Easy Ryder, Deanna Wadsworth
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Erotic Romance
Tags: Retro Read – 1976, Coming of Age, Cross Country, Biker, Abusive Family
Length: 228 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
“I want to be happy. Accepted,” I whispered, sounding pathetic. “It’s so lonely being hated for something I can’t help.”
It’s 1976, and it’s the Independence Day Bicentennial weekend. Michael Ryder is eighteen and normally he looks forward to the Fourth of July celebrations. Not this year. He won’t be at home and things have gained a somewhat different clarity for him. You learn more as the book progresses about the reasons behind that ‘clarity.’ But one thing you do know is that he isn’t feeling all warm and fuzzy about something that he used to look forward to with his family –
As a white boy who liked to suck cock, I sure as hell was not equal. Therefore the Bicentennial did not inspire in me the same patriotic fervour it did in the rest of my fellow countrymen. How could it when I had to live in secret, being hated and scorned for how I had been born?
Michael has run away from home in Windber, Eastern Pennsylvania, and he is hitch hiking to California. His family have found out he is gay and they are none to happy. He remembers seeing something on the TV about Harvey Milk, gay men banding together, and The Castro before his mother turned it off all the while complaining about “faggots.” This is what Michael wants. He dreams of acceptance and one day being able to love someone and be loved in return, To not have to act anymore. To just be him. So Michael is on his way to San Francisco, hitching rides off truckers in return for blowjobs and some cash. The latest, Karl, has given him Twenty dollars and dropped him at a local truck stop in Indiana when he sees the sexiest, yet scariest, guy he’s ever laid eyes on. A tattooed biker with a menace about him. But, damn, he is fine.
Michael has other pressing things on his mind, though. He isn’t sure how he will make it to his final destination. The prospects for a ride don’t look good at the truck stop. Michael heads back out to the road to hitch hike when he notices that the sexy-as-sin, but scary, tattooed biker is having some problems starting his Harley. Against his better judgement, and because he loves all things mechanical, Michael speaks to him about wet points, and other things Harley. From here a short exchange ensues until Michael knows he has to keep moving. Out on the road, several cars pass –
When the customised Harley slowed and parked ten feet in front of me, my jaw dropped. I stared in shock at the beautiful back and those tattooed arms, the long denim legs wrapped around all that steel and chrome.
He was offering me a ride?
Turns out the biker is on his way to Albuquerque for a job “slinging ink” and can take Michael with him. Along the way Michael starts wondering whether he will be rolled or beaten by this biker and his body hidden…but, oh, the sex appeal and the magnetism is so strong and raw Michael wants a taste. Who wouldn’t want to hold onto this sexy man and head off towards his dream of a freer life? One where people are like him in. One in San Francisco –
Fate had been smiling today when it put this man in my path. Albuquerque was so close to San Francisco I felt like I was already there, basking in the sunshine and surrounded by hundreds of men like me. All of us happy and relaxed.
All of us free to be ourselves.
And to add to the mystique, to the worry, to the adventure about his choice to go with Snake –
Traveling at such a breakneck speed, I had to wonder if the man was on the run, desperate to get away from something or someone chasing him. Then again, maybe he just liked the thrill or wanted to scare me.
Contradictory to its name, Easy Ryder is not such an easy book to review. There are layers to the book as you progress. Michael wants to be out. He wants to have freedoms afforded heterosexuals and he doesn’t want to feel this fucked-up guilt that has been peddled his way for as long as he can remember. And he does feel it. Michael has come from a family with problems – a father who has been laid-off from the mines, drinks too much, and beats the living daylights out of his kids. His older brother their protector, until he came back from Vietnam, now joins his father. His mother is full of Catholic guilt and judgement and has let her husband terrorise Michael for a lot of his young life along with her particular brand of ‘love’ – telling him to act in “non-gay” or “non fruit” ways – don’t cross your legs, it isn’t manly. Act straight(er). But it all goes to hell when he is caught with his friend, Tommy –
They had waited until I fell asleep. My father and brother snatched me from my childhood bedroom in the dead of night, violently forcing me to leave behind any innocent notion of love and acceptance from family. As they dragged me to the barn, I learned how evil prejudice could be at the hands of my own kin. I’d been on the receiving end of the old man’s belt more than I cared to think about. I believe now, he’d always suspected I was queer and hit me harder because of it. But on that day, I did not face a cruel, domineering disciplinarian. Instead, I met a man full of real hatred….
I held onto the delusion Mom would come and help me, but she never did.
Michael had broken ribs, nose, and the final physical scars to go along with psychological scars invested into his soul by a heartless and toxic family. So, he is on that bike with Snake full throttle going to somewhere that seems so much better then small town Pennsylvania and its hate.
Snake is enigmatic. A contradiction in terms – tough but sensitive, sure but doubting. He lets his guard down very, very slowly in the book in regards to his own life but fragments do come out, piece by piece. Initially Michael is not sure what to make of his ride across America on this Bicentennial weekend. Sure, they have sex, sure, there are moments of tenderness. But he has learned that fear and hatred permeate so many, even those like his home-town best friend and quasi-lover Tommy, about being gay. What about Snake –
What had the war done to this man? Had it made him unforgiving and as cruel as my once-loving brother? Had it warped him into someone like my old man, the angry vengeful vet who brought me into the world and often threated to be the one to take me out of it? I knew nothing about this biker or how he really felt about sex with other men. Was he another Tommy, fighting his nature and consumed with self-loathing? Would he take it out on me, too, with a rage fertilized by nameless battles in a foreign land?
