Off the Beaten Path

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KS_OffTheBeatenPath_coverlgTitle: Off the Beaten Path
Author: Katrina Strauss
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novel
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

Travis Bell is openly gay to family and friends, but as a college athlete, he chooses not to define himself by his sexuality. When he covers for a friend’s misdeed, he’s forced to renegotiate his future. Carefully. Or he’s going to lose his coveted lacrosse scholarship. The last thing Travis plans on, however, is a “volunteer vacation” in the remote wilderness with members of Omega Beta Pi, aka Off the Beaten Path, a fraternity devoted to gay rights and environmental causes. To make matters worse, he must share a tent with Kyle, an opinionated activist who also happens to be the hottest guy Travis has ever met.

Kyle Schafer is a proud activist who disapproves of Travis’s ignorance on issues affecting the environment and gay community. To his even greater annoyance, Kyle finds himself attracted to his shallow tentmate on a purely physical level. Travis goes against everything Kyle believes in, but that doesn’t dampen the chemistry that sparks between them. Pretty soon, it looks like Travis isn’t the only one who’ll be going off the beaten path.

THE REVIEW

I loves me an opposite attract story done well and here it is done well. Though not without a few niggles, Off the Beaten Path, which is the first book by this author I’ve read, is a well-written, light, sweet read with likeable characters and a believable plot.

Travis Bell and Kyle Schafer are both physically fit college juniors and gay, but that’s about where their similarities end. Travis may not advertise that he likes guys, but he doesn’t hide it either if asked. When trashed roommate Dylan decides to spray paint a homosexual slur on the outside of the GLBT/environmental activism Greek house, Omega Beta Pi, Travis stops him, but not in time. They get caught; Dylan gets away, leaving Travis to cover for his friend. With his lacrosse scholarship in jeopardy and other disciplinary actions looming, he is forced into going on a week-long camping “volunteer vacation” with three of the Path students. Sharing a tent with Kyle, an out and proud vegan activist, proves to be a challenge on many levels, not the least of which is that he is attracted to the handsome blond. For Kyle, his mutual attraction to Travis is a terrible thing; he eats meat, he is apathetic, and in Kyle’s opinion, denies who he is by not being in-your-face out and “only playing the gay card when it suit[s his] agenda.” Obvious chemistry and passions override misgivings, however, and the two make an agreement to have unattached sex for their short time together. Sticking to that agreement proves difficult, so what will happen once the week is over remains to be seen.

Borrowing from Wave’s recent format…

What I liked: Both protags, though I admit that I loved Travis muchly. He is willing to compromise, yet remains true to what he believes.  Mac calls him “Fiery, opinionated, doesn’t take any shit.”  He adjusted to the whole “I didn’t get to go on my beach vaca ‘cause I was a bad boy” thing pretty quickly, which shows he can let things go. I liked his sense of humor. He refuses to let his sexuality define him, yet he is comfortable in own skin.

Travis’s face darkened. “What’s it to you? It’s not anyone’s business that I’m gay unless I choose to make it their business.”

“You don’t think you should take a little pride in who you are and act as a positive representation of the gay community?”

“Hey, I don’t have to tattoo a rainbow across my forehead to take pride in myself. If my sexual preference doesn’t come up in conversation, why point it out and cite myself as somehow being different? Have you considered that the best way to gain acceptance and be treated like a regular person is to, you know, act like one?”

Kyle is somewhere in the middle between the live-and-let-live quiet folks and the hardasses vegan activists who shove their lifestyle down your throat about why you should do this or not do that. Unfortunately, that allows him room to be unwilling to compromise and meet Travis in the middle of some of their issues, which got on my nerves a teensy bit. But, I did like him and I think he and Travis will do well together going by the epilogue.

What didn’t I like? Not a whole lot, though I admit that I felt it got a little saccharin toward the end.  When the baby raccoons came into the picture during the dramatic climax (and in the epiolgue) , I got a bit of a toothache.  One editing issue that I caught: there are two blatant instances where the names were switched; in both cases, “Travis” is written instead of “Kyle.”

OVERALL

If you’re looking for a sweet, opposites-attract romance, try Off the Beaten Path. I recommend it to anyone who likes m/m.

17 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Path

  1. Jenre

    Sounds good Lynn. Thanks for the great review. One for the tbr pile, I think, especially as I’ve read and enjoyed other books from this author.

