Join Ray as he recounts in his blog the hilarious and touching events that lead him on a journey toward true love. Although he originally starts looking for love in all the wrong places, will he eventually find another man who wants more than just quick sex? A man who appreciates romance, hearts, and flowers? Or will he find that self-acceptance and bliss do not always go hand-in-hand?
And what of Alice, Ray’s lovely, jilted fiancée? Will she find it in her heart to forgive the man who left her at the altar?
Readers of gay fiction usually associate Rick R. Reed with the horror story. Unzipped Magazine has described him as “the Stephen King of gay horror” and rightly so, it is a well-deserved accolade. But fans of this author also know that he is versatile and writes across genres. In Out On The Net Mr. Reed once again forays into the realm of contemporary gay romance, but not just any run-of-the-mill romance, strictly a Rick R. Reed particular brand of romance – a laugh out loud romantic comedy that is interspersed with touching moments and tells the story of a man who decides to open the door of his closet and step out of it on his wedding day.
Poor Alice – Ray’s never-to-be bride – is left at the altar utterly humiliated and devastated, and family and friends are stunned at the turn of events. Through the lens of the main character’s jocular disposition, Mr. Reed well-captures Ray’s multitude of conflicting feelings at story’s beginning from fear, to guilt, to pain at both hurting and losing Alice and his moments of vacillation as to whether he has lost his mind, should go through with the wedding or, call it off. But Ray’s metaphorical building is on fire and the instinct to flee suffocation for freedom is strongest of all. With the help of his supportive best friend and best man Doug, Ray escapes the church twenty minutes before his wedding ceremony leaving Doug to make the announcement and deal with the immediate fallout, not knowing whether he’s made the right decision and hoping against all odds that one day Alice will be able to forgive him.
Despite all his guilt over the pain he’s caused Alice, Ray holds fast to his conviction that he did the right thing and embarks on a journey to find himself and his life as a gay man. Ray recounts his journey on the net and the entire novella is written as a series of Ray’s online posts. And with his first blog entry in which he tells of the events of that fateful day in church, Ray takes the reader along on a funny, honest and often touching ride of his experiences as a newly out gay man.
The first stop on this ride is sex. Having never had sexual relations with another man technically, Ray is a thirty-year old virgin. From the fly swarming and stinky highway rest stop where, in a small town with no gay bars or hangouts, gay men gather to have anonymous sex, the often duplicitous world of online hook-ups, his awkward first date and then finally Ray’s amazing first sexual encounter with a dreamy Greek love-God that leaves him heart-broken because he mistakes lust for love, some of the funniest and at the same time most touching moments in the story are Ray’s posts about his quest for sex and ultimately his search for true love. Ray comes to the realization that he is a one-man man, and that finding true love may be just as elusive for a gay man as it is for anyone else. Ray resigns himself to the possibility of never finding that gay life and love he envisioned, but life turns a corner when Ray ventures to “Homo Depot” to buy material to fix a self.
Throughout all of the ups and downs of Ray’s experiences, Alice continuously looms in his mind and heart. Even though he is not, nor could he ever be “in love” with Alice, he does love her deeply and wishes her much deserved happiness. Several of Ray’s online posts are devoted to Alice who, understandably at first, wants nothing to do with Ray. And even though this story is a romantic comedy and written exclusively from Ray’s perspective, Mr. Reed writes Alice’s reaction to Ray’s attempts to at first re-establish some level of communication and then their eventual interactions with sensitivity.
I have always found Mr. Reed’s sense of humour to be of the deliciously clever variety whereby he often writes stories with serious underlying themes and manages to turn them into laugh out loud comedies without compromising the integrity of the story, its characters or the more serious messages he is trying to convey. He once again puts these talents to good use in this novella to deliver a well-written, funny and touching story that cleverly blankets the pain of Ray’s coming out and all the difficulties associated with his quest to live his life honestly, through not only humour, but also a well-developed, sympathetic, quite cheeky and easily lovable main character.
Throughout the story I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of Rays out there in the real world, who for whatever reason, are not able to take that courageous step out and find themselves living lives and in marriages and relationships that should never have been. Ray Tolliver makes the decision to tell his story on the net because he wants to help others like him avoid making the same mistakes he did. Through Ray’s missive in Out On The Net Mr. Reed is no doubt imparting some of his own life experience and wisdom in this novella (the story is dedicated to his own Alice) and as such I suspect is attempting to accomplish the same.
Out On The Net by Rick R. Reed is a light, funny and entertaining story with an underlying message of being true to oneself and living an honest life no matter how difficult and painful the road to getting there may be.