Title: Husband Material
Author: Xavier Mayne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Riley, Asher
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Husband Material is a long-running reality show, where eighteen lucky guys compete for the hand of one lucky lady. Meet contestant number one, Riley. Since being left at the altar, he’s hit the gym to get into the best shape of his life. Now he’s in it to win it. Contestant number two, Asher, doesn’t really want the bachelorette; he needs the prize money for his sister’s cancer treatment. Asher’s upbeat personality brings Riley out of the funk he’s been in since his breakup. They make a formidable team, with one complication: Asher’s falling for Riley.
Producer Kaitlyn has her hands full when two bachelors are found in the shower soaping up inappropriately, then another live-tweets the entire debacle. If another scandal erupts, the network will cancel the show.
The two bachelors are on a collision course under the watchful eye of a producer torn between wanting them to find true love and trying to keep her show going.
This is a wonderful friends-to-lovers and gay-for-you story set in the confines of a reality TV show searching for “true love” for a beautiful woman. Riley wants to win to prove he’s desirable, while Asher only wants the money of second place to help with his sister’s medical situation. When their adversarial arrangement turns into friendship and then suddenly into deeper feelings–with two executives knowing about it all along–the stage is set for all hell to break to lose.
First of all, I despise reality TV with every fiber of my being. Yet the setting of this story was too intriguing to pass up. For one thing, this particular show combines bachelorette with a survival contest. The challenges were fascinating, and I found myself flipping through the pages with increasing eagerness to find out what happened. Good job on part of the author.
Secondly, the characters are attractive in many ways. While we only get Riley’s point of view, Asher doesn’t remain an undecipherable wallflower. His sweet kindness is infectious, and his reasons for being on the show only add to that impression. Yes, he’s gay, but his heart is in the right place. Riley was ditched at the altar, and his self-esteem is tied to his current physical condition and winning the contest.
Riley and Asher’s interaction is the focal point of most of the book. Riley isn’t gay, but he longs to be seen as beautiful and worthy of love. Asher could be that for him if Riley could let go of his preconceived notions of what love is. Every scene with just the two men is fraught with realistic dialogue, amiable friendship, and sexual tension.
Characterization and dialogue are excellent, realistic and captivating. The show’s executives, Kaitlyn and Omar, are a great addition, and provided some framework and expectations of what was to come, a titillating factor and plot device I quite liked. I wish I would have known more about the other bachelors in the competition and Daphne, the bachelorette. Daphne especially came off as a nice girl but a little thin in the depth department.
This is a slow build book. It takes ages for even the first kiss, not to mention the first sex scene. Patience is called for. And, as one might have guessed, a scandal and a sacrifice are needed before anyone lives happily ever after. The writing takes time, building the tension slowly. I expected the story to drag because of the length of the book, but the pace is actually quite swift. Yes, there are quieter moments, but they worked in the context.
All in all, a great story which grips you with believable characters and exciting events until the final page. Recommended.
Reviewed By: Susan