Title: The Next Twenty
Author: Margaret Mills
Length: 52 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Stan Winston is a late-middle-aged man who has spent his life being part King Midas and part lounge lizard, happily increasing his wealth as he schmoozed women and lived his life large. He’s been drifting for a while, though, until buddy Jeremy North, just three days out of military service, appears on Stan’s doorstep with a couple of bombshells to drop: he’s gay, and he’s kissing Stan—right now. Between Stan’s first, defensive reaction and the moment that kiss ends, Stan realizes something very important: Jeremy might be what he’s been missing his entire life.
The most appealing thing for me about this story was the swift pacing and breezy tone when coupled with a rather likeable and laid back character in Stan. Stan is one of these men who isn’t easily shocked and takes pretty much everything in his stride, so when his buddy Jeremy turns up out of the blue and seduces him almost on his doorstop he is pretty thrilled to discover a new and exciting part of himself. In many ways that was a bit of a downside too as I did wonder how Stan had managed to get to 56 without realising that he may just be a bit attracted to men. However, the light tone of the story swept me along and I was impressed by Stan’s subsequent behaviour enough to forgive that little niggle.
Another thing I liked was the way that the age difference is addressed in the story. There’s nineteen years between them and Stan wryly acknowledges the things that he can no longer do that Jeremy finds easy, or how his tummy isn’t quite as tight as it used to be. In fact Stan’s one vice seems to be a bit of vanity. He’s proud of his looks and is slightly dismayed that he’s not as attractive as he was in his heady youth. I liked that, through his actions, Jeremy is able to show Stan that he finds all of Stan attractive, even the bits that have gone a bit soft. I also liked the way that all the possible objections to a May to December relationship, including the fact that Stan is very wealthy, were dealt with in a subtle way, through the use of friends, or Stan’s thoughts, or the way that Jeremy acts. Much of the story deals with actions, rather than words as both men are not used to talking about their feelings, meaning that the reader has to gather the clues about how the men feel for each other rather than it being spelled out – a definite positive for me.
Overall, I enjoyed this story of two men with similar personalities finding their way through a sort of GFY relationship with the added twist of a May/December romance and would recommend it to those who like their men ‘manly’ and their writing intelligent.