Snake has his own family issues, plus five tours in Nam, not to mention post Nam, and there is a story to tell about them all. I’m not always into non-communicative leads but twenty four year old Snake is something else – world weary, sexy, protective, caring, strong, at times insecure, infuriating, but always someone you can sink your teeth into and admire. He is street-wise and recognises and appreciates the innocent that Michael is. Snake is one of those men people find hard to pick as anything but straight – a tattooed ex vet with a Harley and a very masculine veneer. And Michael thinks that that would blow his mother’s mind – that fruits can be non-stereotypical and live among them undetected. But Michael is more obvious – pretty, more feminine. Snake keeps a baseball bat in is his gear because he “fights to win, dirty or not,” and he trusts no one. Something Michael finds out to be the truth with another hard life-lesson in Missouri when a gang decides they don’t like “fags” like Michael in their good, Christian town.
After Snake’s brand of justice in Missouri they are both in a bit of a hurry to get away as fast as they can with threats of retribution hurled their way from some nasty arseholes. As they travel more over the weekend it becomes clear that Snake could already be involved in something shady and why he’s going where he is may not exactly be as he says it is. There is always an air of danger around the man, he lets little pass his lips. He also has a duffel bag he carries everywhere and Michael finds it odd that even when they go into a diner’s restroom to have sex Snake takes it in with him. It never leaves his side and the only time it does, Michael feels the temptation to check it out.
There is action when the two men are on the road, secrets come out, and emotions are stripped and exposed. And there’s plenty of sex…which is inventive every time. Michael is drawing closer to Snake and the closer they draw to New Mexico the more he wants Snake to come to San Francisco with him. He cares, he is starting to love Snake but how to get him to reciprocate. He’s pretty sure Snake feels deeply for him too. But he doesn’t count on Snake’s denials –
For my part, I had always known I would leave Pennsylvania and the closed-minded people I grew up with, but it wasn’t until I met Snake that I realized the kind of man I wanted to be. I found it ironic he had been the one to give me the final push, the courage to identify my own path in life when he could not do the same.
Easy Ryder is told solely from Michael Ryder’s POV, but absolutely nothing is lacking because of this. Both characters came through loud and clear. The characters both showed so much emotion and passion. Snake is so tender at times, so supportive –
Then he did the strangest thing. He hugged me. So stunned by the kind gesture, for a moment I didn’t move, didn’t breathe. “It’s okay, kid,” he cooed, rocking me. “I won’t let anybody hurt you, I promise. You hear me?” He gave me a tight squeeze, his tender words touching me deeper than his embrace. With a sob, I melted into his arms, “Nobody’s gonna hurt you, not while I’m around,” he promised. “It’s okay, I got you.”
The book’s title is a great play on a classic movie, the era, the Harley, Snake, and Michael Ryder. It captures the feel of the period well – a hangover from the sixties, newer freedoms but still plenty conservative enough to be uptight with plenty of prejudices around, and those that like to do something about them. The freedom to have sex without condoms, pre HIV/AIDS, and the lack of technology to get away with certain things and be able to move around with some more freedom than today is apparent. Some of the 70’s vernacular used, the style of dress, the cars driven, and the pop culture of the time were well used to paint a picture without the author leaning heavily on anything in particular – outside of the mood and the Harley.
I loved both Michael and Snake. The intensity of the relationship, though only over a weekend, rang true for me. They were so different yet they had a common thread even if one was in denial and one was youthfully idealistic about it. It is a joy to read a book where I can relate to both of the characters. I wont forget either in a hurry.
Easy Ryder has a really interesting story line and I roared through my Kindle to find out what would happen, how they would get to their particular ending. Okay, I also have to say this. If you are looking for a sweeter romance type of read then maybe Easy Ryder won’t be for you. The book is gritty and edgier in parts. It is also quite the erotic story,and, yes, there is a bit of sex here, which never felt forced. There is some stronger sex talk and terminology in Easy Ryder – I loved it, felt it was true to the nature and character of the book and the times. It was smoking hot – from the first time Snake put Michael’s hand down his pants while he was riding the Harley, when they didn’t even know each other’s names, until the very end. I was on board with what they did – where, why, and how often –
This was my greatest fantasy come to life. It hadn’t been the same when I undid Tommy’s jeans. He’d just been another boy. This was a man. His groin area was lighter skinned than his chest, but his huge veiny cock had grown dark with blood and lust. Unable to fathom the beauty of it, the massive size, and the fact I was touching it, I pumped it a few times. He allowed me to play, to admire for a moment, then gently guided me onto my knees. With a sigh, I knew what he asked for. Damn, I wanted to give it, too.
But the stretch, the fullness, felt so damn good I knew in my heart that my body had been made to be filled this way. My arse was meant to be a hole for a cock. For Snake’s cock.
I have to say that Deanna Wadsworth writes smoking hot sex, complete with dirty talking, dirty thinking and down and dirty men – in the best possible way!
If I had to pick on one thing in this book it’s that I would have liked an epilogue, OR I would love a follow up short on Snake and Michael.
If you like a M/M set back in time, if you like hot, raw sex, if you like coming-of-age stories, if you like a sexy and sensitive alpha, if you like a good story with plenty to fuel your desire to find out more, then I highly recommend Easy Ryder.
I want to end by saying that is one fabulous cover. Kudos to the cover artist, Paul Richmond.
This book was supplied to me by the publisher, Dreampsinner Press, in return for an honest review.