  2. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Jem, I thought it was a sweet read. If you like this authors, then you’ll probably like this one.

  3. Tam

    I’ve been looking at it and now that I’ve read your review I’ll definitely check it out. And come on, baby raccoons? How can you go wrong with real life stuff animals. :-D

  4. Ingrid

    I thought raccoons were like fluffy rats?? Anway, I read this already and did like it.
    There is camping, open air, the forest, two nice guys, hot action between the sheets eeh sleeping bags.
    What more could a girl want?

  5. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Tam, don’t get me wrong. I love raccoons, especially baby ones, but it just rang a little too sweet to me. But that’s just me, so maybe another reader would think it’s a perfect touch. Read it and let me know, yeah?

  6. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Ingrid, yes all the elements of a wonderful read. And yes, as Tam says, baby raccoons are super-adorable, but it felt a teensy too much to me. It didn’t detract, just a sugar shock.

  7. Ingrid

    They are cute but aren’t they also a pest in cities for eating from garbage bags etc?

    It was on the sweet site for sure. Not really necessary story wise

  8. Aunt Lynn Post author

    I like and have no issue with the raccoons, though they do have a habit of going through garbage and can carry diseases. They also get into scuffles with local outdoor cats and dogs. I volunteered at the Pittsburgh Zoo as a teen and we often had baby raccoons (and opossums and skunks and rabbits and groundhogs) come through for tending then release, and they are darned sweet and cute. You can get attached, as our heroes find out.

  9. Amie

    Good review Aunt Lynn! I liked this story a lot, but I have to admit that the ending was too sweet and contrived for me. I’m not a big fan of the “near death makes me admit how much I love you” plot line so this is just a personal taste thing. And once the baby raccoons came up at the ending, I knew exactly where the story was going. Even so, I really enjoyed reading this story and felt that my time was well spent.

    We have had a family of raccoons living in a tree in our front yard since we moved in. I think they are adorable, especially when the parents stash the babies on the deck outside our bedroom. We really love sitting on the floor in a dark room, watching the whole family explore, then the mamma goes off to find some dinner leaving the babies snuggled up in an adorable ball of fur. That being said, I didn’t particularly like it when I almost got shat on when one of them relieved themselves off a branch as I was coming home from work. (Who knew?) One of the biggest vet bills I’ve ever had was when one of my cats got outside and ended up on the wrong end of a raccoon. The emergency vet is expensive!

  10. Katrina Strauss

    Thank you, Aunt Lynn, for your kind review. I’m happy you enjoyed the book overall. I’m known for darker, grittier fare than Off the Beaten Path, but even I need a break from that sort of thing every now and then. I thought readers might enjoy a little break, too. :)

    I once lived in a small town in the Ozarks. During the summer, a family of raccoons tore into my trash on a nightly basis. They seemed to favor my then-infant daughter’s diapers. Yeah, I know, gross, right??? I spared my characters this nastier side of the fuzzy masked varmints.

    And with that lovely image, I leave you all with this:

    http://katrina-strauss.blogspot.com/2009/08/cute-baby-animals.html

  11. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Amie, thanks for commenting. One of my most memorable books from when I was young is “Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember” which relates the tale of raising a raccoon to release. Hilarious and touching. Anyway, yes, OTBP is a touch contrived there at the end, but overall a wonderful story.

  12. Aunt Lynn Post author

    Hi Katrina. Thanks for stopping by. I learned after I wrote this review that you are known for darker stories and probably why I haven’t read you before (not really my thang). Anyway, I liked this story muchly, so thank you for giving it to us and I look forward to what you write next.

  13. Wave

    Katrina
    Are you going soft on us? What, no BDSM? Now we get baby raccoons? From all accounts this sounds like a delightful light read and Aunt Lynn did a great job on her review, as usual. Can you get back to Blue Ruin 4? :)

  14. Katrina Strauss

    Wave – LOL I’ve already finished Blue Ruin 4. Look for it this November. ;)

    I penned some “nice” stories in between Eldritch Legacy books back on the het side of the fence. (In fact, my sweetest, fluffiest story to date was re-released a week before Off the Beaten Path. My evil reputation is in tatters now!) This is just the first time m/m readers have been treated to my mellower musings. :D

  15. thelastaerie

    actually… my hesitation lies with Kyle being a… vegan!! LOL. I don’t know, to me, are there hot vegans??? *g*

    on a more serious level… I am tempted by your review, I might just give this vegan a go :)

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