Johnny Two-Guns by Mark Wildyr

Johnny Two-Guns by Mark Wildyr
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (200 pages)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

When vacationing Denver architect Roger Mackie rolls into a quaint old trading post in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountain Range to gas up his car, it’s the start of a life-changing journey. Lean, handsome Chippewa Johnny Two-Guns is looking for a ride. He’s on a mission to recover some clan treasures. Roger is immediately smitten and drives Johnny all the way to Arizona.

Although the two successfully build a friendship, Roger is unable to initiate the intimacy they both seem to desire. A second visit gives Roger another chance to draw Johnny out of his shell. The payoff is spectacular, leading to a week of sex and discovery, during which Johnny’s innocent enthusiasm shows Roger a new side of love between men. But trouble is on the horizon for the new couple, as fate seems set against them. And what does the sudden appearance of sexy young architect Brad Beaver portend for the future?

An architect meets a gorgeous young Chippewa, and the two take a road trip that changes everything. Then tragedy strikes, and one is forced to try to move on somehow. Perhaps a new love interest will cure the sorrow….

This is not a typical sort of romance. For one, it’s more realistic than most romances where things are seen through rose-tinted glasses and everything is perfect. I loved that. Second, there are three men in this story. They’re not together at the same time, though, so no threesomes here. (Well, one threesome, but it’s between two men and one woman, and it’s non-consensual, so be forewarned.) Third, a lot of time passes in this story, and I mean years. There are no traditional dates here, but mostly work trips and vacations. Some relationships come to life this way, so it was great to see a change from the typical tropes.

Roger is the constant in the story. We only get his point of view, though in third person. His love for Johnny and later for Brad deals more with Roger learning who he is and adjusting to it than a standard romance. Don’t get me wrong, since we get a lot of sex. But they’re more about the men learning truths about themselves than the excitement of two men together. In fact, Roger isn’t described as a gay man coming to that realization. He seems to be more pansexual, attracted to a specific person rather than a gender. I’ve rarely seen that aspect of orientation shown so well.

Since we only get Roger’s POV, Johnny and Brad come off a bit more as caricatures rather than real three-dimensional men. Not all the time, mind you, but occasionally. What was well done, in my honest opinion, was the friendship these men formed before growing into their feelings. That was nice. The story doesn’t delve very deeply into Native American cultural heritage but we do learn a few new things. I did at least. I’m not sure how well it’ll be received, though, that Johnny and Brad are both described as Indians. That threw me a bit. I thought that word was a no-no….

Johnny, as the titular character, comes off clearer, his first stumbling into a sexual life shown well. His shyness and awkwardness, his laconic way of being, his slowly opening personality—it was all wonderful to read. He’s such a sweetheart you naturally feel for him. In contrast, Brad is less clear, much of his self-explorations done off-camera, so to speak, since we’re not given his point of view. Therefore his actions and inactions seemed to take place in a kind of a vacuum. Later he explains how he came to act the way he did but at the time it was all a mystery.

Roger’s character confused me. Mostly because he often referred to himself as old or old-fashioned or having old ways, etc. When much later in the book it turns out he’s only thirty-three, I was flummoxed. From all the self-descriptions, I expected him to be in his late forties or early fifties. Since when is a man in his thirties old? The way he thought of himself as old didn’t match his age. I think that was the author speaking, not the character himself. And that was disappointing.

None of the above poses a major problem, however. Why? Because if you’re seeking a story that makes you feel, then this is for you. I cried on several occasions, and laughed aloud at a couple of others. Like Johnny, Wildyr has a laconic way of writing, focusing more on actions taken and the changes within a person than on labels or defining feelings. That was nice because it felt like the storyline happened organically in a natural progression, giving this a strong foundation of realism.

So, while not a traditional sort of romance, if you’re searching for something that is firmly grounded in realism, then this is for you. Yes, there are the occasional sex-with-women scenes, but they’re done short or off-screen. Remember, this is these men’s journey into self-discovery more than a happy-ever-after romance. This was my first book by Wildyr but won’t be the last.

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