Title: Open Seating
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 204 Pages
At a Glance: I had a really hard time with this book, but I made myself finish it—and I do mean made. And, I was left with the feeling that it was ok.
Reviewed By: Carrie
Blurb: Seth Wilder lost his partner of twenty years to suicide two weeks before a long-anticipated cruise. Cancellation insurance was never purchased, and Seth can’t get a refund. Bryce McFarland, his late partner’s gym buddy, appreciates his predicament, and when asked, agrees to accompany him on the trip. This way, Seth recoups the money and doesn’t have to cancel his plans. The gesture is unexpected but accepted gratefully.
The two men have nothing in common. Seth is a reclusive romance writer, and Bryce is a hard-core Grindr user with major commitment issues. Out of necessity and despite the seemingly insurmountable differences in personality, they develop a tentative rapport. As they begin their journey through the UK, Bryce helps Seth come to terms with his partner’s sudden death while Seth, in turn, discovers the root cause of Bryce’s phobia.
Shipboard romances rarely work. Sensible men resist, sexual tension notwithstanding. But a full moon and late summer breezes lend themselves to the impossible situation, barriers are crossed, and a love affair is kindled.
Review: This is the toughest kind of review for me. I had a really hard time with this book, but I made myself finish it—and I do mean made. And, I was left with the feeling that it was ok. There were just too many things, hard lines I have that got compromised.
Seth is self-absorbed to the extreme, to the point he doesn’t see when his boyfriend of twenty years cannot even walk across the kitchen floor without falling. REALLY? He doesn’t take responsibility for anything in his and Mark’s life, not even getting food for himself. REALLY? And I am supposed to like this guy and hope he finds someone else? Seth doesn’t even like Bryce, hasn’t for years, and frankly, Bryce hasn’t liked him either, for years. I can get over the going on a cruise thing; if I was grieving I might want to get away also, and give myself time to come to terms with my loss. I cannot, however, get over all of a sudden feeling a connection with a man you hate as you sit on a toilet with IBS—which is described in a little too much detail—after your partner of twenty years died two weeks ago.
Bryce is a narcissist, consumed with the way he looks. He is also a bit of a sex addict and can’t keep it in his pants for fifteen minutes straight. He is a responsible businessman, I will give him that, so we get the idea that when Bryce wants to be responsible, he can. It’s just not often. Bryce is actually the saving grace of this pair. While he didn’t like Seth much before going on this cruise, admittedly he only knew what his friend Mark let him know, which wasn’t much. The Seth he sees is so much more than Mark ever let him be, and it is Bryce’s refusal to coddle Seth that convinces Seth to finally blossom. However, Bryce doesn’t ever grieve for his best friend. The book is about Seth’s grief, and Bryce doesn’t ever act like he just lost his best(?) friend. REALLY?
I didn’t even like the dead guy. Mark was a huge part of this book, and his own choices were not stellar ones. We get the idea that Mark and Seth’s relationship wasn’t healthy in a lot of ways. It couldn’t have been since it was that brokenness that sets the tone for a more positive and cohesive communion between Seth and Bryce. Bryce refuses to be another Mark, and that is understandable, but I have a problem with the premise that Seth’s previous relationship had to have such gaping flaws in it for this new relationship with Bryce to work.
So, how did it end up that the book was ok? Both men are good for each other. I would say that Bryce is just what Seth needs at this point in time. Is this a HEA? I am really not sure. I am not sure you can make that leap of faith with these two. It is a HFN and that makes it more palatable. I have a hard time believing that in “real life”, which a cruise ship is definitely not, that these men will be able to overcome their fundamental differences—not to mention lifetimes of bad habits. By the end of the book, I understood these men, the choices they made to get them where they are. I may (and I do mean may) even read the next book in the series; there are supposed to be three. But this also makes the story more acceptable when it is supposed to be just the opening volley for these two. I am glad I finished it, but I will have to talk myself into the next one.
You can buy Open Seating here: