfill his dream of owning his own shop. In the meantime, he spends his nights partying, flirting, and having sex. After all, what else is there for him to worry about? Aside from his hair and his clothes, not much. He’s hot, and rest assured no one knows it better than him. He’s also used to getting what he wants—until he meets Felipe Navarro.

Fee Navarro has everything he needs: a great IT job, a nice apartment, and all the high-tech toys his geeky heart could ever want. He doesn’t do casual, and he knows guys like Ash are nothing but. Ash may burn hot for Fee, but Fee isn’t willing to take a chance on a vain, little party boy with too many tats and an oversized ego. He wants someone to share his life with, and he won’t settle for anything less. Too bad Ash has never been the type to give up easily. He has a plan, and he’s not stopping until he proves he’s more than just a pretty face—he’s someone worthy of winning Fee’s heart.

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The Party Boy’s Guide is a charming story of opposites attracting, and more to the point, of one of the opposites understanding what’s attractive about the other and why the attraction is worth working for.

Ash and Fee come together while helping Ash’s brother and his girlfriend move in together, and things do not start well. If Ash isn’t putting his foot in his mouth or doing something careless that causes an injury, he’s coming across as flighty, only interested in a good time. Being seen like that stings, even if it’s true—Ash isn’t used to an attractive man not responding to him, and it makes him work triply hard to get Fee’s attention. Used to entertaining himself with any willing comer in the clubs leaves him unprepared to deal with someone more serious.

The gimmick of having a bit of dating manual heading the chapters is funny, but definitely sound as if the advice was ripped from the pages of Cosmopolitan, with some florid “geek references.” It’s cute but the tone really made me wonder about the intended target audience, even if the advice is good and pertinent to the contents of the chapter. The geek references persist in the software manual style table of contents and chapter headings. The joke sustains fairly well. The "cool guy" wandering into geek territory and coming off as the inept one was a comic, if slightly painful, turnaround of the more usual cool/not cool situations. That first book club meeting, oh ow!

Ash remains the POV character through the entire novel, which is unusual in something of this length, and it’s he who is changed most. Not because Fee is trying to change him, but because he recognizes the worth of Fee’s methods, including the go-slow-don’t-rush-into-sex-or-anything else important way Fee allows himself to engage with Ash. Any pushing from Ash makes Fee withdraw, but he will come closer if allowed to choose his pace.

As an apprentice tattoo artist, Ash has some vague plans for the future, but he’s drifting along, saying he wants something but not really working at it. It isn’t until Fee demonstrates what his own efforts have brought him and gets involved in small ways with Ash’s dreams, such as by configuring a computer for him, that Ash stops dreaming and starts making progress toward his goal.

In some ways I liked the leisurely approach the two men take, because Ash has the chance to rediscover that sex can be more important than the random assisted orgasm, but there were a few places I wanted to tap my toe and suggest they move a little faster. Now and then the slow unrolling was a little too slow. At least one side plot concerning Ty, Ash’s prospective tattoo parlor partner, seemed to wander off into nothingness after eating enough page time to seem important.

The story is as much about Ash’s maturing as it is about the relationship, and if he didn’t grow up, he would not have become a worthy partner for a man who actually has his act together aside from a bit of social ineptitude. Fee isn’t that big a geek—imagine him on The Big Bang Theory for one scene to see exactly how much being computer savvy isn’t geekhood personified. But he is the polar opposite of a frivolous party boy, and eventually, so is Ash.

We don’t see Fee’s POV in this story and he’s not terribly communicative, so Ash is left to flounder sometimes and Fee comes off as a little cold. Fee is Hispanic, but his ethnicity is an under-under-under current aside from some delectable food, and may show most strongly in a scene that is not actually on page. His level of “doesn’t get it” on relationships exceeds the believable in one or two places, but it’s very clear that he’s a worthwhile person to be involved with.

The writing is smooth and contains some excellent lines and observations on the human condition, although Ash utters them thinking of the smaller canvas of his life. It’s in keeping with the mostly light tone of the book. I enjoyed the story, even if I wished for a faster pace now and again.

4.25 marbles

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