Title: Wallflower by Heidi Belleau
Rear Entrance Video Book Two
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance, M/M
Length: 205 pages/Word Count: 54,500
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
This gamer geek has a lacy little secret.
Art student and MMORPG addict Robert Ng has always been a loner, but he’s recently made it his goal to make more (IRL) friends. Which is how he winds up working nights at Rear Entrance Video, shilling sketchy porn and blowup dolls as a favor to his roommate. The longer he works there, though, the more he realizes he’ll never be truly happy until he becomes the person he is online: his female persona, Bobby.
Bobby is cuter and funnier than Rob is, and a thousand times more popular with boys. Becoming Bobby IRL presents its own set of challenges, though . . . especially when you’re sitting on the fence between two genders, only one of which has caught the attention of your seriously cute customer/classmate.
Dylan Ford is a six-foot Inuit comic book artist who always says what’s on his mind, and screw anyone who doesn’t like it. As rough as he appears, though, Dylan has a soft spot for Rob. But will out-and-proud Dylan still want Rob if he’s not all man?
Wallflower, the second installment in the Rear Entrance Video series, is a wonderful journey of self-acceptance for Rob Ng. More serious than Apple Polisher, Heidi Belleau has written an insightful romance about gender fluidity with Rob exploring all the facets of his sexuality.
Rob is shy, insecure and socially awkward and more comfortable in the virtual world than the real one. Filling in at Rear Entrance Video is way out of his comfort zone but it eventually provides him the opportunity to dress as his feminine alter ego, Bobby. The lines of Rob’s sexuality become a bit blurred and while he is gay, he is not transsexual. And everything is about to become even more confusing for Rob when he becomes romantically involved with his classmate/video store customer Dylan Ford.
The first half of Wallflower takes place mostly inside Rob’s head as he struggles with his gender identity. The anonymity of internet has allowed him the freedom to express his more feminine side and his comfort with his online persona leads him to act out one of fantasies with one of his virtual friends. Following this encounter, Rob decides it is time to bring Bobby into the real world, but only at work. Ultimately, Rob is going to have to figure out how to merge Rob and Bobby into his everyday life.
Physically, Dylan is the antithesis of Rob and his character is larger than life. He is less conflicted than Rob, but Dylan does a have few issues stemming from his adoption by a white family. Overall, he is outgoing, friendly and has absolutely no filter-whatever he thinks comes spilling out of his mouth. But Dylan somehow manages to keep a few things hidden from Rob that play a key role in the story’s resolution.
The second half of Wallflower is when the action begins. The confidence that Rob discovers as Bobby begins spills over into his “regular” life. A class project unexpectedly brings him and Dylan together and their desire for another explodes in a very hot encounter. Despite his hesitation in revealing his secret and some mixed signals from Dylan, the two throw themselves wholeheartedly into their relationship.
Wallflower is a delightfully unique novel and I love that Heidi Belleau steps out of the box with both the subject matter and the characters. Rob’s issues are sensitively portrayed and his explorations provide fascinating insight into different gender identities and roles. It is also quite refreshing that Rob and Dylan are not the stereotypical white characters usually found in M/M romances.
Although Wallflower is the second novel in the Rear Entrance Video series, it can be read as a standalone story.