Chasing the High
Chasing the High is Beth Michele’s first m/m Romance, though she has quite a back catalogue of well-received m/f Romances. This novel starts well with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald –
“They slipped into an intimacy from which they have never recovered.”
a perfect summation of the plot of this novel.
Sam Stone is left at the altar by his fiancé, Glenn. He is obviously shocked by the betrayal but more so because he believes he has arranged his life to be organised, orderly and, in fact, perfect for someone like himself.
He is a well-known author who, we learn from the outset, suffers from some form of compulsive anxiety disorder. Sam decides to go on the honeymoon alone to nurse his broken heart, thinking two weeks in the paradise of Hawaii, with its sandy beaches and tranquil waters, will help him plan what to do next.
However, on the plane, Sam is seated next to the grumpy but attractive Drew Mariano and thus begins a relationship that will change both of their lives.
Drew appears to be the opposite of Sam to start with. He is a bit messy, likes spontaneous outings, adrenaline rushes and living for the moment; and in Hawaii he swoops in and gets Sam to try doing the same. It means that Sam, for the first time, starts to be impulsive, enjoy some of the highs in life, and forget some of his anxieties – which mean he forgets about Glenn quite easily.
I really enjoyed the section set in Hawaii and I could see how Sam would forget Glenn along with some of his compulsive behaviours. The feelings he develops for Drew are new to him, more exciting and thrilling than anything he felt for his long-term partner. If this was meant to be a longer, deeper look at betrayal and new love versus long-term love – I might have felt it a little hard to swallow. However, it’s a light romantic story and it doesn’t try to be deeply reflective.
There is some natural awkwardness to overcome as Sam and Drew think the other is straight but they eventually become an adorable example of a couple excitedly learning about love and each other. This is a lovely, happy section to read with enough content to make you wonder what each man is hiding. Then there is another misunderstanding of the type I really do not like in stories, and as always in these situations the characters behave ridiculously.
Very speedily after this misunderstanding, we are back in New York where the two men live and work. I found this part of the story a bit disappointing and too formulaic and clichéd. The characters, when in Hawaii, were interesting, and the opposites of one another, but as soon as we leave the holiday romance portion, the characters become very similar and Drew, in particular, comes across as rather banal and weak.
The sex scenes are passionate, but the author tends to use the hackneyed phrases that appear in m/m romance so often it is starting to feel like there is an LGBTQ+ romance writer’s manual that I missed.
For example –
‘And then Sam’s fingers were gone, and I was mourning their loss.’
Plus, the belief that adding the word fuck or fucking to any phrase makes it more masculine.
‘…my come shot out everywhere on the fucking sheets…’
The word ‘sheets’ could be replaced by jeans, drawer, beach, menu … ad infinitum.
This is perhaps a little unfair to Beth Michele, as she is no more guilty of this than any of the other of the m/m writers who do it. It’s just quite obvious here, where the character of Sam becomes more protective and assertive in New York, and begins to say fuck in everyday speech, not just during sex.
That being said, Chasing the High is a very readable romance without too much angst and with lots of lovely beaches.