Randy Danes is a shy, quiet cowboy who's more at home with horses than people. He's been roommates with his best friend, Lily, for years, watching out for her like a brother. But now that she's about to get married to the love of her life and living in a new house, Randy is alone. At the bachelor/bachelorette party for Lily's brother, James, and his intended, Randy meets Oscar, another of their friends. As someone who usually keeps to himself, Randy is surprised by how easy it is to converse to Oscar. After their friends have gone to bed, they spend the night talking and flirting with one another and even share a tent, but nothing more comes of it that night. Instead, since they live in different states, they spend the next year talking and texting, forming a fast and comfortable friendship. When Randy travels to Las Vegas to attend Lily's engagement party, he's reunited with Oscar and realizes that the other man has become far more than a friend to him. But Oscar is straight, which leaves Randy wary and trying to keep his distance from the man who's too handsome and charming for his own good.
Oscar Costas is a playboy who's never hesitated to chase a pretty woman, until he gets himself into a bit of trouble after sleeping with his new step-sister. Oscar has always believed himself to be straight, but from the moment he met Randy, he's felt an undeniable attraction to him. Although a bit confused by his feelings for his good friend, he realizes that all of his relationships until now have never worked out, so why not try something different. When Randy comes to visit, Oscar decides to throw caution to the wind. After engaging in sexual intimacy with Randy, he's even hotter for the other man than before, and decides to follow Randy home to Colorado with the intention of pursuing a relationship with him. But Oscar is set to inherit a fortune from his wealthy father, and if his family found out he was seeing another man, he'd be disowned. Then his step-sister complicates his life further by claiming to be pregnant with his child. All Oscar wants is to have a quiet life in a committed relationship with the man he's come to love. But how can he do that when his family members are making his life a living hell? And what about Randy's family who are even crazier than his own and may even want him dead?
I'm still pretty much a novice to M/M romance. Compared to other readers, I've barely dipped my toe into the genre. I do enjoy them as much as any other romances, but for some reason, I typically only read maybe two or three per year. That's why K Is for Kindred marks the first time I've read a "gay for you" romance. Now, I have to admit that I've been aware of this theme and its popularity for quite some time, but when I first heard of it, it raised my eyebrows. Doesn't this somehow play into the belief that many people still harbor that being gay is a choice, I thought. Perhaps because of that feeling, I think I might have been avoiding this theme. Well, when my friend, JossiLynn, released her Book Convention Romance series, I couldn't ignore it anymore if I was going to read the series in its entirety, which of course, I wanted to do. I approached it with a mixture of skepticism and curiosity as to how a (supposedly) straight man would turn gay, but I can't say that I was disappointed. It was very obvious that Oscar and Randy were well-suited for one another and loved each other very much. The nerd in me, though, needed to research this "gay for you" phenomena, and I found a very good article written in part by Damon Suede, a gay author of M/M romance, who called the term outdated and that the theme would be more aptly named "out for you," a term coined by author Marie Sexton. I like that phrase much better too, because especially after reading Mr. Seude's remarks, it makes much more sense. So that's what I'm going with.:-)
It also started me thinking about "gay for you" versus "out for you," specifically in regards to how events play out in K Is for Kindred, and I realized again that "out for you" (or at the very least, bisexual) made a lot more sense. Everyone may have initially thought that Oscar was straight, but his best friend and roommate, Pete, is gay. He also doesn't hesitate to strike up a close friendship with Randy, who as the other hero, is obviously also gay. Oscar has no trouble talking about sex, including gay sex. He's extremely outgoing and flirtatious right from the opening pages, flirting like crazy with quiet, reserved Randy, and teasing him about the possibility of hooking up. He isn't the least bit averse to sleeping naked with another naked man close beside him in the same tent, and he realizes that he isn't particularly disinclined to something of a sexual nature happening between them. Since no fully hetero guy I know would do any of those things, yeah, I think Oscar falling for Randy was definitely a case of "out for you" or at the very least, him discovering that he's bisexual. Now that I've satisfied my need to get all that off my chest, on with my review of the book.:-)
