Book Review

Moving in Rhythm by Dev Bentham

B+

Title: Moving in Rhythm
Author: Dev Bentham
Publication Info: Carina Press 2012
ISBN: 9781426893438
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Moving in Rhythm by Deve Bentham

I first encountered this book when I noticed a conversation on Twitter about the main character, Mark. I don't even remember who was talking about it – it might have been CheekyReads or Smexybooks or both – but something in the conversation caught my attention, and when I read the description, I felt like I'd been waiting for this book and didn't know I had been. This is a character I couldn't wait to read about. A hero who looks like an alpha, but is terribly, wrenchingly shy? A quiet and honorable guy who looks like a giant, muscly alpha male but is really not?

Sweet fancy Mom Jeans, I wanted to read this book so badly I can't even tell you. Then I read it in mid-February and had to WAIT to review it because I knew the degree of squee might run up against the Not on Sale Yet-ness and piss people off.

So this book is on sale, now, and I really enjoyed it, and I hope you'll try it and let me know what you think because OH MY STARS ADORABLE HERO.

I will now attempt to control myself.

Mark Apolostolos is handsome and built, with a physique he spends a lot of time on. He's smart, he's clever, and he's afflicted with shyness to the point where he is unable to speak to people at times, especially handsome men whom he finds attractive. Mark has effectively isolated himself socially and professionally: he teaches courses online, he works at home, leaving only to walk his dog and go to the gym. He doesn't have any meaningful relationships with flesh and blood humans who are physically close to him, like, say, in the same house or the same room.

When Mark's brother asks him to move in to their home when his brother is deployed, it's a huge adjustment. Mark's sister in law is pregnant, and he's there to help her out. While she doesn't trigger any of the effects of his shyness, she's also not aware that Mark is gay, and has been closeted fiercely by his own shyness.

It's more than just shyness. It's total social paralysis in a lot of ways, with panic attacks and inability to speak.

When Mark goes with his sister in law to a dance class at the gym (seriously, how awesomely sweet is that, going to a dance class for his sister in law?) he sees the instructor, Seth, and is so blown away by his attraction he isn't sure what to do with himself. Seth notices Mark, too, and they have to untangle some very large and very small issues between them, from misunderstandings to Mark's shyness and closeted sexuality, to reach any kind of functional relationship.

Because I was immediately introduced to Mark's feelings – and his neuroses – I was sympathetic to him and involved in his problems. I had large amount of empathy for him from the first chapter, not only because he was a sympathetic character, but because I think most people (certainly me) know how it feels to be shy or intimidated by a social situation. I don't like crowds, or large spaces filled with people wherein I can't get to a door easily. That makes me seriously antsy – and that's minor compared to Mark's experiences. So my imagining feeling that way all the time made me want to see what Mark did to overcome his problems. 

Mark's social anxiety was a large, overwhelming fear that most people have probably experienced in small doses. For Mark, it affected everything he did. Who he was, physically and emotionally, was a result of his social anxiety: he works out constantly to counter the anxiety with exhaustion, he lifts and pushes his body so he can feel as if he is in control of one aspect of himself, and he teaches online so he can control the level of spatial interaction he has with students and other people. By the time I fully understood Mark's character and the limitations he was working within, I was rooting for him, while dreading how hard it would be for him to adjust.

This is one scene I loved, where Mark and his sister in law, Claire, are in dance class and Mark is doing his best not to notice Seth: 

Everyone was bouncing, first on one foot, then the other, and clapping their hands above their heads. Mark watched Claire's feet until he got the rhythm then looked up to see Seth smiling at him. It startled him into smiling back. Then Seth called for a turn and a hip roll and Mark started differentiating polynomials in his head.

The downside to that level of empathy is that it came at the expense of the other characters in the story. I knew a good amount about Mark, his sister in law and his brother, but they were members of Mark's family, and because they story is very much about Mark and his world, those who weren't in his immediate sphere were less fully developed. I wanted to know more about Seth, for example, and due to the construction of the narrative, that didn't happen.

For example, often shyness is mistaken for aloofness or coldness, and Mark's inability to speak in situations he finds intimidating means that he hasn't spoken up for himself in years. I wanted to see other characters' reactions more, especially Seth. The story's deep perspective from Mark means that I knew Mark extremely well, but it also meant that Seth's role was reduced. He wasn't an entirely cohesive character to me; he was a catalyst to Mark's decision to change and face his own anxieties and the limitations they caused. 

Mark's decision to come out and be more assertive in his own self identification isn't necessarily abused by Seth, though he is part of the reason. Another character is the one who tells Mark to get off his backside take the risk of coming out – and the pain and motivation of that scene was so very, very powerful. 

