Saturday, July 23, 2016

Butterball by Michelle King

For Travis, it was business as usual at the office of Wentwood Investments, other than the annoying task of finding a new account manager for his expanding department. Everything changed the moment Jeremy Roberson walked into the room for a job interview. The cuddly butterball was everything Travis liked in a partner…other than the closet locked around him.

The closet’s walls may have been cold, but the heat between Jeremy and Travis scorched. Nothing could stop the firestorm, not even the threat of a lawsuit or the disapproval of the dreaded HR department. They needed each other, emotionally and professionally. Unfortunately, fear held Jeremy. It was a fear Travis knew well.

If he was going to find paradise alongside Jeremy, it appeared he’d have to help his secret partner claim his homosexuality. It wouldn’t be much fun, no, but it wouldn’t be the first closet he’d stormed. And Jeremy was worth it.

Publisher's Note: Butterball was previously released by another publisher but it has been revised and re-edited in this version.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I have mixed feelings about this story – because if I ignore some of the stranger parts which do not seem consistent or logical, then there is a rather cute love story in there. But the strange bits do exist, and did have me slowing down and questioning what I had read already. I found the D/s references to be incongruous when in reference to Jeremy (D?) and his previous, female partner Annabel (s?). When Travis used them in reference to himself (D) and Jeremy (s), they made more sense, but still not entirely in a recognised manner. Sadly, there were other bits which distracted me, like Travis's PA being married to the senior partner, who was also Head of HR and his mentor...let alone JoBeth getting so involved.

Travis and Jeremy's times alone were much more enjoyable and interesting. Jeremy's issues with unemployment, the need for a job, and his desperation after getting bad news were built up effectively, and his loneliness was amplified in that scene.

Other than being so confused by the initial BDSM references, and the occasional leap of topic (visiting the LGBT centre, etc.), I did enjoy the underlying story.

I'm adding my thoughts as I read this novella, because the frustration and confusion is making my reading experience uncomfortable. I think if I read this book quickly, not getting stuck on "Anabel's BDSM Master" and the fact that I write this subject matter, I wouldn't be so nitpicky.

At the start, the reader is dropped into a conversation between Travis and his longtime friend, JoBeth, going straight into Jeremy's story. This conversation made me uncomfortable for many reasons. But the #1 reason, the TMI conversation between colleagues breached all rules and laws within the community. Right down to discussing how JoBeth waxes Anabel's private parts, when I thought her profession wasn't an esthetician.

Hearsay, a pair of friends are discussing a mutual friend, Anabel, whom the reader hasn't met. I highlighted passages that confused me. First: in a D/s relationship, it is built on trust, trust that you don't share the details that happen within a scene outside of it. Common sense. Anabel was upset about her relationship with her former master, to the point she told JoBeth, whom in turn is telling Travis all the juicy details, which is exactly why it is 'former' master. JoBeth, upset for Anabel, wants Travis to teach Jeremy a lesson...when JoBeth was a horrible submissive for sharing private, intimate details of their time together, which turned into a gossip version of the telephone game.

Another point of contention: Jeremy, Anabel's BDSM Master. (highlighted quotes direct from the book)

Jeremy? Anabel's BDSM Master?" ... "Their sex play often required Anabel to force him..." ... "He needed a beating, a bloody back, rulers across his palms, verbal scorn."... "Structurally, Jeremy could take his muscle and dominance. He didn't need to worry about bruising or breaking his partner. He also didn't need to feel like he was constantly wrestling for dominance."

BDSM Master = DOMINANT To be Anabel's BDSM Master, Jeremy would have to be the dominant, and Anabel the submissive.

Why is Jeremy being dominated by his submissive, added on top of that masochism? Anabel wouldn't be trained in offering these things, nor of the correct nature to administer it. Pages later, when Travis and Jeremy meet face-to-face, Travis' inner monologue has Jeremy as a submissive, cuddly butterball. Sweet. Excuse me? The author just told the reader Jeremy was not only a dominant personality, but one trained to be a BDSM MASTER.

The story is basically about two middle-age dominant males – #1 Hot and successful, #2 Not and unemployed – with #1 treating #2 as a submissive, yet this trained dominant male submits without issue. To clear this up, it would have been better to state that Anabel was the BDSM Master, and Jeremy was her submissive. Because nowhere in the rest of the book, does Jeremy exhibit any dominant tendencies. In fact, insecurity is attributed to being submissive, as if that doesn't universally plague most people.

I need to also add, being dominant doesn't mean you treat others as if they are beneath you. An A$$hole, in thought and in action. Also, being male doesn't mean you're dominant, and female submissive. Going by what was told vs shown, it would have made more sense for Anabel to be the dominant and Jeremy the submissive from the get-go (even still, she shouldn't be spreading their private information around).

After reading the blurb, thinking I'd find an empowering story where a larger man comes to terms with who he truly is, instead it's a BDSM story with conflicting tenets of the lifestyle, where the hotter guy makes the insecure guy feel worse about himself. What I took away from it, "You're a butterball, so you're the submissive one, even if you're a trained BDSM Master." Fat = submissive.

Thrown in there are abusive pasts, horrible parents, half-owning a gay club, BDSM, closeted dominant (submissive?!?), volunteering at a LGBTQ group... and then some. Just too much without truly developing (researching) solid plot devices.

I was hoping for a realistic book about how body size isn't an indicator on beauty. Size is measurable, beauty is not. To bring a meme into this that I saw last week. "I'm Fat." "No, you're beautiful." "Did I say I was ugly?" Fat doesn't equate ugly, and I had hoped this book would draw that to light. Instead it hammered home the fact that it was indeed pitiable. The butterball character was written in an ugly fashion, and I don't mean his weight. Scenes where he was spineless, gluttonous, and lazy. It's hard to like a character who comes off as pitiful.

I have other thoughts, but those were mirrored in other reviews I read. Such as how bottoming doesn't equate submission, just as topping doesn't equate dominance. Some gay men don't do penetrative sex. Sex isn't a BDSM activity, even when it's used in conjunction with kink. There are many BDSM practices that are nonsexual in nature, so to equate the sexual position one takes...

Yes, I am slightly overweight, and know many overweight people, all of which deserve love, are in solid relationships, are physically beautiful, and successful in life. Just as I've known many thinner people who don't have their lives together. Neither is better or worse than the other, which is what I thought the book would be about, instead of harmful stereotypes.

Long known as a bookseller and reviewer under moniker of Mystique Books, author Michelle King finally put her side projects aside, picked up a pen, and set about writing the books she loves. Her talent is the ability to cross genre lines and hybridize romance novels. Her passion is FF&P romance novels, specifically futuristic romance. The idea of exploring how we are and how we love while dancing among the stars is something she finds endlessly fascinating.

A graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program of Writing Popular Fiction, Michelle is often found typing away on her keyboard while surrounded by the beauty and glory of the Pacific Northwest. She also spends time supporting her fellow SHU and Amber Quill alumni as well as her local writing chapters and aspiring authors. She is caretaker of a cabal of monstrously spoiled cats.

Connect with Michelle

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Butterball (Portland's Men #1) by Michelle King to read and review.

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