Title: Top Mark
Author: Graeme Aitken
Cover Artist: Tane Cavu
Buy Link:Top Mark ( short )
Genre: contemporary, not romance
Length: 7500 words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: A well written flip side of romance.
It was strange at first for Mark, dating a guy with the same first name as him. But ‘the Marks’ developed nicknames for each other. Mark became ‘Top Mark’, a sly nod to his role in the bedroom.
But after seven years together, Mark hasn’t had much opportunity to be on top lately. There have been a lot of conversations avoided, unexplained absences, and some very unsettling phone calls.
From the author of the very popular Sydney based novels ‘Vanity Fierce’ and ‘The Indignities’, comes this new e-book short. In his trademark sexy style, Graeme Aitken explores the intricacies of a modern gay relationship with wit, insight and empathy.
Cryssy found another not-romance, so HEA-requirers may want to move along. This one isn’t a slice of happily ever after, it’s more what happens when the romance goes stale.
Mark and Mark are an established couple with habits, quirks, and ways well known to each other, and that may be half the problem. They’ve been together seven years, and in spite of being able to give each other some space (strict monogamy-requirers may want to exit stage right as well) they may still have more togetherness than one of them wants.
Top Mark, our narrator, calls his lover Marx, partly as a joke, partly to differentiate them, something that doesn’t always work. The name conjured up a quote, which grew more and more ironic as the story progressed. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Unfortunately, Marx has little ability and great need—the depth of his reliance on others is crystal clear to everyone, including his lover, though everyone seems to accommodate him. Marx has no trouble raiding his lover’s wardrobe permanently and accepting lavish gifts from mommy, no trouble at all prolonging his college experience far beyond the bounds of reason, no trouble taking without giving.
Unfortunately, the more our narrator tells us of the evolution of their relationship, from the days of their starting out to the more recent events of the last six months, the more the two men diverge. The more Marx clings to the perks of adolescence the older Mark seems by comparison, until the six-year gap looks like a chasm, but it’s one of responsibility more than age. And yet the tighter Mark clings.
The troubles between them unfold in small steps, each little detail piling on as Mark describes, with a certain naiveté, the recent goings on. Unsettling phone calls are almost the least of it, though providing a certain note of both humor and WTF.
Both Mark and Marx will provoke a lot of strong feelings, though Aww! won’t be among them. The ending will make you think and ache; there is no happily ever anything here, but it’s beautifully drawn misery. 4 stars