Title: Butterly Hunter
Author: Julie Bozza
Genre: M/m romance, contemporary
URL: Author’s site (with links to retailers)
Price: $5.95 USD (at Amazon) / 3.75 UKP
Other Information/warnings: explicit sex
Summary [from the publisher]:
It started as a simple assignment for Aussie bush guide Dave Taylor – escort a lone Englishman in quest of an unknown species of butterfly. However Nicholas Goring is no ordinary tourist, his search is far from straightforward, and it’s starting to look as if the butterflies don’t want to be found. As Dave teaches Nicholas everything he needs to survive in the Outback he discovers that he too has quite a bit to learn – and that very often the best way to locate something really important is just not to want to find it…
This book was recommended to me as being by an author whose life story was the mirror of my own – Bozza was born in England, spent many years in Australia, before returning to her native country.
With the promise of an Australian setting and a natural history plot, I was intrigued (though the relatively high price for the ebook did give me pause.) Sadly, the book didn’t live up to its promise as much as I had hoped.
Let me just say that I don’t like “Gay For You” stories unless very carefully handled, for the reasons articulated by Rick R. Reed here. I also don’t really care for explicit sex for its own sake, and virgin sex is not one of my kinks. However, if GfY, hot sex and sex with first timers are your hot buttons, this book will deliver.
I was looking for more – authentic settings and realistic characters. I’m actually pretty familiar with a lot of the territory Dave and Nicholas cover in this story, and the descriptions didn’t exactly evoke the places I know. For instance, I was surprised that naturalist Nicholas wasn’t struck by the beauty of the forest on the drive up the Toowoomba Range road, or by the views, or even by the famously pretty city itself (which is very different from anything he would have seen in Brisbane or England.) Bozza didn’t make this Queensland native feel the landscape. Perhaps a non-Queensland reader would feel differently. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.
The characters were more of an issue. Nicholas with his fragile, cheeky temperament and ephemeral moods was a delight, and his backstory solidly explained his motivations and behaviour. Dave, on the other hand, didn’t sound like any straight man I’ve ever met, and certainly no straight Queenslander. Straight men aren’t fixated by other men’s smiles and eyes, and yet we are supposed to believe that Dave’s attraction to Nicholas was the first time he’d ever felt anything for another man that way. Not only does not this not freak him out as you might expect (a major life changing realisation about one’s sexuality at his late age would tend to do that) but none of his close friends are freaked out either. Which either means Dave has been living in Egypt for a very long time (no indication of that from his inner dialogue) or his friends are – unlike every Queenslander I’ve ever met or heard or, indeed unlike most people I’ve ever encountered – completely unsurprised by someone they know well apparently suddenly changing their sexual orientation in mid flow.
This OKHomo (which carries on to England) coupled with the Gay For You and the definitely not straight thoughts of allegedly straight Dave, meant I couldn’t suspend belief and really believe Dave as a character, which meant the relationship didn’t convince me. This is a major failing in a romance. Dave’s ‘voice’ didn’t carry what I would call a Aussie flavour in its vocabulary or style, and was disappointingly generic, at least to me. I need to hear a person’s nationality to believe it – and no, I’m not saying he should have been throwing prawns on the barbie in every second sentence. I can hear Aussie voices in writers like Sean Kennedy and Lainey Cairo. Bozza just doesn’t make it work for me. I did like the way she subverted a cultural stereotype or two in relation to the indigenous character, Charlie 🙂
Yet this is not a failure as a book. The story of Nicholas’s quest for – obsession with – the mysterious blue butterfly, was charming and compelling. Nicholas himself is an utter love, and needs many cuddles :). Dave is a nice guy, if not particularly interesting to me, and has his own demons to slay. His ex-girlfriend (from childhood even!) Denise is a supportive friend without tipping over into tiresome yenta territory. The book is competently written and edited, and Bozza does make a decent fist at comedic lines. The growing relationship between Nicholas and Dave is very sweet, and if you like sex in your romance, there’s plenty of it and nicely written too.
So, if the issues I mention above (which are highly specific to me) aren’t issues to you, then you would probably like this story a lot. Even other Aussies aren’t likely to be as bothered as I am by some of this. Nicholas is definitely a special character, and worth reading this book for, if nothing else.