One Life to Lose
I’m going to start by saying that I have a lot of admiration for what Kris Ripper has done with the Queers of La Vista series. Human beings hate change, they fear what they see as abnormal or different. In these novels the author presents stories about normal, everyday people who also represent some of the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity and expression. It’s a series with a theme of ‘we’re here, we’re queer, what’s to fear?’ and I like that.
In One Life to Lose, there is still a murderer stalking the people who live in this area of La Vista, San Francisco, and they seem to be linked to Club Fred’s in some way. Cameron Rheingold owns and runs his family’s movie theatre in the area. He is an anxious man and a loner, and whether by accident or design he seems comfortable with his existence. To drum up more interest in his theatre as the Thanksgiving / Christmas season approaches, he organises a twelve week season of Cary Grant films each with a small reception in the lobby afterwards.
At the first of the screenings he introduces the film, drops his prompt cards while speaking, but recovers well, drawing the attention of two men – Josh and Keith, a couple in the audience. Their first meeting creates feelings in Cam he has never really felt before and a series of meetings and ‘dates’ begin between the men. Josh and Keith are a couple that enjoy BDSM between them and when they suggest that Cam become a third in their relationship, despite his inner reservations, he joins them.
Obviously, there are a lot of doubts and personal worries to overcome when a third joins an established couple. Additionally, Cam is a little older than Josh and Keith so there is a lot to be talked over and chewed over, and they do talk and think things over – a little too much for this reader.
I said I liked the idea of normalising diversity to help with the process of removing fear and opposition from society, but this is a romance, a polyamorous romance AND a murder mystery. This is the one place where emotions, descriptions and events should be more heightened for effect. This is where descriptions should evoke sympathy, empathy, anger, enjoyment of the romance and even the sexy aspects. But the novel fails in this.
The language is too simple and straightforward. The characters spend an excessive amount of time talking to each other in the same four locations. They talk endlessly about their situation, which doesn’t really seem to be ‘a situation’. I really didn’t like any member of the ménage, which is an obvious downer in a polyamorous romance. The writing seems to come to life a bit in some of the sex scenes, but even with the added interest of BDSM in their sexual relationship, my lack of empathy with the characters meant I skim read some of the sex scenes.
I was very disappointed with the revealing of the murderer, and the action and reaction around the revelation was a huge anti-climax. This has been a sub-plot spanning four novels, and yet it was dealt with fairly summarily in a few of pages in this, book four. I liked the first in the series – Gays of Our Lives – very much, but this final one was not for me.