One thing I appreciated was the more accurate portrayal of coming out. I myself am not homosexual, but my understanding of “coming out” is that it doesn't happen one time and yay, you're here, queer and good orgasms commence. Coming out, as I understand it, happens repeatedly to different people in different situations. Sometimes it might be easy (“I'm gay.” Other person: “Duh.”) and sometimes it might mean telling someone that you have been lying to them for decades, and dealing with the fallout of the damage to that relationship.

Too often in my experience, m/m romance featuring a character who isn't “out” portrays a very shallow sketch of coming out, as if identifying someone and realizing that being attracted to them is greater than the need to stay in the closet is all there is to the process.  Mark had to come out to himself publicly, instead of in his own thoughts, and then to various people in different situations, and no single instance was easy for him, in part because of his own anxiety and in part because coming out is often excruciatingly difficult. I had tremendous respect for the author's development of Mark's coming out, and how arduous, ongoing, and varied an experience it was. It was part of the larger experience of Mark battling his shyness in order to be happy.

I read this book in a few hours, staying up until 1am to finish because I had to see what happened, how it would end, if Mark would be able to say out loud what he wanted. I don't remember time passing while I read it. I was emotionally invested in this story within the first few pages, and would eagerly recommend this story to anyone who wanted to try a m/m romance, or anyone looking for new twist on a heroic type. I wish Seth had been better developed, and I wish more of his story would have been present somehow to balance out his role, but as I said, this novel is very much about Mark and his struggle, and his attraction and feelings for Seth are a catalyst to Mark learning to be who he is, despite anxieties he can't control. The experience of watching him learn and change is an amazing one. I am so glad I was on Twitter when I was, because otherwise, I would have missed out on an extraordinarily emotional and touching story.  


This book is available from Carina PressGoodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarah Frantz says:

    See, and I was never convinced by Mark’s shyness. Yes, it’s framed and built his life as we see it, but it never seemed at the time to be that big a barrier to his relationship with Seth. I enjoyed the story, it was cute, but it felt like I was being told, “Mark’s really really shy, y’all,” but shown something different.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    I disagree. His panic attacks and anxiety at anything having to do with acting on his sexuality rang very true for me, since his shyness was wrapped up in his closeted-ness. His brother hints at why toward the end, and it made sense to me. I didn’t get the sense I was being told he was shy; there were several scenes for me that outlined the difference between Mark when he was around Seth or attractive gay men and Mark when he was around people who didn’t trigger that anxiety. Those scenes made his anxiety and shyness quite real for me.

  3. 3
    Sarah Frantz says:

    You’re making want to go back and reread, so that’s a good thing. I liked it well enough, I was just never convinced. Now I want to reread to see if I can be convinced. :)

  4. 4

    I thought he was using his shyness as a crutch or as a defense mechanism. He was hiding behind it and using it as an excuse to not come out, after all, if his social anxiety made it impossible for him to be on a relationship, what’s the point of coming out? I’m not saying the disorder wasn’t real, on the contrary, it was painfully real and it shaped his life in a big way.

    I really loved how Seth used his experience with dogs to approach Mark, the parallels between Greyhounds and Mark (living on a cage, only being allowed outside to run) were not lost to me.

    I enjoyed the book very much, and I’m glad you did too. Have you read Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan? One of the heroes in that book is also a dancer and the main theme is about healing and dealing with pain, coming to terms with it and how it affects your life, excellent book.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    I haven’t read that one – I will go find it now. Thank you!

    And yes, the parallels to Seth’s experience with his greyhounds weren’t lost on me, either! It was one of the reasons that, despite the lack of development of his character, I trusted that he’d be a good match for Mark, because he had and demonstrated patience and caring in other ways.

  6. 6
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Purchased! This sounds like my kind of book.

  7. 7
    moviemavengal says:

    Just bought it, too.  Looking forward to reading it on spring break next week.

  8. 8
    HollyY says:

    I adored Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan. It was really wonderful. I’ve read two others by her Nowhere Ranch and A Private Gentleman and really loved all three!

    I’ll have to give Moving in Rhythm a shot. It sounds like a great read

  9. 9
    KKJ says:

    Ditto on the recommendation for Heidi Cullinan’s “Dance with Me” – it’s ridiculously good, one of my go-to happy-place books. Then read all her other books too – her characters are f’ing amazing.

    I also HIGHLY recommend “Rules of Engagement” by K.A. Mitchell (swoon-worthy flirting scene involving dog tags) and STRONGLY recommend (actually more like “read this NOW, dammit”) “Tigers and Devils” by Sean Kennedy (closeted Aussie footballer falls in love with an “arty wanker,” relatively PG-rated but also very swoon-worthy).

