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Straight, married Petty Officer Second Class Skyler Thompson battles homophobia from his navy buddies, the military, and his wife when he takes a job creating flower arrangements at a gay-owned florist. But rather than yield to pressure and quit, he refuses to give up the joy of creating beautiful arrangements, battling homophobia for artistic expression. His dream is to leave the navy and open his own florist shop.
Ezra Dumphy—his shipmates call him Dumpy because of his obesity—is a gay sailor who likes to dress in drag. He is shunned by his shipmates, tragically lonely, and uses drugs to cope with his solitude. What he wants more than anything is someone to share his life with.
Can these two men, opposites in every way, help each other achieve their dreams?
I’m not entirely sure where to start with First Exposure. At the end of my reading experience, I’m left feeling really…raw. Plus manipulated, hoodwinked, fooled, unsatisfied…
Look, maybe it was me. Maybe some of the things I didn’t like wouldn’t bother anyone else. But I do think there are some important details to note should you choose to read this one, and especially if you’re a die-hard m/m purist.
The main characters in First Exposure are Skylar and Ezra, and (probably) Skylar’s wife Rosa. That’s right: one MC has a wife. (There’s even talk of lady fluids). There’s even a kid. Skylar is not gay, nor does he ever…experiment, and that just about ruined things for me. Sorry I’m not sorry?
When you first meet Skylar, he’s onboard an air cargo ship directing flight landings. Skylar is dedicated to his ship life. He’s so absorbed with the lifestyle, in fact, that he forgets his own anniversary and accidentally subscribed his wife to a weekly delivery of long-stemmed roses. He comes off as self-centered and aloof, and utterly unaware of what a shambles (especially financially) his life is in back at home. For me, Skylar was immediately unlikable, and unfortunately I couldn’t find anything redeeming about him for the entire rest of the story.
To be fair, Skylar does try and defend (I guess) Ezra, a sailor under Skylar’s command who is hopelessly picked on, lost and using drugs to cope with his life as a gay man in a macho profession and a macho world. Ezra might be one of the saddest characters I’ve read about lately, because the story of his life is so brutal. Honestly, the things he has to go through are hard to swallow.
Skylar’s wife, Rosa was, for me, a hard character to like/support/care about. She was selfish, demanding and occasionally unforgiving. She was a reminder for me about why I got so burned out reading m/f books, which is not what the author intended, I’m sure!
First Exposure includes a small collection of strong (although ultimately doomed) supporting characters, most notably Hollister and Miguel, but also Skylar’s father.
I found the first half of the book to be almost boring; I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen, for (I thought) Skylar and Ezra to come together somehow…or something. For Skylar to finally come to terms with the reality of his sad life. Instead, really tragic things happen. Things that I can’t address because I’ll reveal plot details, but GAH. I’ve never read a book where I thought a situation for (a set of) characters was so unfair, and without some underlying meaning or lesson. I can take tragedy with a purpose or a message. There was simply no purpose or message here I could latch onto here.
I do want to share that the writing in First Exposure was really and truly well done. There was nothing sloppy or off or annoying in that regard. For me the dissatisfaction with this book was wholly related to the story itself; and what a disappointment it was.