About the Book
Title: Drama Queens with Love Scenes
Author: Kevin Klehr
Print Length: 72,200 words
Publisher: Nine Star Press
Publication Date: 17 April, 2017
Categories: Gay fiction, humor, fantasy, alternate universe, literature
Close friends Allan and Warwick are dead. They’re not crazy about the idea, so to help them deal with this dilemma are Samantha, a blond bombshell from the 1950s, and Guy, an insecure angel.
Allan also has a secret. He has a romantic crush on his friend, Warwick, but shortly after confiding in his new angel pal, his love interest falls for the cock-sure playwright, Pedro.
Not only does Allan have to win the heart of his companion, he also has to grapple with the faded memory of how he actually died.
The premise of the novel is a new twist on angels and the afterlife. I’m not a big fan of apocalyptic literature, so I was happy to see a different vision of heavenly beings. That said, I had mixed feelings after reading the book.
What I loved:
The world-building is fantastic. It’s beautifully complex, and I had no trouble imagining the setting. There’s a terrific cast of characters, many of whom are likable. On the flip side, the baddies are delightfully horrible. Like any good play, most of the cast is over-the-top. However, they’re not flat.
Allan is a classic unreliable narrator, which I loved. I kept wondering why he was wasting his time pining after Warwick, who seemed to me like he wasn’t worth it. The slow-build to reveal how they died and the true nature of their relationship is outstanding. By the end, I was sympathetic to both of them.
I loved the writing style. It’s smooth and flowing. This is a book that is designed to make you think as much as it is to entertain. The story is largely told through dialog and theater. I’m not well-read enough myself to pick up on the various literary allusions, but I did find several. I enjoyed these subtle cues as well as much of the humor despite the slightly morbid premise.
What I didn’t like:
I’m simply going to state it: This book’s one huge flaw was its representation of bisexuality. Everything, from subtle digs to hinging a major plot point on the badness of a bisexual character, was an exercise in misrepresentation and hostility. Because I think readers need to know, I’m going to give spoilers. I found these elements upsetting; your mileage may vary. Highlight to read.
First of all, every bisexual character is labeled a “swinger.” There’s a young playwright who was almost-but-not-quite involved in a threesome in his mortal life. He keeps reliving it by writing about it. He’s never even given a proper name, which I found disturbing and reminiscent of bisexual erasure. Even the non-human characters are given actual names, but it’s implied that his is too humiliating to tell anyone. This is deeply troubling as a parallel for how actual bisexual people are treated with regard to using the label.
All of these “swingers” have to meet under the guise of a “gem club,” even though everyone is apparently aware that these meetings are for partner-swapping and group sex. Yet the gay characters have no problem openly making out or groping one another publicly. (There’s some lesbian erasure here too. I have no idea what a “lesbian waiting to happen” is, for example, and calling a butch a “drag king” is a stretch. A drag king would be identified as “he” rather than “she” while performing. This character has a feminine name and uses feminine pronouns throughout; there’s no indication this is drag.)
There are numerous small comments sprinkled in, such as subtly referring to bisexuality as a phase more than once. I appreciate that at least one character defends bisexuality, but only as a behavior rather than as an identity.
Pedro, the main bad character, turns out to be bisexual and using that duplicitously to get rid of Allan. Pedro and his woman lover are jealous of Allan, so Pedro tricks Warwick into a relationship. The whole thing smacks of “evil bisexual.” Pedro literally kills Allan in the end, effectively coming between him and Warwick just as they’ve finally come to terms with everything.
Throughout the entire thing, bisexuals are consistently shown as greedy, underhanded, secretive, evil, and immature, people with unresolved issues in their mortal lives and incapable of Allan’s level of personal growth.
I have no idea what the author’s actual intent here was, and it doesn’t matter; the damage is done. These are common stereotypes, and it’s disheartening to see them spilled out on the page for the umpteenth time. The kind of straight-to-gay erasure in most gay romance is annoying, but this is outright harmful, as it shows bisexual people as not to be trusted. Bisexuality isn’t merely a behavior and a plot point.
This is not an M/M romance. It’s a work of gay literary fiction with romantic themes. It is primarily a story about unrequited love and unfinished business. Readers should go in with eyes wide open and without preconceived ideas about what it should look like. There’s no fairytale ending, though I like to think there’s plenty of hope. Despite my frustrations with the treatment of bisexuality, I did think this was exceptionally well-written. Hopefully, the other books in the series lack some of these issues.
For elegant writing and an intriguing premise but with a side of flawed representation, this gets 7 fountain pens.
About the Author
Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.
From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.
His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.
So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.