5 Stars for Open Seating: "An Emotional Roller Coaster" Rainbow Book Reviews

Friday June 10, 2016

Review by Serena Yates


‘Open Seating’ is an emotional roller coaster from page one, but it is also an excellent character study of two men who could not be more different. Their cruise is a great setting and the underlying stress of having to share close quarters with a near-stranger adds a nice level of tension. Almost from the beginning, the spotlight is on Seth, who has just lost his partner, Mark, of twenty years to suicide, and Bryce, one of Mark’s gym buddies. Ups and downs, crises, and difficulties abound, and neither of the men realizes, never mind admits, that there is a relationship until about halfway through the novel. Bryce thinks it's only physical, or at least that’s what he would like to think. Seth suffers guilt for feeling attracted to another man so soon after Mark's death, so while he admits the physical, he refuses to want to see the emotional side of what’s going on. Talk about denial!


Seth is in shock from losing Mark after twenty years of what he thought was a stable relationship even three weeks after the event. Not surprisingly he is a conflicted man because of it. There is guilt for not seeing Mark had issues, and guilt for surviving. There is the need to go on, but everything is different now and he doesn't want to change. Seth has lots of repressed emotions, and pours them all into his writing. As set in his ways as he is, he is also ready to explore the unknown. He is a wonderfully complicated man and always good for an acerbic comment or a witty observation.


Bryce is a friend of Mark's and has taken his place on the cruise. It’s a good opportunity to travel and he hates the thought of waste. Bryce refuses to act his age, is still single – to the point of being commitment-phobic, loves to hook up at every opportunity, and seems more than a little rough around the edges. But he also has a lot of compassion, an ability to see through lies and BS, and while Seth drives him up the wall, he also feels attracted to him.


How can two men who are so different become lovers? It’s an intriguing idea and the trip with all its different locations is an ideal backdrop to the developing relationship. With its many different situations and challenges it offers Seth and Bryce great opportunities to get to know each other better - without even trying and, in Bryce’s case, without making him feel as though he is sliding into a relationship. They start off as acquaintances who are on the same trip, rub each other the wrong way as soon as they begin to connect, then advance to outright fights and disagreement while the physical attraction they shared from the beginning - but denied vehemently - sizzles in the background. I could clearly see how well they would fit with a little bit of "give" from both sides, but they sure took their time! But once they get going the passion is incendiary.


If you like stories about characters who are as different as can be, if you believe that a slightly awkward beginning is no reason not to fall in love, and if you’re looking for a read that is a great mix of psychology, emotions, and excellent humor - sometimes in the most unexpected places, then you will probably like this novel as much as I do. I want to know what’s next for Seth and Bryce!