(Update: July 26, 2013...I changed the book cover at the author's request.)
I was thrilled when the authors, Alex Morgan and Jon Michaelsen, asked me to read a pre-release copy of Switch Hitter for several reasons. One, I've been a fan of Jon Michaelsen's LGBT fiction for a long time. And two because I've never read anything by Alex Morgan. I also recently finished Maya Angelou's autobiography and that's a tough act to follow, so to speak.
I read the digital version of Switch Hitter all in one sitting last night. But it is about one hundred pages long and it can be spread out over a period of time just as nicely. I just had the time last night, so I decided to read it in full, which isn't something I normally do. From page one the main character, Jase Dockery, drew me into the story and kept me fascinated for the rest of the evening.
Jase is a professional baseball player who rides a motorcycle and tries to live slightly on the dangerous side. But I found him more cautious than wild at times...in spite of how much he seems to crave more excitement in his life. This is partly because his life is so complicated as a public figure, and partly because in order to satisfy his needs he has to figure out ways to trick his bodyguard into thinking he's sleeping when he's really out on the prowl. The extent to which some gay men are forced to hide the truth about themselves was handled in a normal and realistic way, and by no means did I ever feel it was contrived.
In Jase's case, he joins a private "establishment" to satisfy both his physical needs and emotional needs. This one sentence from the book sums up his life:
"Jase knew fans would never accept his sexuality, nor understand his desire for authority and dominance."
Without getting into spoilers, this need to be dominated by a strong man makes Jase even more cautious...almost as if he's working overtime to protect all his secrets. But then he meets someone named "Cap" who is interested in protecting his own privacy, too, because Cap is the captain of a S.W.A.T. team. It's an instant attraction for Jase and Cap and the story moves forward in an interesting way from there...with some highly intense, emotional erotic scenes that pay attention to detail that didn't leave me wanting more. Once again, it didn't feel contrived.
There are a few baseball focused scenes in the book, but just enough to promote the jock aspect of the story. Like most gay men, I like reading jock stories, but I don't want those stories to be all about the sport. In this book, the baseball scenes don't drag out like some sports themed books I've read before that tend to become self-indulgent. In other words, you get just as much as you need to know with regard to Jase and his circumstances as a jock.
From here, it's hard for me to go into anymore detail without spoiling the story, so I'll just add that Jase encounters a stalker, and this stalker winds up doing something to Jase that's beyond everyone's worst fear. At this point I knew I'd have to finish the book in one sitting just to find out what happened.
One of the most interesting things about this book is something I've discussed before, both here on the blog and in a recent publication I was in titled, "50 Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey." The reason I'm mentioning this now is that I actually wrote about this issue with regard to BDSM in the book "50 Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey," and never thought I'd wind up reading something like Switch Hitters that actually poses a good example of what my essay talked about. At the time I wrote my essay, I wish there had been a book like Switch Hitter for me to reference as an example.
One of the things I discovered while researching reviews and reader reaction to the BDSM book, Fifty Shades of Grey, was that readers who know about the BDSM lifestyle were put off by the fact that the BDSM scenes weren't handled well. However, with Switch Hitters the BDSM scenes were not only handled well, the authors nailed one of the most difficult things anyone can do while writing BDSM erotica, and in a very clever way.
They did this by showing how Jase is into the BDSM lifestyle and how he does want it, but on his own terms and with the man of his choice. He doesn't want to be forced into it against his own will. And in the scenes where Jase encounters his stalker and he does find himself forced into doing things he doesn't want to do, the context of the BDSM scenes becomes something completely different for him. It's different for the reader as well. I found myself loving the consensual BDSM scenes when Jase wanted them to happen, and I found myself cringing during the peculiar scenes when Jase was forced to do things against his own will. I honestly don't think I've ever read a better example, in the same book, of the difference between consensual BDSM and non-consensual BDSM. This line below says it all:
"Jase, furious at his treatment and galled at the shapeless man on top of him, remained motionless. This was one action he could refrain from performing."
This all creates a great deal of both suspense and emotion, with regard to how Jase views himself and his own private needs. And what is often an intense dichotomy, especially in the middle of the story, keeps the reader on the edge the entire time, wondering how things are going to turn out.
If I post this review on Amazon or GR, I'm giving it five stars. It's sexy, romantic, authentic to gay fiction, and has all the erotic elements that move a good story forward. I don't have all the product info right now, but I will update this post when I get it. The book will be available for purchase on April 19, 2013. You can follow author Jon Michaelsen here on facebook to keep up with his updates.
Update: Here's a link to read more about Alex Morgan.