A Helping of Love Review

Title: A Helping of Love (Love #3)

Author: Andrew Grey

Available in eBook?: Yes

Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance

Final Verdict: Skip

My Take: A Helping of Love is a hard book for me to review. On one hand, I appreciate Mr. Grey’s attempts to create a sympathetic paraplegic main character who’s comfortable with his disability, and for portraying him as a sexual being. I also appreciate the fact that said disability isn’t glossed over. However, it seemed blatantly obvious to me that very little–if any–research was done for this book, both in SCI and related aspects. Add to the fact that the writing felt a bit stilted and I never did feel like I connected with the characters, and it’s hard for me to recommend.

I’ll preface this review by stating I haven’t read the other books in the Love series, nor have I read any other books by Andrew Grey before. I do, however, enjoy homoerotic romance (M/M) stories, and thought it was particularly bold of Mr. Grey to begin his book immediately with the obvious fact that Peter–one of the two main characters–is in a wheelchair. It was surprising and refreshing, and the way his disability was handled seemed promising, so I decided to give the book a try.

The story is pretty basic. Peter was an up-and-coming Olympic track hopeful, but was injured by a drunk driver three years ago, leaving him paraplegic. Since, he’s accepted his new life and now owns his own home and works for a restaurant supply company. Through his job, he meets Russ, a shy chef who is working on opening a new Greek restaurant with his friends and employers. Although the two men feel an instant attraction, Russ brushes Peter off. Initially, Peter thinks it’s because of the wheelchair (convinced no one can see him), but the truth is that Russ is involved in an abusive relationship with his live-in boyfriend, Barry. Of course, Peter (and Russ’s friends) help convince him of Barry’s badness, and romance ensues.

My initial impressions were that Mr. Grey’s writing style felt a bit stilted and plodding, repetitive and a bit too “telly” instead of “showy.” As a result, reading felt a bit more like a chore; rather than connecting to the characters immediately, I felt distanced from them. I never really was drawn into their heads, despite the fact that the book alternates between Peter and his love interest, Russ. Although the book revolves around the restaurant industry (as apparently all the books in the series do), I never really felt the vibrancy of the setting. I have read stories set in restaurants in the past that have really come alive. Here, everything felt so flat. Perhaps, as I mentioned before, it goes back to the fact that too little of the book is spent on showing. (And Mr. Grey doesn’t quite understand the concept of “start late, finish early” when it comes to scene construction.)

I just never felt connected to anyone. Although Peter was likeable enough, he never really felt “real” to me. And while normally a character like Russ would be highly sympathetic, I never really could empathize with him. I didn’t feel his shame or fear or apprehension regarding Barry, and Peter felt conveniently knowledgeable about abuse, explaining everything far too logically. Most of the book I felt more like I was reading a dry news article than a novel.

But perhaps I’m being overly critical or snobbish. Maybe. However, the blatant fact that Mr. Grey seems ignorant about SCI and wheelchairs became a bit irksome. One thing that bothered me was that Mr. Grey takes excessive care to let the reader know that Peter is obsessed with his independence (let’s give Peter a huge round of applause for being motivated enough to get on with his life! to get a job, and a house, etc.!). Of course, the fact that he is proud of his independence is a good thing. But the problem I have with it is he seems to be inconsistent about it, especially in regards to letting Russ help him or touch/push his wheelchair. Nearly everyone I’ve ever spoken with who uses a wheelchair full time (or at least a significant amount of the time) considers the chair an extension of their body. Having someone else touch it (without their permission/consent) is kind of like having a stranger come up to you in public and touching your arm uninvited. It’s an invasion of your personal space, and a little insulting–especially if the other person is trying to help/push you without your consent. Doing so is inferring that you can’t manage yourself, so in Peter’s case, I would have thought it an insult to his fiercely fought-for independence. Later in the book, once he and Russ are closer, then I could understand, but right from the beginning? Even if Peter didn’t say anything, I would have imagined he would at least have thought so. Perhaps even explained to Russ (since able-bodied people don’t seem to get the concept).

For example, on their first date, Peter parks his car, transfers into his chair, and then the following happens (emphasis added):

Rolling across the parking lot, Peter panicked when he suddenly found he didn’t have control of his chair anymore. “It’s just me,” Russ said happily. “I saw you getting out of your car.” Peter put his hands on his lap and let Russ guide him into the restaurant.

The fact that Peter would be so happy to let Russ push him seemed jarring to me and completely out of character. My first reaction, reading this, was, “ACK! Looks like it isn’t just your psycho boyfriend who’s creepy!” Even if Russ means well (the restaurant is apparently very packed), I would think Peter would try to do things himself. Or at least be a bit annoyed that Russ doesn’t even consider the fact that Peter is a grown man who’s lived with his disability for long enough to know how to get around on his own?

What makes this even odder, is halfway through the book, once Russ and he have grown more intimate, he lets Russ push him to the bedroom. The narration explains:

Peter never [let someone push him] if he could help it. He hated being pushed in the chair because it meant he was at someone else’s mercy, but he didn’t mind Russ doing it now.

Wait. . . . So he was perfectly OK with a near stranger pushing him from the parking lot through the restaurant, but all of a sudden he’s got a general issue with it? Where was this before?

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