Author: Renae Kaye
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Aaron Hall has never been able to remain faithful to a single woman, and for most of his life, he’s dated two women at once. Recently his girlfriend tracked him down and knocked on his door—and his live-in girlfriend answered. Now he has no girlfriend and a mortgage he can’t pay by himself.
Vinnie Rosello needs to change his life—get a better job, stop drinking all his money away, find himself a serious boyfriend… and move out of his parents’ house. Aaron needs help with his expenses, so they become housemates.
Even though Aaron harbors some misconceptions about gay men and Vinnie misses his large Italian family, both men find comfort in their friendship. It’s a good arrangement until everything between them changes
Vinnie falls in love with Aaron, and Aaron is shocked to realize he feels the same. There’s only one problem—he’s still straight. He’ll have to overcome his fear of labels in order to love the man who’s captured his heart.
Review: When Aaron’s best friend, Liam, ended up in a relationship with a man it took Aaron by surprise. He hadn’t really had anything to do with gay men before hanging out with Liam and his boyfriend Jamie, and Jamie’s group of friends, but after having been around the group of friends for a while now, he’s pretty comfortable with them all and is considered one of the gang. Aaron has had many girlfriends (in fact, he usually has two on the go at once, although they don’t know that). Sex is important to him and as much as he loves sex with them, he’s never managed to feel satisfied with the amount he gets with just one girlfriend.
Vinnie comes from a large Italian family and when he moves into Aaron’s house to get some space of his own away from them, he thinks he’s going to love being out on his own. It turns out that going from a houseful of family to just himself takes a lot more adjusting to than he realised. After nights of barely sleeping, Vinnie convinces Aaron to let him share Aaron’s bed. Knowing there’s another person there allows Vinnie the rest he badly needs. Vinnie doesn’t mean to fall for Aaron. He knows Aaron is straight (and there really is no doubt about that), but he can’t help himself pushing the boundaries a bit. Friendly banter turns into flirting, flirting turns into Vinnie persuading Aaron to try a friends-with-benefits arrangement. Aaron can’t deny his growing attraction to Vinnie. He still considers himself straight. He still feels straight. He loves everything about sex with women, and has zero interest in sex with any other man than Vinnie. The question is, can Aaron reconcile the label with his feelings towards Vinnie. Or can he discard the label and embrace the love he’s found, no matter how surprising. Aaron’s biggest concern starting a relationship with Vinnie, however, is his track record of being unfaithful. He doesn’t want to ever hurt Vinnie, but is scared that at some point he will revert to his old ways. It is that fear that is Aaron’s biggest hurdle in committing to Vinnie.
There were some flaws for me in this story. I found Aaron’s way too frequent insistence that he was not gay overkill. After a while it went from Aaron feeling confused about what he was feeling for Vinnie, and what that meant to how he’d always identified himself, to coming across as scared at the thought that he might be gay, although I don’t think that was actually the author’s intent. I think The Straight Boyfriend was more an attempt (even if it felt like a clumsy attempt at times) at exploring the concept of labels and the discarding of them if none feel like they quite fit, than about Aaron discovering his sexuality.
I took a while to warm to Aaron. He’s serial cheating and blasé attitude to his girlfriends wasn’t exactly endearing, although it’s not like he was a complete pig or anything, either. I never actively disliked him, I just wasn’t sure about him at first. Vinnie, I adored at the start. Until he started trying to persuade Aaron to be friends-with-benefits. I felt pretty uncomfortable with how aggressively he pursued it. Vinnie’s actions ran the line of consent in some ways, and there were times where I felt he definitely took advantage of Aaron. I didn’t like Vinnie’s behaviour there at all. Once Aaron was fully on board, though, and their relationship started to shift from friendship to romance, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of the relationship and felt their connection. Although there were times with both MCs that I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, I did end up liking both characters a lot and enjoyed reading Aaron and Vinnie’s friendship to lovers romance.