Title: Wrestling Demons
Author: Xavier Mayne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Casey Melville, Jonah Fischer, Brandt, Donnelly
Sub-Genre: Erotic Romance, Coming of Age
Jonah Fischer’s high school wrestling career has been stellar, but now he’s the unwilling star of a series of videos that have hit the web. The whole world may have seen the evidence that his best friend turns him on. Jonah’s conservative family wants him cured, and his conventional town and school want him normal. The only person who still wants him just the way he is is Casey Melville, the same best friend who turned him on for all the world to see. Meanwhile, Casey begins to wonder if there’s more to his feelings for Jonah than he thought.
Officers Brandt and Donnelly—lovers as well as partners on the job—have been assigned to find the culprit who posted the video. While investigating the case, they also help Jonah and Casey find their way through their feelings, and steer them toward refuge when Jonah’s family turns against him. But the mystery remains: who wants to hurt Jonah badly enough to post those videos, and why? Thank goodness Jonah and Casey have found friends—they’re going to need all the help and support they can get.
This story demonstrates how pettiness, envy, purposeful indifference, and bigotry can erode all that is good within the human spirit. Yet, this tale also shows the powers of love, friendship, and acceptance, and how these things can lift a man to stand on his own, even against the whole world.
Jonah’s in a real pickle. Someone’s been taping his comings and goings at his high school locker room, and caught him naked several times—and then posted these videos online and showed them to everyone in his small town. What seemed like a small matter escalates into a full-blown witch hunt for deviants, the hate campaign lead by community leaders who are nothing more than bigots and religious rebel-rousers. The town sheriff and leaders engage the services of state troopers Brandt and Donnelly, who were the main characters in the first (standalone) story in the series, Frat House Troopers. The truth behind these vicious attacks against Jonah, the star wrestler of his school, is shown in a long case, with multiple suspects. The hypocrisy and double standard of this small town’s bigoted community comes through loud and clear as a bastion of ages gone by. Thankfully, not only does Jonah have his best friend Casey to give him courage, but his friends in the wrestling team show what is best in people as well.
The only point of view in the story we’re not getting is Jonah’s. We get the story mostly through Casey’s eyes, as he begins to realize the true reasons for Jonah’s discomfort about the public situation and for his own growing feelings. Basically, this is a friends-to-lovers story, with an emphasis on true love. These boys are quite talkative once they get their bearings, and I liked how they were willing to discuss what bothered them, including their attraction for one another. This is Jonah’s coming out story as much as it is Casey’s coming to his own story. Society’s need to put labels on everything, and dolling out hate against what is different, are shown in all their disgusting gore, how low adults can go. Jonah loses his family, but gains a new one from the gay community, displaying the ultimate truth that love is stronger than hate.
Brandt and Donnelly from the first book investigate this case, and learn quickly how the town works: A similar video scandal had occurred in the same school before, only with a girl in it, but that case was swept under the rug to protect a small town whose heroes are high school wrestlers who can do no wrong. The girl in question was ruined. Duplicity, anyone? This tale shows how things like this happen all the time. It’s real, it’s horrible, it’s unfair, it’s despicable in every sense. People are willing to aid Jonah, the innocent good boy wrestler, only as long as he remains that. But what happens when he turns out to be gay? Yeah, I think you can guess. The scene at the school rally (which turns into a riot, BTW) was absolutely mesmerizing, with some awesome results. For that scene alone this book was well worth reading.
Mr. Mayne is an excellent writer. The juxtapositions in this story ring true, realistic in every way. Brandt and Donnelly have a partnership with lots of sex while Jonah and Casey have a youthful friendship and their sex is tentative and new, an exploration. The younger generations have an openness and acceptance of differences, even in a high school setting, while the older ones rule with a distinct lack of understanding, hatred, and moral lectures that wouldn’t know morals if it came up and bit them in the ass. At first, we are shown a lot of different characters, and a lot of potential suspects. Yet the pace never really gets bogged down; it flows with a simple ease that made me flip through the pages for two reasons: To find out the culprit and to see how Jonah and Casey’s slow-building romance progresses.
Long story short (too late!), Wrestling Demons is a realistic, compelling tale about two boys who learn some harsh truths about the world and their own community, but also learn some beautiful things about the nature of love. Mystery and crime buffs will also enjoy solving the case along with our state troopers. Highly recommended.
Reviewed By: Susan