Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Outside the Lines by A.R. Barley

Falling for the drag queen next door

Mitch Dalton can't stop fantasizing about his sexy and confident drag queen neighbor. He wants to make a move, but he's had a lot less experience with men and isn't sure Chi-Chi would be interested in a guy who's never gone all the way—let alone a widower and struggling single father. And when Mitch's child care falls through, he needs Chi-Chi's help more than he needs a boyfriend.

Chi-Chi Ramirez has his own struggles: getting his degree one class at a time, working too many jobs and performing at a nightclub to make his Broadway dreams come true. Mitch's offer of a nanny position is too good to pass up, even if seeing Mitch every day and not being able to touch him is torture. But when even a simple handshake feels like pure sex, soon touching is all either of them can think about.

A one-night stand, a quick fling—that's all Chi-Chi can give if he's going to leave town for New York City. But once they finally get a taste of each other, what if Mitch wants more?

Add to Goodreads

Book 3
Buy Links

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is the third in a series, and I have to admit the first that I have read. I did look at the blurb for the first two to give me reassurance that it would be okay as a standalone, and it was. I am sure that I missed some nuance, but the story still worked well.

This is a good read, basically about a very flawed dad and a sexy, extremely helpful neighbour. I enjoyed the story, although at times did wonder whether Mitch could really be so hapless, and how he survived so long as a single dad. Chi-Chi was a wonderful character, deeply affected up by his past and his nature, and always so clued in to what would be the right thing to do. He deserved nothing but the best. As the two of them dance a fine line, it is all too obvious how things can go wrong, yet one is hoping that it could just for a change go right.

I thought Mitch's children were brilliantly written and for a lot of the time, the highlight of the book for me – they were the glue that kept the men together.

Will look out for future installments and plan on finding the time to go back and read the whole series to get further insights.

Chi-Chi is a wonderful character and I loved the clash of cultures that happens when Mitch and Chi-Chi’s very different worlds collide. Unfortunately, this ends up as the story of a brave, original human being being moulded into a suburban Stepford Wife. At the start of the story, Chi-Chi is preparing to take his drag act to Broadway. By the end, he is driving carpool and making muffins.

I really struggled with Mitch. There were brief moments that he appeared to appreciate and respect Chi-Chi, but it is ultimately Chi-Chi who makes all of the compromises in this story. Mitch himself is entirely forgettable. His kids are cute, his in-laws are difficult, and I’m struggling to remember much of anything else about him.

What annoys me most is that Mitch’s outdated ideas of a relationship between an important breadwinner and a grateful homemaker are excused because this is a relationship between two men. The antiquated story of a male professor falling for the female nanny who keeps his home tidy and children happy would have been offensive in 2016. But somehow, by exchanging the female nanny for a somewhat gender fluid drag queen, readers are expected to enjoy the same story.

Hmm. I kept waiting for Mitch to sacrifice something. For him to encourage Chi-Chi’s dreams even a little. But no. Chi-Chi gives up far too much of himself and readers are expected to empathise when Mitch exposes himself to potential humiliation by forcing himself to publicly acknowledge his own boyfriend.

So. Chi-Chi is fabulous. His performances, his costumes, his friends, his heroic effort to make ends meet, and his determination to follow his dreams make him an unforgettable character. His relationships with Mitch’s kids are wonderful. But Mitch is bland, suburban, and living in a closeted, heteronormative time warp.

Unfortunately I don’t really call it a happily ever after when one character throws away a lifetime of dreams and aspirations to be with a vaguely closeted man who still seems a little bit embarrassed by his boyfriend’s flamboyance.

A.R. Barley has been a book lover since day one. She has a to-be-read list a mile long and an ebook addiction she’s failing to hide from her loved ones. She wrote her first book—a drama about a family of balloons—in kindergarten and hasn’t stopped writing since. She also writes under the name Aleah Barley.

A.R. Barley writes funny, heartfelt romance for everyone while living in Detroit, Michigan, and exploring everything it has to offer. She has a husband who supports her in everything she does, a Labrador who sleeps at her feet and a cat who is plotting to take over the world.

Connect with A.R.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Outside the Lines (Boundaries #3) by A.R. Barley to read and review.

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