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Book Review: Roll by Lynn Townsend

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“Full Frontal Neighbor” in The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica (my review here) put Lynn Townsend on my map.  I wanted to read more by Lynn, so I picked up her novel Roll.

From the farms of Tennessee, Beau Watkins had it all in high school; the cute girl, the popular, jock lifestyle, a loving family. As a rising freshman at an out-of-state college, he’s determined to find out who he really is behind the fake it ’til you make it attitude. He joins Rainbow Connection, the gay student alliance, hoping to find himself. Instead, he finds Vin Reyes. Raised by his grandparents and the heir to a prosperous company, Vin has been out of the closet since he figured out what that meant. He has it all: fashionable clothing, fancy cars, huge houses, and a real party lifestyle, even a bodyguard. Most of all, he has a secret.

Uncomfortable with Vin’s generosity, Beau fights his growing attraction for the president of Rainbow Connection, chasing instead a series of shallow affairs. Vin’s never been denied anything that he wants, though, and now he wants Beau. But it’s not until an old rival puts Beau in the hospital that Vin realizes that Beau means more to him than a simple love affair. Can the two of them bridge the gap between their worlds and roll with the all the punches life will throw at them (goodreads description)

Before I get into Beau and Vin, I need to share that over the course of the book I  fell for Ann-Marie.  She’s another member of Rainbow Connection that becomes one of Beau’s closest friends.  She’s funny, she’s brassy, and oh my god the speech she gives about why she wants to be a teacher just made me fall all that much harder for her.  Ann-Marie has joined my ever growing list of fictional crushes.  We should make #fictionalcrushes a thing–tag me (@Delilah_Night) if you tweet yours.

Roll is a romance.  You see the attraction between Beau and Vin from both points of view.  This can be frustrating at times as the reader sees all the missed signals and understand the depth of emotion long before they do.

While we get to know and love Vin (when we don’t want to smack him for drinking rather than dealing with his shit), this story is primarily Beau’s.  Beau is a sweetheart, but not a pushover. Over the course of the novel, it’s Beau who comes out to himself, to his friends, and to his family.  He’s a college freshman, so there’s also the experience of trying to build community in a new city,  and shedding who you were in high school so that you can become who you’re going to be as an adult.  Beau also has his first sexual encounters in Roll.  In many ways, it is his coming of age novel.

Vin, for his part, at first glance is a rich playboy who drinks as much as he wants to instead of perhaps the limits of what could be considered wise.  Over the course of the book, though, what could have been a superficial character shows the depth of his feelings.  We also learn what events in his past influenced who he is and how he copes with things.  The book ends with a cliffhanger that seems to indicate (to me) that the next story will center a bit more on him.  I look forward to that, and the revelations I hope we’ll learn.

As a couple they deal with not just the ordinary struggles, but their massive class disparity as well.  I’m really grateful that Lynn has her characters confront it head on, rather than just have the “poor” partner accept gifts like it’s no big deal.  My husband and I had a class disparity (although nothing this massive) and it is something that does affect the power dynamic (even if it’s only in your head) and can expose insecurities.  It was refreshing to not see it swept under the rug.

Lynn peppers her world with memorable secondary characters like Hector (who makes terrible puns on his name, but in a way this is disarming and endearing), the aforementioned Ann-Marie, and Shannon (Ann-Marie’s girlfriend who speaks fluent sarcasm).  Beau’s scenes with his mother and his Aunt Lucy were written with such poignancy that even though I didn’t know them as well as other characters, I could feel the depth of their history with and love for Beau.

I should give a heads up that there is some anti-gay violence in the book that reminds me exactly how liberal a part of the country I’m from.  If anything, Lynn’s recent encouter online reminds us that while momentum is gathering big picture (such as in the area of Marriage Equality), the day to day experience of being LGBT still involves bigotry and violence.

I really enjoyed Roll, and I think the best indication of that is how impatient I am for the sequel Blues to come out (March 25, 2015).

***Full Disclosure–My story “Love is a Virus” (excerpt here) is in Lynn’s upcoming anthology Among the Stars.  However, this is an unbiased review.***

4 Responses

  1. […] Tyler’s book Dark Secret Love (review here) and Lynn Townsend’s book Roll (review here) was that erotic novels have changed a lot in the past 5-10 years.  I’m so happy to find […]

  2. […] Roll By Lynn Townsend **Best LGBT, 2014** […]

  3. […] days I was a teacher, so characters who work with kids and genuinely adore them charm me. (See also my #fictionalcrush on Ann-Marie, the aspiring teacher in the Rainbow Connections series by Lynn Townsend.)  C.J. works at a […]

  4. […] (My review of book 1, Roll is here) […]

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