Title: Rules of Engagement
Series: Rules of Engagement, Book 1
Author: L.A. Witt
Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy from publisher
Published: November 2009 by Dreamspinner Press
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.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: I adored the first 188 pages of this book. I loved the emotionally charged erotic romance and both leads. I *detested* the final 27 pages so much and I can’t tell you why without spoiling the book!
The Set Up: Dustin is finally divorcing his controlling, cheating wife of ten years. He’s trying to find some fun at a local bar when Brandon challenges him to a game of pool. The men have an instant attraction but what happens when a one-night stand becomes more, especially for previously heterosexual Dustin?
Why I Read this Book: I’m always prowling Goodreads “best of” lists and this books makes many lists of best MM romance so thought I’d try it.
What I Liked: I was shocked at how much I loved the first person narration of this book. I normally hate first person, especially in erotic romance since it feels so lopsided. Here Dustin narrates the book and romance and as this is his journey, it’s powerful to watch his attraction to Brandon, as well as his feelings about rediscovering his sexuality. Plus, this is written so well that Brandon has some emotional scenes toward novel’s end telling Dustin what he can and can’t accept in a relationship. Brandon’s lust, love and pain shows through despite Dustin’s first person narration. This made the narration perfect for me.
What I Also Liked: I also liked that though this is an extremely erotic romance, it has a ton of emotional intimacy and humor as well. I love well written erotica but combined with characters sharing their feelings, hopes and dreams, it makes for a powerful romance. Plus, Brandon and Dustin have joy and humor together. They bond over pool and love to attempt to outsmart each other. I think they have an intellectual love affair as well as a physical one and that’s part of what makes this a stellar romance. And other readers will be like me and love the naughty game of showing up at each other’s work!
What I Didn’t Like: First, the emotional denouement between Dustin and Brandon is too rushed. It happens in mere paragraphs and I felt cheated. The second and largest reason I *detested* this book’s ending I can’t tell you! I’m not trying to be cryptic but if I tell it could spoil the book. I will just say it has to do with Dustin figuring out his sexuality. In fact, I’m not sure I’d have read the book if I knew what happens would happen. It’s that much of a button pusher for me in a romance novel. And what makes me even angrier is that in my opinion the author could have accomplished the same thing without doing the thing she did. Combining this “thing” with the rushed romantic conclusion and I wanted to cry at novel’s end. This book was so awesome for 188 pages and then for it to totally derail in the last 27 pages made me livid.
IMO: I want to highly recommend this book but I’m so conflicted with the ending. There is a sequel but it takes place two years after this one so I’m going to read it but without hope that it will offer the resolution I wanted, especially since it’s Brandon’s story of reconnecting with his family and told first-person by him. I will review the sequel here and include if it alters my conflicted opinion of this first book.