Randy is a shy guy who barely strings two words together most of the time, but I love how he instantly feels at ease with Oscar and is comfortable talking with him on a deeper level. Randy has worked for Lily (K Is for Kissed) for quite a while, helping her take care of her little ranch and her horses. He was her best friend and roommate through all of the pain and suffering she went through, following the rape, and was always there to wake her up from her nightmares. Now that Lily is so much better and in a strong relationship with Blake, it's time for Randy to find someone of his own. There are a few things we discover about Randy in this book that were in turn intriguing and heartbreaking, but that I thought could have been developed a little more fully than they were. In the opening chapters, we find out that quiet Randy loves to play the dominant and usually goes to sex clubs to get his fix. However, the dominant side of him doesn't really end up playing much of a part in his relationship with Oscar. Then we find out more about his background growing up, which explains his need for control. It's a sad tale of prejudiced parents who never really cared for him and couldn't stand him after he came out. Randy says his own father would do him bodily harm if he knew about his annual secret trips home ostensibly to see his mother. Randy's love for his dog warmed my heart and broke it all at the same time, but I felt like there was a lot of fodder here for building his character in a deeper way that didn't quite materialize. In spite of that, though, I loved Randy and was so happy that he finally found his own happiness with Oscar.
Oscar is a model and bartender who's worked at Blake's convention and always shows everyone a good time. He's the outgoing charmer, a playboy who quite simply loves sex. But since he's limited his sexual encounters to women so far, he's a little surprised by how attracted he is to Randy. His and Randy's friendship is pretty much like any two guys would be, regardless of sexual orientation. They genuinely get each other and love one another's company, so I really enjoyed the friends to lovers aspect of the story, which is a favorite trope of mine. Oscar has his own troubled background, with the sister from hell, and now a stepsister with whom he had an ill-advised sexual relationship and who has teamed up with said sister to cause him grief. His father is a pretty wealthy businessman, who intends to pass his fortune on to Oscar, but his family would not look kindly upon him having a relationship with another man. I really like that Oscar cared far more about Randy and the friends whom he thinks of as his real family than he did about his inheritance. All that said, though, much like Randy, I would have liked to be inside his head a little more. The whole idea of merely being attracted to another man, much less being in a committed relationship with one, is very new to Oscar, but we aren't really privy to his thought processes on how he comes to terms with all that. Otherwise, he's a great guy who I couldn't help but like too.
Much like how Samantha and James (K Is for Kink) played a big role in their story, Blake and Lily play a big role in Randy and Oscar's story. They get many of their own POV scenes, which are probably about equal to Randy and Oscar's. I find this to be a double-edged sword, though. On the one hand, if Blake and Lily's perspectives weren't included, it might have given space to more fully develop Randy and Oscar's characters. On the other hand, in my review of the previous book, I was actually wishing for this to be the case, so I can't say that I'm disappointed either. I did very much enjoy seeing Blake and Lily taking that next step in their relationship and other happy events in their lives as well as the roles they play in helping to get Randy and Oscar together. So I guess I can't complain about this. If the trend continues, I'll be seeing more of Randy and Oscar in the next book of the series anyway.
Other than craving a little deeper understanding of the characters, I very much enjoyed K Is for Kindred. The story moves along at a good pace with lots happening for our heroes and their friends. I love the characters JossiLynn has created. I could see myself being friends with them, and that isn't surprising since I'm friends with her. She gets a few extra points for creating this close-knit group who are more like family to each other than most of their own families are. I enjoyed seeing something good happen for Pete. Even though I knew he wasn't the right person for Randy, I didn't want him to get left out in the cold. Blake's friend, Kade, who was working for the FBI but was a reservist called up for active duty in Iraq, comes back a changed man, but Randy and the rest of the gang help him start to put his life back together. He becomes the hero of the next book, K Is for Kismet, paired with Molly Wood, an author at Blake's convention that we briefly get to meet. And of course, Samantha and James were there too, along with Samantha's dad and more heartwarming sightings of her ghostly mom, whose appearance always seems to portend a soul mate match. So overall, there was a lot to like in this book, and I look forward to continuing the series soon.
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