Jim Darling returns home from college still in the closet, but an expert with dildos. He’s never been with a man before and makes the determination that this will be his summer to finally be with one.
Enter Len Mayfield, the father of Jim’s childhood best friend, Cain. Len has been in a white marriage for quite some time; he and his wife sleep in separate bedrooms. Len married young when he got his girlfriend; now wife, pregnant. It wasn’t until later that he realized he was gay. Len is instantly attracted to Jim and Jim has an attraction to Len. Jim had always had a crush on his best friend, Cain, who is straight. Len is an older, but still handsome version of Cain. A seduction begins which leads to a torrid affair that once found out, leaves all parties reeling; Len, Jim and their families.
The biggest problem I had with the story was the two unlikeable and weak main characters. Len is prissy and bitchy when he doesn’t get his way. It’s to the point where he is almost abusive emotionally. When Jim isn’t running after him, Len sulks and becomes a mean-gay to Jim. There is also a point where Len grabs Jim by the neck when Jim makes a comment about how he will be spending time with Cain in order to spark a little jealousy in Len. This demonstrates Len’s ability to be physically abusive in addition to the emotional abuse. And why the heck would you root for a character like that!
Jim is another unlikeable Character. Often sniveling or crying and prone to emotional outbursts. He spends a good portion of the time in the start of the affair wondering when Len might call and checking his phone. I remember my first relationship, and I was somewhat the same way. Now, I look back on it and think, ‘Gosh, I was pathetic.’ While those actions may reflect reality, in fiction, we’d like to see characters stronger than ourselves or at least see them develop into strong characters. Jim doesn’t even attempt to get there.
We don’t get to see Len and Jim grow together. They are in love because they are in love with not much reason behind it. There isn’t much between Len and Jim that shows some commonality to them or why they might be interested in each other aside from the sex. We don’t see them learn about each other emotionally as we see them together sexually. When we do, it is Jim screaming at Len to come out of the closet and Len screaming to Jim to let him stay in and they’ll just have sex. There are not enough scenes where they are vulnerable to each other or learn about each other for us to care about why they are in love.
The seduction of Jim by Len, which could have been hot, just winds up being creepy. Len has Jim drive home because he is drunk. Then, he has Jim help him in the house. Then, ‘help me up to bed.’ Then, ‘help me open this window. It’s hot which is why I’ve ripped open my shirt to the waist.’ Len eventually strips off all his clothes and plays with himself in front of Jim. Jim, meanwhile, is resistant. The story is unclear if that resistance is because Jim is uncomfortable with being gay; uncomfortable with his opportunity to be with a man; uncomfortable that his opportunity is with his best friend’s dad; or if he is just uncomfortable with Len’s come-ons. We don’t get enough of any internal dialogue with Jim as he struggles with his desire for Len. We aren’t shown it though his actions either. Jim is pretty adamant in his scandaliztion of Len’s attempt to get Jim into bed. It all has the air of the predatory older man chasing the young twink guy.
After Len and Jim’s affair is revealed and they break it off, Jim moves to Los Angeles where he works for a year at a new job. The book states that he doesn’t date much or have sex either. What?! Isn’t Jim a gay man in his 20s in the big city?! While I would find it believable that Jim wouldn’t go whoring around, I found it completely unfathomable that he wouldn’t have at least one other short-term relationship with a man. No matter how busy a young, gay man is in the city, he’s never too busy for a little booty. Especially where Jim has sex with some random guy earlier in the book when he and Len are on the outs during a part of their affair.
All of this made the Chase of a Lifetime something not worth running after. It was if the author did no or little research into gay men and how they relate to one another. It was as if he transplanted some Harlequin romance tropes to a gay format and did it unsuccessfully.