Title: The Second First Date
Author: Marie Lark
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 124 Pages
At a Glance: All in all, an enjoyable read and an intriguing exploration of coming out, being gay, and living honestly.
Reviewed By: Taz
Blurb: After years of an unrequited crush and exchanged secret looks, Mitchel Finch and Danny Rojas had one weekend of sex and self-discovery at a friend’s wedding. But when the morning after came, Danny got to return to his life in Philadelphia while Mitchel was left to deal with the fallout of publicly defending Danny from his high school bullies. He wasn’t quite dragged out of the closet, but he’s clinging to the door frame with the tips of his fingers and stubbornness.
Having grown up terrorized for his sexuality, Danny can’t imagine Mitchel ever choosing to be with him–even if the nights they shared were the most intensely amazing of his life. He knows Mitchel won’t risk his life or position in their small home town. No matter what Danny hopes for, he doesn’t expect they’ll get another shot.
Now, after weeks apart, they have two nights to explore their feelings for each other without fear of discovery or consequences. Is it enough to pull Mitchel out of hiding–and to convince Danny their connection is deeper than sex?
It’s all riding on their second chance at a first date.
Review: The Second First Date is a novella that follows two men from a small town in rural Pennsylvania. One is the town hero, the boy next door who has it all: a star baseball player, the hottest girlfriend, and popularity. Life would be perfect for a guy like this, right? The other is the flagrantly gay boy who everyone hated, taunted, and even abused physically as well.
When two characters of such different backgrounds and experiences connect, the magnetism and sexiness seems magnified and, to a degree, that was the case in this book. These were two unlikely people to come together and make a go of it. Part of the challenge was how different a place each one is in their lives. One had been out forever, while the other is just now coming to terms with his sexuality—exploring it in a physical way but never embracing the emotional side of loving another man. Still, Ms. Lark does a good job of building each character enough so we can really get inside their head and understand the progression of their internal struggle.
For me, Danny was a fantastic character. He had the courage to be who he was when he was younger, in an environment being gay was dangerous. As an adult, he lived responsibly yet unapologetically, and had a realistic view of the world. Yet, he still had dreams of having it all. He still believed his dreams could come true.
Mitchel was also a likable guy. First he stuck up for the gay kid back in high school, which started the whole rumor mill about his own sexuality. Then he managed to pry his closet open and step out into the world, breaking up with his girlfriend and exploring a truer side of himself. When he reflects on his life, he describes himself as living at 50%, only allowing half of himself to shine through. He admits that living this way hurt not only him but others who tied themselves to him. He even says at one point, “50% was a failing grade no matter how you cut it.” I particularly liked this analogy. Mitchel’s honesty made up for some of the crappy reactions he had throughout the story.
The sex was piping hot and very explicit and evocative. Each moment and touch came to life on the page, wrought with both emotion and sensation. Some books gloss over the sex or throw it in too much so that it takes away from the story. Not the case here. The sex is not only arousing, but also helps us to understand the characters and their relationship with one another even better.
I would definitely recommend this book but perhaps with a slight caution. At the end, I didn’t have that sweep-you-off-your-feet sense of celebration. I felt Mitchel still had a long way to go to be able to leap to the resolution he did. I was happy for the way things ended, but would have preferred to see Mitchel go through a bit more self-revelation before the book wound down to its conclusion. When I got to the last chapter, I wondered how the author would wrap everything up in a way that makes me believe each character is truly meant for the other. Had Mitchel reconciled his home life with the truth about himself, and living 100% (especially after his admission of living 50%), I would have felt much more satisfied, but that would have required that this novella extend to a longer novel.
Mitchel still has obstacles before he’s likely ready to enter a relationship that has a good chance of lasting. Bottom line is that Daniel and Mitchel are in different places, and I would anticipate they would have issues because of it. But the ending is left open enough that we, the readers, aren’t completely sure where their relationship will head. Perhaps they’ll make a go of it, fail, and end up as best friends. Whatever their future, they ended up in a good place, and that was rewarding. Part of me wanted an epilogue so I’d know how it all turned out, but I think this book was better-served without one.
All in all, an enjoyable read and an intriguing exploration of coming out, being gay, and living honestly.
You can buy The Second First Date here: