Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 726 Pages
At a Glance: Four great novels make for such enjoyable reading that I can highly recommend this lovely bundle to you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Sometimes you have to seek something better than what you already have… In Better Than Good, Matt Sullivan never thought he’d have a need to question the labels he’s used all his life, until he meets Aaron Mendez, a man who doesn’t believe in labels. In Better Than Chance, Jay Reynolds is falling for his sexy boss Peter Morgan, but can Jay be happy with what Peter can offer? In Better Than Friends, Curt Townsend and Jack Farinelli develop an unexpected friendship based on their mutual love of baseball, but is that enough to become even closer? In Better Than Safe, Paul Fallon, a fashion advertising guru, deals with enough chaos in his working life; he doesn’t need more when he goes home at the end of the day. Quirky, flighty, and wise beyond his years, Seth Landau challenges Paul’s ideas of safety and might just tempt him into taking a chance.
Review: The Better Than series, by Lane Hayes, is like your favorite box of chocolates: each one is a little different, but they all are just so satisfying when you’re craving something simple and sweet. Just like those confections, there is a formula that this author follows in all four books that you might think would get boring due to the repetition. However, the real genius here is that each character this author creates is so complex and well written that one never really focuses on the fact that every story runs pretty much the same course: boy meets boy, both boys are attracted, one wants to be just friends, one boy falls hard, and conflict arises.
Admittedly there are a few things in these stories that gave me pause—for instance, a tendency toward some interesting descriptions of a man’s penis that bordered on purple prose—“throbbing member” comes quickly to mind. Yes, it’s a bit over the top and, unfortunately, used in every one of the books, but those intimate scenes were so intense at times one never focused on that type of eye-rolling descriptor for very long. Also the theme of one lover not wanting to commit while the other falls hard, and continually berates himself for not keeping it simple, is the premise in each one of these novels. Again, this did not bother me at all. I loved seeing how Lane Hayes gave this thematic spine new life in each of her selections, and she did not disappoint. Each couple is so well sketched—three dimensional and realistic—that their path to a happy ever after was somehow unique despite the same plot premise.
I also think there was a tendency for repetition in the inner dialogue of whichever character was struggling with keeping the relationship, or lack thereof, on a friends-with-benefits basis. This, too, was a common theme in the novels and perhaps because I read all four back to back, it seemed to get old after a while, but I still think there was mention of it once too often in all four books. Lastly, the unbelievably handsome men that kept popping up as main characters felt rather trite after a while. I understand that some of the “drop dead gorgeous guy meets fairly less handsome dude” trope was necessary to give a bit more angst to the stories, but honestly, by the last one I was hoping for just two Average Joes discovering their love for each other.
So there are the few nitpicky things I could come up with that stood out, but none of them can take away from the fact that Lane Hayes is absolutely superb at crafting characters with depth and charisma. It’s more than just them being likable guys; instead, you are drawn to these men due to the author’s ability to craft a story that is believable and entertaining. You end up rooting for some and, alternately, want to slap some of them upside the head before long. Real people, this is the strength of a Lane Hayes novel: decent, caring, witty, and oh so human with all the foibles and problems most of us deal with every day. From Matt’s struggle to figure out whether he is bisexual or actually gay, to both Peter and Paul’s struggle to get past bad relationships that left them wounded and fragile, these eight men storm off the page and right into the reader’s heart.
At the end of the day, these men become a family to each other, a network of support and often a sage and realistic voice of reason when it is needed most. From the flighty and flirtatious Aaron, to Jay and Seth, to the older and thoughtful Jack, to Paul and Peter, we watch relationships grow and develop over a span of time—no instant love, no immediate gelling of personalities. No, these guys must work for the stability they so desperately seek in a partner. Matt and Curt round out the group with a sweet and self-deprecating attitude that tugs at your heart over and over again. And because this author is so adept at weaving a story, you find yourself eating these novels up—just like a delicious box of chocolates should be enjoyed.
Four great novels, Better Than Good, Better Than Chance, Better Than Friends and Better Than Safe, make for such enjoyable reading that I can highly recommend this lovely bundle to you.
You can buy The Better Than Bundle here: