bare by Lynn Kelling
Publisher: Fantastic Fiction
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Coming of Age, Religious Undertones, Master-Slave Relationship, Lighter Lynn Kelling Reading (but with depth), Psychological – Reparative Therapy, Family
Length: 97,000 Words
Reviewer: Kazza K
Ev Myers is a former high school football star and Republican State Senator’s son, raised in a strict Southern Baptist household where his only option was to be silent, behave and, no matter how he might be feeling, to put on a happy smile. Desperate to escape the pressure to be the man his family insists he become, Ev has fled Kansas to attend college and is working to find out who he really is beneath the lies and carefully composed public image. But when he applies for a job as a nude model for a life drawing class out of a desire to be seen in a way that shatters all of his family’s taboos, it’s just the first step on a path that leads him away from everything he’s ever known. Handsome and headstrong adjunct arts professor, Adam Buchanan, is the first person to recognize Ev’s potential, and his determination to have Ev realize the importance of truth and stark honesty, as well as the beauty of flawed vulnerability provides the hope Ev needs to escape a world rife with kidnapping, brainwashing and deadly determination cure homosexuality, using whatever means necessary.
[M/M – See publisher’s website for content labels.]
In spite of this in the blurb – provides the hope Ev needs to escape a world rife with kidnapping, brainwashing and deadly determination cure homosexuality, using whatever means necessary – this is one of Lynn Kelling’s lighter reads. It’s also one of the most erotic, and given Lynn Kelling writes some pretty steamy books, that’s saying something. There is a lot of sex in bare but if fits within the framework of a young guy from Kansas finding his sexual identity and path with a slightly older guy – Adam is twenty five to Ev’s nineteen.
Evelyn left Kansas to study business at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, effectively getting him away from his religious, State Senator father and his enabling mother. Seeing his cousin James smiling like an automaton on Facebook, soon to be married to a woman, Ev knows that’s not James. He knows what went down with his cousin as he was also impacted. James changed after being taken away by The Pathway to Manhood, a reparative therapy group linked to his church.
He’s glad he’s away from a town and family where he doesn’t fit. However, Ev struggles finding a fit anywhere. His roommate and friend Leo hassles him a little about things, and when Ev takes a flyer for nude modelling in an art class, Leo is a little disapproving. But Ev is built in more ways than one and he (guiltily) likes the idea of people looking at his body and his cock. But no matter what, Ev doesn’t feel like he can share much about himself to anyone. He plays a lot close to his chest, his thoughts, his desires. Leo is an interesting secondary character. He isn’t quite who he seems to be at first. Once the book progressed I saw things more clearly. I felt like Leo was a natural fit as a roommate for Ev, someone Ev would gravitate to, but I’m not expanding on that further.
Adam is a wealthy (sometimes art teacher) artist. When he spots Ev naked in one of the campus run art classes, he approaches him after class about modelling for him as well. He has a theme for an upcoming exhibition about exposing the vulnerability in male sexuality and he likes what he sees in Ev. He pays more for modelling than the college art classes and Ev is interested, albeit nervous. Art class with a professor and multiple students seems less intimate than being naked with one, very attractive man and Ev can’t go there, can he?
The whole fascination with John had been a fluke, or so Ev had thought. It was an ego trip. It didn’t mean he was gay. To feel similarly curious about the redhead scared Ev a little.
I won’t bang on about the plot. It’s pretty typical, I guess, but Lynn Kelling adds a good layer to her characters, she makes them connect, and there is always something meaningful and interesting in her storytelling and writing. Just the names Adam and Ev are telling.
At the heart of this book is a coming of age for Ev and an acceptance of self, but also a master-slave dynamic, and while I’ve gone off a lot of BDSM I still find a good master-slave story compelling. Lynn Kelling is also sensitive but true to the dynamic of the story being told, so that worked well for me.
The MCs are both incredibly likeable guys and they balance each other out perfectly. I liked Ev a whole lot, no matter what he may have believed, he was brave, and once he embraced himself completely I liked him even more. Adam was a good match, he was patient yet he challenged the deeply ingrained fears Ev had in a manner that worked for Ev and ultimately for them both. I liked that Adam saw this physically strong body but also a softness within Ev. Adam was calm, in charge and centring. Since people who grow up in controlling environments are often created from the outside in emotionally – their parental authority figures dictating what and who to be. Not allowing them to think for or be themselves. What they say is wrong, their emotions incorrect, the ideas they have are guilted into submission creating an inability to understand themselves. Ev was well written and believable. Adam allowed Ev to understand himself while providing Adam with a partner who fulfilled his physical desires and emotional needs as well. It was a wonderful match.
The statement about reparative therapy, that some people still try to explain it away as a correction to a sickness, a paraphilia. That religion considers it a sin and a lifestyle choice; that there are those who still believe this an effective ‘treatment’ for homosexuality, is a total abomination. The damage reparative therapy causes young people (on to adulthood) cannot be underestimated. It is nothing but abuse. You are born the way you are. Religion and the cherry-picking of scriptures from a book written by men a long time ago, the hate that it can spawn, does a lot of harm to the psyches of people and is divisive. That’s my two cents worth. While this aspect is a backbone to the story, it isn’t maudlin or dwelt on, rather it makes the reader understand Ev’s reluctance at being “gay” or bi, as he may well be. Hope and love and care are more to the fore while showing why Ev struggles with, is fearful of, his sexual identity. Not knowing how to trust himself.
No two ways about it, the sex in bare is hot. Probably H.O.T! would describe it with the right amount of emphasis. The sexual encounters Adam and Ev engage in are primal, boundary pushing, for Ev, and loving. All mixed well to create steam that fairly fogs up the e-reader but is also a well written part of the overall concept. I have to admit the initial build was incredibly tantalising, electrically charged, I really wanted that to last a bit longer. Having said that, once they got down to the physical discovery it was scorching. There is a lot of arse play and fingering in this book, I say that because I really noticed it and you may or may not like that. There is an… inventive use of cum too. And Ev’s cock? A big work of art in itself. So, yes, it’s highly erotic, the character emotion and thoughts added to the heat and sexual pairing.
This book ties in with the Society of Masters universe. I’ve only read a couple from that series so there’s no issue if you haven’t read any of them before bare. They seem to centre around a dominant-submissive/master-slave dynamic with a wealthy dominant/master who is very much in control while being supportive, kind and loving. Adam takes Ev’s hand and guides the boy out of a dysfunctional and confusing upbringing, complete with a rigid hometown, into being a young man with more self-awareness and confidence. Ev gives Adam someone and something specific he needs for happiness.
I have this weird relationship with Lynn Kelling’s books, and I’ve read a few of them. I always start out thinking I’m not gelling with the MCs, it was the same here. Then it just happens, bam!, chemistry. I definitely fell for Adam and Evelyn. They are good together, their love and chemistry and requirements, and I actually wouldn’t mind more of them, but I’m apprehensive wanting that. No matter what, this book will remain a re-reader. There is a lot of heart and soul in the words of bare. It is as its name suggests, a stripped open piece of writing. It’s also sexually charged, but with good reason. Everything was organic, and as anyone who reads my reviews knows, I’m definitely not against people doing sexy things to and with each other in my reading.
My overall rating for a book with depth which is still easy to read. For the working through of issues, for communication, for happy, sexy times, for a win over arseholes who want to tempt you to the wrong side, always for the wrong, heavily indoctrinated reasons, and for very good writing – 5 Stars!
Our Tumblr for some extra zing. (NSFW)
ARC supplied by the author in exchange for an honest review. Since bought a copy.