Title: Bennie’s Wish
Author: Xara X Xanakas
Length: 17,200 words, 74 pages
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Blurb: For years, Ally Theodisius has suspected his “friends” have been humoring him to stay in his good graces—and his wallet—so when a No Pants Day breakfast ends in his humiliation, he finally takes a stand.
When model Bennie Arnold runs into Ally, his first impression is of a cute, adorably dimpled writer in dire need of a real friend. Bennie would be happy to fill the role. There’s just one little problem: he’s going commando, and it happens to be No Pants Day. If he has any hope of getting his wish, Bennie will have to use his best assets to convince Ally he’s the real deal.
Review: The combination of absent parents, an chubby belly, and “friends” that spend his money and convince him it’s his idea, have all led Ally (Aloysius Theodisius) to think very little of himself. Surrounded by money, Ally realizes once again that everything he has in his life has been bought, including his friends, who are all too happy to cheer him up by taking him on yet another extravagant vacation, one where he inevitably ends up only seeing them at the airport and getting the invoice of their good times later from his accountant. The final straw comes when a chance meeting with model Bennie leads Ally to believe that his friends have once again bought him a hooker and tried to play it off as a real encounter with someone who is actually interested in him. Lately, he’s been feeling the pinch of their mooching, and for Ally’s friends, a happy Ally means the bank is open for business. Only, Bennie isn’t a hooker at all and being an extremely successful and famous model has taught Bennie to know when someone is out for money or fame. Thinking that Ally is cute as a button and needs rescuing from the vultures that surround him, he sets out to woo him. Only Ally still thinks that Bennie has been hired to entertain him, and for once he’s finally got up the nerve to stand up for himself.
I have such a soft spot for chubby guys and nerds and Ally fits that description perfectly. He’s shy, though with the growing friendship of Bennie he starts to come out of his shell and stand up for himself. He’s had so much control over vast amounts of money from a young age as well as such low self esteem that he’s created a whole fake world around himself that he can’t seem to get out of, all enabled by his low self-esteem. Bennie has had similar experiences in the past, which is one of the reason’s he’s drawn to a sad Ally. On vacation from LA when he meets Ally, Bennie has just left his ex-boyfriend who was selling pictures of them together to the tabloids. He was just a long string of guys who wanted Bennie only to be seen on his arm at parties or to be recognized by his agent. And where Ally is shy and reclusive, Bennie is outgoing and forward, easily fitting into Ally’s idea of a high class prostitute when he immediately flirts with him. After all, who would only want Ally for himself?
I think what I really liked about this story is the tone. Both Bennie and Ally have histories and present situations that are depressing, and they could easily turn the story a bit maudlin, but Bennie’s sunny optimism and sexual fire along with Ally’s inherent nerdy, yet privately melodramatic flair mesh well together in an “us-against -them” story full of humor. Take this reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which delights the geek in Ally:
“You bought me a towel?” Ally looked up into Bennie’s blue eyes. “Why?”
“I wanted to make sure you had a good one for today.”
“Today?” Ally looked around the boat, as if he could find a calendar in the gentle waves lapping against the hull.
“Hey, Wish?” ***
Ally turned back to Bennie, his confusion evident on his face. “Yeah?”
“Don’t panic,” Bennie said with a sly smile and a knowing look in his eyes.
Though just a short slice of their time together (the story takes place over one day), I didn’t find the romance to be rushed or the progression of the relationship having too many gaps for so little time. We do get an HEA here, but it is shown as an epilogue, saving this from having any feeling of insta-love. The sexual tension is done very well, as the only real sexual scene is mostly a fantasy of Ally’s (which was hilarious to watch, to see what kind of person he made himself in his fantasy!).
The only niggle I had was the disappearance of Harley, Bennie’s best friend. I really liked him in the beginning of the story and once he goes away, never reemerges.
All in all, I liked that this was such a light take on a funny couple of characters with a lot of zany dialogue. Recommended, B+
***Wish is Bennie’s nickname for Ally (as in al-o-WISH-yus)