Review: Crossing Borders, by Z.A. Maxfield (Rating: 3/5)

maxfield-crossing-bordersCrossing Borders, by Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (Aug. 4, 2015; orig. published in 2007)
Page Count: 271 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Summary: Tristan knows he’s got issues. His latest ex-girlfriend knows it too. He can’t blame her for dumping him—even though she gets her brother to do it for her. Since he can’t stop staring at said brother’s package, he figures it’s about time to put a label on those issues. He likes guys.

He heads to a local bookstore with what he’s sure is a foolproof plan to find someone to show him what he’s been missing. But who should crash his little adventure? Officer Michael Truax, who gave him a really expensive ticket back in high school for skateboarding without a helmet.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for years… to give him a second ticket. Suddenly faced with “Sparky”, all grown up and looking to get laid, Michael’s protective instinct kicks in—and presents him with an opportunity that’s hard to resist. After all, the kid must know what he’s getting into, so why not?

My Thoughts: I think this might be what a Disney movie would look like if Disney got into the raunchy, gay male erotica business. It’s cliche and twee, syrupy sweet to the point of diabetes, and so full of m/m genre tropes that you trip over them every other page. In any other author, I suspect this novel would be a one-star review, but this re-release of Maxfield’s first m/m romance is actually surprisingly good!

Tristan is nineteen, which means he’s the kind of impulsive that has teenagers thinking they’re invincible and makes adults roll their eyes. He’s about five minutes into being gay, after his girlfriend dumps him and he has a come-to-Jesus moment in the form of her hot older brother, so he decides to have some anonymous gay sex to try it out. Sounds logical, right? (Well, to a nineteen year old boy, maybe.) But then he encounters his arch-nemesis, the cop who gave him an expensive and ridiculous ticket a few years before for skateboarding without head protection… and suddenly Officer Helmet is Officer Sexy through Tristan’s newly-opened Gay Eyes.

This novel hit a lot of my “No, thank you” buttons right off the bat. Characters who fall in love even though they barely know one another? Check. Significant age difference that results in a huge gap in maturity? Check. Confusing sentences and awkward wording? Check. Impossible refractory periods during (the really hot) sex? Oh yes, check. Really, this novel should have been an epic disaster for me.

But it wasn’t.

I’m not sure why. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I enjoyed this book. But something about Maxfield’s writing kept me flipping the pages from start to finish, despite the flashing red lights going off in my head. Here’s the thing: this novel is not particularly good. It’s not particularly well written. It is, however, immensely fun. Also, did I mention that the sex is really really hot? Like I said before, it was Maxfield’s first published novel, which accounts for a lot I think, and was originally published several years ago. Almost zero editing was done to this re-release, so it really is a glimpse back in time!

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this book, but it’s all things you’d expect from an author new to the genre. But there’s a lot of promise here, a lovely glimmer of the author that Maxfield will eventually become, and I think that is why I enjoyed this novel.

But Maxfield herself describes best what drew me in:

“This was my very first published work and it’s been my bestselling book since the day it came out. It’s certainly not because I knew what I was doing. Possibly, what I lacked in ability I made up for with enthusiasm.”

I agree 100%. It’s the enthusiasm that shines through, here, and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. This is a 5-star novel in a 3-star packaging, and that’s solely because of the inexperience of the writer, not for a lack of talent!

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