Side Line, Ben Ryder
I’m posting this review here from our old Blogger site as Blogger has decided this review is immoral, or some such thing, as they have kicked it off our old review blog there. It’s been there for over a decade. Gay panic strikes again at Blogger.
This book did not live up to the official blurb for me. You would think it is primarily from Damon’s POV and that he is trying to come to terms with being gay and about being days away from deployment to war. There was not much about Damon going to war. It is much more about pitching Side Line beer in Bahrain to venues that cater to service personnel than about Damon and his service or Damon doing what’s right. Side Line is from Jay’s perspective.
Jay works for a company that sells and promotes Side Line beer. He has his assistant, Jackie, and several girls that work the promos when they go out to bars, sporting venues, clubs. Anywhere they can promote the beer, Jay, Jackie and the girls on “the squad” go. This time they are off to Bahrain to promote to the venues that host visiting service personnel on their way to war or on leave. Marketing has predicted a spike in sales for them, that Bahrain will reap worthwhile profits for Side Line beer. Jay gets a marketing spiel from his manager –
“With the third Gulf War about to kick off, there are tens of thousands of US, British, and other coalition forces flooding into the area and onto their bases. That’s not including the Australians and the French that are already there.
Bahrain is now essentially the holding room for these guys before they are deployed to Afghanistan and Iran.“
Okay, so I started out confused. There has been no third Gulf war that I’m aware of. So is this futuristic? If it is, th world isn’t built like that. It isn’t mentioned anywhere. There is no feel of anything but being in contemporary times. There have been no coalition forces invading Iran. But, you know, maybe I missed something. No, hang on –
“But surely there’s a risk that this could be short term.”
“That’s what they said about Iraq, and look how long that went on for.”
So it is futuristic? If so, where is that on the blurb?
Jay heads off to Bahrain for a week to promote, promote, promote, and schmooze the bar owners – along with the troops – to get Side Line its market share. All the while having banter with Jackie, keeping his eyes on his squad of promo girls, and making sure everyone is safe and happy.
Jay is twenty seven, handsome, tall and, of course, has been without a lay in some time. He throws himself into his work and he and Jackie have a good rapport. The saving grace of this book is Jackie. The writing of Jackie’s character is excellent. If you like Doctor O’Hara in Nurse Jackie (oh, the irony) I dare say you will most likely enjoy Jackie in Side Line. I truly liked her. I would have preferred this book to have been about Jackie, and Jay could have been a side character. For a while it seemed like that was a possibility because Jackie does overpower the book, not bad given I liked her the best. Honestly, I wish she had stolen it in its entirety.
Okay. Let’s get to the meat of it. Jay is not a bad character. He treats the girls that work for him well. He is good bouncing dialogue off Jackie….BUT, he is a doormat in a relationship. Why? Let’s see. Jackie is always trying to ascertain who Jay’s ‘type’ is as he doesn’t seem to have one. Then he spots a marine at a bar he is working that is very much his type – big legs, burly frame, some tatts, scars, just big and manly all around. Jay gives him a Side Line, asks his name, “Damon,” where he is from, “Tampa, Florida,” all a pleasant chat. But the thing is Damon appears interested –
“Where are you from? Damon called. I was slightly taken aback. it was a cold day in hell when a punter paid any kind of interest in where I was from…..
“London!” I called back.
“Cool. I’ve always wanted to visit there…”
“I like your accent, buddy.”……
And so it goes. Jay discovers that Damon is a Marine Staff Sergeant, that he was nineteen when he enlisted eight years ago. They have a reasonably lengthy and cordial two-way conversation. Jay gives Damon a nearly full case of beer to take with him after their talk.
Thing is, the next time they bump into each other at the new promo venue Damon pointedly ignores Jay. Even when Jackie introduces a group he is in by name he says nothing to Jay. Jay tries to strike up a conversation with a very rude Damon. He’s not trying to come on to him, just general chat like last time –
“Are you having a good time?” I asked attempting to keep his attention long enough that I could have another look into the eyes that had taken me so the night before. Damon shrugged and looked over at his friends.
“What’s fun to do here in Bahrain?”
Damon shrugged again and spoke over my shoulder…”Not a great deal, Buddy.”
One of his friends said something that caused everyone to laugh. Damon laughed at whatever it was I missed.
Basically, it leaves Jay “feeling foolish” and perhaps the butt of a joke. And clearly rudely treated with no reason whatsoever given. The reader can’t see into Damon’s head so he does not come off well as a human being at this point.
