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WL's Mainstream Gay Book Reviews - 53. Roommate by Sarina Bowen

Going through surgery right now, so I've scheduled 3 reviews ahead of time and won't publish between December-January

Happy Holidays


Sarina Bowen’s entry into Vino et Veritas universe as a side story was interesting. I know not everyone will enjoy certain aspects of the main character Kieran Shipley or the story’s meandering plot in Vermont. Personally, I actually enjoyed parts of the story, I thought some of the characters were very New England-like. New Englanders from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are generally decent people with deeply rooted family connections and ideals, but overall, very few are bigots or assholes. It’s odd that Sarina Bowen would write something this tame and family oriented, but it does show she can stretch her romance fiction writing skills, beyond gay and heterosexual romances involving hockey players or college-aged students. I read this story as a Thanksgiving fable with Vermont gay characters set in the background. It’s a good Thanksgiving story for my tastes, with a bit of comfort and warmth, along with a pinch of drama.

Length-wise, it is 304 pages long and 9 hours 5 minutes on audible. It’s a decent length book for people interested in a bit of reading. I enjoyed this book in December 2020, during the continuing COVID crisis, it was a good distraction for me to imagine small towns like this that I’ve visited in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Native New Englanders should give this book a try.

Plot: Roderick is a homeless baker, who left his closeted and philandering boyfriend, a country music singer. His family had kicked him out for being gay years ago in Vermont and continued to snub him despite his plight and coming back. He’s living out of his car until he spots a potential job opening at a local coffee shop, where they seek assistance with a baker. It is there that he encounters Kieran Shipley again. Kieran Shipley as a teenager had watched Roderick, who was a grade higher in high school, give another boy oral sex. Roderick saw the younger Kieran watch their sexual session, transfixed and noticeably aroused. Roderick knew Kieran is not as heterosexual as everyone presumed, but he kept Kieran secret.

Kieran has his own issues at home as he has been saving up to move out of his family farm and striking out on his own, including seeking out a potential scholarship for art school to become a professional designer. He works part-time at a marketing firm, where his boss’ spoiled son mistreats him and forces him to make unnecessary changes to designs for clients. Kieran also helps out at the Shipley farm as his older brother is out partying and doing his own thing far too often, so Kieran never has enough time to venture out or explore his sexuality fully.

Roderick’s help at the coffee shop was very useful and he soon became an invaluable commodity to the owner of the coffee shop. Kieran discovers during an especially cold night as he moved into his new home that Roderick has been sleeping in his car by the side of the road. Kieran out of a need to provide Roderick with comfort invites him to stay at his new home. They develop a routine with Roderick working in the day and making food for them both, while Kieran worked his various jobs. A romance develops between them, which becomes sexual as the story progress. Secrets are slowly revealed as to why Kieran’s father appeared to give him a cold reception and Kieran’s desire to remain distant from Shipley family. There’s a happy ending in this story after a very tumultuous thanksgiving dinner.

Review: Overall, I thought the story did exactly what I wanted it to do for my needs in a warm/comfort story involving gay lovers and roommates. There was a bit of the homeless gay guy angle that I have a soft spot for, a bit of the family drama with a mystery, and interesting dynamics about New England farming culture that Sarina Bowen captured.

Roderick was snarky and straightforward as an outspoken openly gay character, who is struggling to make his way in the world. I found him interesting to read about and enjoyed his struggle to find a happy medium between being himself and being the man that Kieran needs him to be as a partner. At first, Roderick appeared to act immature from time to time, but his character develops fast as the story progresses and the drama grows towards the end of the book. I thought the scene of him feeling rejected by Kieran during Thanksgiving was very good and helped channel some of his frustration, plus there’s something about a nice Catholic parish priest in New England romance stories (too often negative, but there’s plenty of genuinely nice catholic priests, who can care less about your sexuality) that offer closure and revelation to characters.

Kieran Shipley is probably the character that I know readers have mixed feelings about. He’s obviously gay or bi, but he failed to even consider exploring his sexuality. It’s unrealistic, I do agree for such a character to exist in modern times, especially past the 1990s with the internet and dating apps. I also found his selflessness and his selfishness at hiding his relationship with Roderick to be too contradictory, when that arose in the story. It didn’t make as much sense overall for him to not care what his family may want for him, while at the same time, deny his gay lover acknowledgment. However, despite some of those major flaws, which I do agree hurt the story, Kieran is an interesting character. I enjoyed that he is so loving to Roderick and that he actually shows off a strong character arc of developing alongside Roderick, including putting his work up for evaluation for Art school scholarship program. It’s a cliché, but the idea was well-intended and provided him with a cathartic release to own his work rather than allow others to take credit for it.

There were many characters in this book, but I thought Kieran and Roderick made up the majority of interactions, which was fine as it helped bound these lovers. Kieran’s family drama added conflict and resolution, while Roderick’s own drama with his ex-boyfriend did not resolve until the end of the book; sadly, I wished Sarina Bowen thought out that plotline better for Roderick as it could have given him far more depth.

I noted most of the negatives, Kieran’s character paradox and Roderick’s ex-boyfriend’s lack of depth, but I think the biggest issue is the final revelation. It’s a lot to take in at the last chapters of the novel, along with the fact that the father tried to Kieran despite that fact. It reminds me of a melodramatic Italian opera, too much flash and the substance were not developed enough to support it.

My Review: 3.00 out 5.00, it’s not a bad story per se. I would probably read it again after Thanksgiving, just for fun. I think Sarina Bowen showed she can write good adult relationships here, but adult situations require a lot more build up to make various aspects of the payoff work.

Copyright © 2021 W_L; All Rights Reserved.
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