Review of Gambling Men the Novel by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4 stars

Quentin Jackson and Jason Spade have been best friends since their freshman days in college.  Where Jason leads, Quentin has followed. Dorm to apartment, college into business, year after year, the path ahead for one is the path for both.  Orphaned at an early age, Jason grew up with his uncle  and his partner as role models and the game poker as his bible.  Need a rule to live by? Poker has the answers, at least for Jason.  For Quint? Not so much. An out bisexual, Jason spent his years in and out of bed after bed, regardless of their gender.  Quint, on the other hand, followed his families strictures, and dated women and watched his friend avoid relationships and commitments at all costs.  Jace has been aggressive in his approach to life, his “shark like” mannerisms making him sucessful, but at a price.  Quentin has always come behind Jace smoothing the ruffled feathers and feelings of those that came into contact with Jace and his methodology.  But eight years later, all that changes in one daring moment when Jace makes a sexual move on his friend that results in a night of passion.

For years, Jace has waited until the odds of success were in his favor to make a romantic play for Quent.  When Jace is rewarded with a night of unsurpassed passion, both men must come to grips with a long unstated love now out in the open.  For Jace, he needs to learn that all of life is not a poker game.  For Quentin, he needs to trust that Jace can learn that winning at all costs will not help them build a relationship that will last.  To call or fold before a  relationship is even started?  That’s the question both men must answer before they can find their HEA.

In Gambling Men by Amy Lane, the author uses the game of Poker as a format for her story of two friends fumbling their ways to love and happiness.  As someone only minutely familiar with the game, I found using different Poker hands and actions fun if not occasionally confusing. Jace is convinced that all life is a Poker game to be won, a belief he picked up in adolescence living with his uncle and partner.  Amy Lane does her usual great job at characterization by helping us understand Jace’s somewhat juvenile application of a Poker’s rules approach to life’s hardships and hurdles.  Equally open is Quentin’s background in cementing his ideals and more passive life style.  Winning versus nurture.  Or in these case, a winning nature supported by a nurturing one.

Lane really understands relationship dynamics so the story really engaged me when Jace had to learn to adjust his life and its expectation to include Quentin in a role he had never occupied before. Up until then, Jace was still a little too shallow for me if still understandable. It was so appealing to watch each man flounder in turn, as they danced around dating, outing their relationship to their friends and employees, and then finally taking the steps to deepen their commitment to each other by moving in and finally emotionally moving on into the future they both want and deserve.  Surrounding these relationship gyrations are a circle of friends as  unique and indelible as Jace and Quent themselves.  I loved their Poker playing group, their real family, as Quent’s family disowns him after he comes out.  I wish I had been given more of these men, so compelling were the glimpses into their lives the author gave us.

Do I have a quibble with the story? Yes, I do, two in fact.  One, the Poker game analogy got a tad stale for me after a while.  I am not a Poker  enthusiast, so Flushes, Draws, etc. became overdone not only as a format for the chapters but as it was used throughout the story even with Jace’s  “life is Poker” outlook.  I am sure that there are many Poker widows/widowers out there that feel much the same.  The other wee quibble?  The title.  I have way too much Monty Python in me not to look at it and think “Gambling Men: the Novel?”  As opposed to “Gambling Men: The Paragraph”? “Gambling Men: The Comic Book”? “Gambling Men: The Tweet”?  The possibilities are endless, at least in my  somewhat warped brain.  Anyone out there with insight on the title, write me, tweet me, inquiring minds want to know.  In the meantime, pick this one up and have a wonderful time as two old friends develop into the lovers they were always meant to be.

Cover: Hysterical.  Perfect for the novel. Or should I say Gambling Men: The Novel.  Really.

It’s Football Season and I’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, the Week Ahead in Reviews and A Cocktail

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It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States, a time to hunker down and celebrate the end of summer.  For some families this means a last dash to the beach or the start of school. It is also the start of football season.  It’s the start of tailgating parties, stadium crowds and team colors.  Mine used to be red and yellow, the colors of the  Washington Redskins, my family’s team.  It all started with my Dad.  He loves the Redskins.  We have been fans through thick and thin as they say.  I can even remember Dad taking me to a Redskin home game when they were coached by Vince Lombardi. That was 1969.  My dad and his friend Tom Cox had a group of season tickets and when one of “the gang” couldn’t go, Dad brought me.  What a thrill.  Redskin fans are beyond fanatical, they are legendary.  And every game, RFK shook from the ground to the rafters with their fervor.  I will never forget it as long as I live. Screaming until I was hoarse, the people towering around me as all stood to watch a play on the field and then the ride home, Dad’s either thrilled because we won or furious with a loss. Later on, the ride home included Dad listening to Sonny and Sam (that’s Sonny Jurgenson and Sam Huff) dissect the day’s game.  We had Redskin blankets, hats, and scarves.  We went through the George Allen and Jack Pardee years before we arrived at the Golden Age.  That would be owner Jack Kent Cooke, affectionately known as The Squire, Bobby Beathard the GM, and Joe Gibbs, the Winningest Coach of them all.  From 1981 to 1992, we basked in the glory that was the Redskins and quite frankly made up for all the years it took to get there.

But 10 years ago, the Squire died and Dan Snyder bought the team.  I hung in there as long as I could but the soul went out of them that day.  Dan Snyder single handedly has ruined the Redskins for me (and many others).  How can you back a team when the owner sues it’s fans? When die hard season ticket holders could no longer afford their season tickets because of the economy (some losing everything), the Redskins sued their fans to recover the costs of the passes, even a grandmother living on retirement! No other team did that. Made the headlines, they recanted, a bit.  Still did it though.  Then a small free newspaper takes Dan Snyder to task over his actions.  He sues the newspaper!  I guess free speech is not to be tolerated in Snyder territory.  On and on it goes, one man’s arrogance and bad karma wiping out half a century of fans adoration and goodwill.

And now I give up.  I won’t root for them any longer.  Some will say the very name “Redskins” is cursed.  Perhaps they are right. It’s long past the time to retire a name offensive to so many.  Maybe I will look around for another team to root for.  The Ravens don’t do it for me.  I like the Packers and the Saints.  So who knows?  In the meantime, I have the Capitals and Ted Leonsis to cheer for.  And The Washington Nationals have risen above their “Natinals” days to become an inspiration and a team worthy of cheering for and not just because they are winning, but winning in the right way!  Go, Nats!   Without football, perhaps I will have more time to knit, certainly to read.  And reflect on the past.

This coming week’s reviews are:

Monday:                      Solid As A Stone by Amylea Lyn

Tuesday:                      Gambling Men, The Novel by Amy Lane

Wednesday:                Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr

Thursday:                    One Day At A Time by Dawn Douglas

Friday:                          Summer Sizzle by Berengaria Brown

Saturday:                      Vocabulary Gone Bad Looks at Sexy(Not) Dirty Talk or Spank Me Harder, Bunny Poo!

Our last summer cocktail to finish out the summer this Labor Day weekend for those of you in the States is the Sidecar!

The Sidecar. 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 lemon wedge
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cognac
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau or other Triple Sec orange liqueur
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice

Directions:

Spread superfine sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat outside rim of glass. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini or coupe glass and serve.