When the night is over and Jay is leaving…surprise….Damon is waiting outside and offers him a lift, saying that Jay’s hotel is on the way to his barracks. He takes Jay’s cases of alcohol and corrals Jay into a car. Jay starts to wonder how the hell Damon knows where his hotel is in relation to the barracks as he’s not told him where he’s staying, and he wants to get away from the quietly brooding man driving the car. The man who snubbed him. The man who asks Jay if what (the vacuous promo girl) Emma let slip about Jay ‘liking hairy chests’ is true? Who now turns off before Jay’s hotel and doesn’t actually make Jay feel comfortable about where they are going. Is this guy going to take him somewhere where he and his friends can gay-bash Jay? Pretty plausible –
“What the fuck is going on? I don’t know what you are doing, mate, but I need you to pull the car over now.”
“Not much further man. I got something I want to show you…..
….So you’re into dudes, huh?”
“I’m out of here,” I said as I reached for the door handle. He leaned over and grabbed my left arm to stop me…….
Damon takes Jay down an alley, into a vacant garage, tries to kiss Jay’s neck then he gets all toey when Jay is worried about a) the law of Bahrain and b) the whole situation prior did not exactly lend itself to wanting to have sex with Damon. But, well, Damon has a big cock as Jay soon discovers when cupping it though his pants.
“Get out.” He (Damon) tore open his jeans an inch in front of me and slammed his thick cock onto the side of my face.
“Suck it,” he ordered.
Jay gets worried because a car passes by but Damon takes him around to the front of the car, bends him over, and he fucks Jay there, no condom –
He began to fuck me with the tip of his cock like he was puncturing a seal. ( Urgh!! No!!)
And then, after only Damon gets his rocks off – “I have to get back to base,” he said. straightening himself up. “Curfew.”
And it gets better. Damon drops Jay off at his hotel entrance and adds – “Not a word of this to anyone, buddy. You got me?” he said with his eyes boring into me and an angry tone in his voice.
Really? What a real charmer Damon is. By this time he was pretty well past any ability to like him.
Here is my advice to people wanting to go into a relationship – don’t get involved with people who do the following –
A) Seemingly abducts you, or at the very least scares the living shit out of you by taking you to an isolated garage, shoving a cock in your mouth, grabbing you, bending you over the bonnet of a grotty car and fucks you – no condoms, even though you don’t know each other – gets off, and then leaves you with no pleasure. Then you get an angry, threatening warning not to talk about it.
B) Who then later comes to your hotel room, where you patch them up as they did throw a punch for you. They then drop their towel, shove their dick forward and expect you to suck them off, again, with nothing but a promise of further blue balls. But wait, there’s more – they then grab a cigarette and lighter, and light said cigarette up whilst you’re giving them a blowjob, and proceed to grab an ashtray out of a bedside drawer and place it on your back – like the good little BJ coffee table that you are. And, while the ashtray slips down your back, you stupidly keep going with the BJ whilst there is, you know, an ashtray on your back, and then, as it slips further down your back, they ash all over you….with hot ash.
C) When you are wanting to give this person some pleasure, a rub and a rim, and you ask them to turn onto their stomach to which they lovingly reply – “Don’t even think about sticking your dick in there, buddy.”
Also don’t –
A) Complain and moan about the arsehole who treats you this way to your friend, try to pay them back, weakly I might add. Then, in another breath, you claim that being abducted and pushed over a “dirty car hood” was an amazing fuck.
B) Still crave someone after all of the above AND he ignores you yet again at another venue.
Because then you are nothing but a big fuzzy doormat.
On top of this Damon stupidly pushes Jay into an alleyway for some more action, the local police see something suspicious going on – hello!! you are engaging in some (potentially public) gay activity in the Middle East, lord knows that’s sensible – Damon gets handcuffed, Jay busts him loose, and Damon panics – yes, a Marine Staff Sergeant of eight years panics –
“What the fuck do we do, man? What the fuck do we do?”
(and a beer salesman is all cool and calm -)
“Calm down. We’re okay. They don’t know who or where we are.” I said calmly.
Look, I like rough sex, dominance, submission, BDSM, voyeurism, exhibitionism, sado-masochism….I could go on. This book doesn’t fit any of these things. It kind of, sort of attempts it, and fails. It simply pissed me off. It seemed like Damon was supposed to be into dishing out some humiliation and Jay was supposed to seem like he liked it. It just came off as a big jerk and a needy guy.
The only thing that I liked about Side Line was Jackie’s dialogue and the dialogue between Jackie and Jay. I actually liked Jackie. But the book isn’t about Jackie, she is supposed to be a secondary character. It wasn’t about Jay and Jackie, it was supposed to be about Jay and Damon and that did not work. I did not like Side Line. I am very disappointed because I like military themed books and I like military themed M/M books in particular. But Side Line ticked none of those boxes in a positive way for me.