Received 07 Jul 2010 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

My being white, female, straight and English did not stem my enjoyment of this novel about black gay men in America, and presumably this was why I was picked to receive this book.  I’ve read and enjoyed Harris’ books for some time now and was very pleased to win this one.  It was a fairly quick read.  

The main character, Bentley, is a man who is trying to stay moral and just in a world that tries to encourage just the opposite.  In conflict with his father, who dislikes his "life choices", he sets up his own business away from the riches of the family firm.  When recession hits and it’s a struggle to keep going, he feels forced to take on a job for his modelling agency that he wouldn’t normally touch, supplying men for a private party.  He has bad feelings, especially when his mentee, Jah, becomes involved, but squashes them for the sake of the money. 

Now, you wouldn’t maybe expect a novel about modelling agencies and gay men who indulge in all sorts of practices (and some of it is a bit explicit, which doesn’t bother me but might be worth mentioning), to be a particularly moral read, and indeed the dust jacket plays up the glamour and risk, but it’s actually all about mentoring, fatherhood (of various kinds), doing the right thing, keeping safe, and love.

Being set at the time of the Obama election and the credit crunch offers an interesting dimention to this novel and it’s up to date in its use of facebook and texting as plot devices, without this seeming laboured.  Some characters are not rounded enough for me, and the ending seemed a bit sudden – but the back of the jacket implies that this was supposed to be the first in a series featuring Bentley and his modelling agency.  Tragically, the author died after completing this book, so this won’t happen.

A good read with momentum given by the thriller-y plot, some satisfyingly twisty sub-plots, and depth given by the probing questions of Bentley’s therapist.