    I think I need to go read all of these again. After I read Moving in Rhythm.

     

  10. 10
    Tania Kennedy says:

    Speaking as someone who has social anxiety, complete with panic attacks and puking after being forced to socialise, it’s really, really not a crutch. It’s quite literally physically difficult to do those things. A lot of people think it’s just shyness, and haven’t we all been shy? But it’s not. It’s an actual, biological “fight or flight” reaction to social situations, all the time, every time.

    So, frankly, the idea of coming out after being in the closet for years actually makes me shake from sympathy. My gay friends were scared enough even without the social anxiety. Add it in, and god. The amount of bravery that would be needed blows my mind, and makes me really happy I’m not gay and never had to go through that.

  11. 11
    KKJ says:

    Oops – Rules of Engagement is L.A. Witt, not K.A. Mitchell. WHY WHY WHY do so many m/m authors have A as their middle initial?????

  12. 12
    KKJ says:

    Ditto on nearly every word – except the “all the time, every time.” Fortunately, mine is more situational (crowds, talking on the phone) and slightly more controllable, but I will join you in arguing vehemently with anyone who calls it a crutch. It implies it’s a choice, and it’s most definitely not something I choose.

    I know I’ve pitched Heidi already, but her latest called “A Private Gentlemen” deals with social anxiety and addiction/withdrawal/recovery really well – in an m/m Regency, no less. Thank GOD we now have Zoloft and Xanax instead of opium dens.

    SB Sarah or Sarah F – does the author have Mark on meds or in therapy, and if not, does *anyone* encourage him to get medical care? I absolutely LOATHE it when authors use the Magical Orgasm Cure for mental illness or (even worse) recovery from abuse. It just perpetuates the “just snap out of it” myth that prevents people from getting help.

  13. 13
    HollyY says:

    Absolutely loved A Private Gentleman and loved her heroes from that one.

  14. 14
    Tania Kennedy says:

    It’s so hard to explain to people who don’t have a phobia, I’ve found. I get it, though, it’s hard to understand a fear that seems to unreasonable unless you also have a fear of something unreasonable, so I don’t hold anything against people who think it’s something someone can “just get over.” I do avoid those people, though.

    But I agree with the therapy and/or meds for the anxiety part. Orgasms totally don’t cure anxiety, even when they’re provided by someone else.

  15. 15
    KKJ says:

    “Orgasms totally don’t cure anxiety, even when they’re provided by someone else.”

    Holy crap, that made the Diet Coke come out my nose.

  16. 16
    Heather says:

    I’ve added this to my Amazon wish list. I’ve considered “Tigers and Devils” before, but was always put off by the cover art. WHY is m/m romance so afflicted with blegh or outright “Oh My God that is the ugliest/most awkward/WTF does that have to do with the story?!” covers?

  17. 17
    Heather says:

    I’m so glad to see you reviewing an m/m romance—a highly popular subgenre of romance that has nevertheless been largely ignored by the hetero romance sites. I actually sent an email to RT Book Reviews, asking why they don’t have a section for m/m romance reviews (even if it’s just one or two pages!). I have yet to hear anything back from them. Most romance sites/magazines will only review m/m if it’s part of a threesome erotic novel with a female character. I wonder why?

  18. 18
    Carin says:

    Thank you for this review!  I bought the book after reading it this morning.  I’m halfway through it now and I’m loving it!

  19. 19
    Mary G says:

    I was actually looking at this one becuase I loved Dance With me so much and I’m going through withdrawal lol. Loved the review but my wallet hates you.

  20. 20
    SB Sarah says:

    I do review m/m romance, though not often. I’m pretty selective about what m/m I read though you guys are causing the book queue to become heavy at present!

  21. 21
    Heather says:

    Sarah, if you haven’t read “Faith and Fidelity” by Tere Michaels, you need to. And I mean NEED TO. It’s one of the best m/m romances I’ve ever read.

  22. 22
    hechicera says:

    Also available as an audiobook on Audible for $2.92 for members, $4.95 for non. I’ll be giving it a try on today’s plane ride home.

  23. 23
    DONNA says:

    I was just shopping Audible’s sale and was trying to decide if I would get this. I think I’ve been convinced to do so. It costs less than the ebook, so why not?

  24. 24
    Mandischreiner says:

    I loved this book too…you make a nice point about him coming out and it isn’t just a one time experience. I’m going to think about that next time I read a book where that is relevant.

  25. 25

    This was a great book i really enjoyed it

  26. 26
    Kaetrin says:

    Moving this one up my TBR! :)

  27. 27

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