Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Mascara & Bandages (Mary’s Boys #3) by Brandon Witt - A Release Day Review

121 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press


Ariel Merman is a new drag queen who’s already finding a family at Hamburger Mary’s. After a performance as Ariel, Zachary Cooper walks home in his makeup and is assaulted by homophobes. Zachary’s worry that the attack has thrown a wrench in his good fortune is eased when he looks into the eyes of his doctor.

Dr. Teegan Chau is a little lost after divorcing his wife and coming out of the closet, but he can’t deny the pull he feels toward the young man he patches up. Luckily, Zachary takes the initiative and asks Teegan out. But attraction is the easy part of their blossoming relationship—as they deal with an ex-wife and child, being a drag queen in a heteronormative culture, Zachary’s lingering trauma from his attack, and Teegan acclimating to life as part of an out-and-proud gay couple.

The challenges seem daunting at the start of a romance. Can Zachary and Teegan make it through the rough patches and take a chance on the love that’s been missing from both their lives?


Mascara & Bandages is the third book in Brandon Witt’s Mary’s Boys series and a very welcome addition to what is quickly becoming a favourite collection for me. With every book in this series I’m falling more in love with Hamburger Mary’s. The sense of family between the people who own, work in, and frequent the place makes my heart sing. The place is slowly turning into a microcosm of my ideal world; Hamburger Mary’s reality in these books (and maybe also in real life?) is what the rest humanity should be striving for. Togetherness, unconditional love and support, and a non-judgmental environment shouldn’t be too much to ask for. It should be the norm.

Okay, that’s enough about my personal world view. Let’s get back to Zachary and Teegan’s story.

I should start with a warning. The story starts with a shocking and heartbreaking act of violence which was hard to read for me and may be a trigger for others. It was one of those scenes I wanted to be able to read with my eyes closed, if you know what I mean. My heart broke for poor Zachary, but the healing started almost immediate. Doctor Teegan Chau is exactly who and what Zachary needs in order to heal both physically and mentally.

Teegan isn’t without a few issues of his own. He was late coming out of the closet, trying for as long as he possibly could to live up to his traditional parent’s expectations. Now out and divorced, he hasn’t actually dated a man before. Zachary entering his life, even if it is under the worst of circumstances, is what he needs to take the next step, even as he knows that it may lead to a further estrangement between him and his parents.

I loved that this story didn’t have one ‘strong’ guy being there to support and help the ‘weaker/damaged’ guy to realise his worth and deal with the world. Zachary and Teegan both fear that who they are and/or what they do may make them less in the eyes of other gay men. Here we have two men with doubts about themselves who help each other to the realisation that they are good enough, man enough, and loveable enough. These two men are each other’s equal from start to finish, and together they grow stronger, gain confidence. I enjoyed every single step of their journey and, if you’d listened carefully, you could have heard me cheering from the sidelines.

There were so many deeply touching scenes in this story. The one that really got to me was the moment Teegan shaves Zachary’s face. So much care. Such tenderness and deep trust. It took my breath away. I loved that Brandon Witt avoided all the obvious opportunities to introduce (more) angst into the story. Sure both men had their doubts and second thoughts, but both were also brave enough to keep on moving forward, trusting each other and their developing feelings to see them through and keep them safe.

Ariel Merman is a stunning creation. I fell in love with her from the very first moment. I adored how she was Zachary and yet so much more. Ariel gave Zachary the courage and focus to live fully despite any doubts and fears. And honestly, what's not to love about a merman based on the Little Mermaid story?

As in the previous books, the side characters were stars in their own right. I’ve mentioned above how I feel about the Hamburger Mary cast and I’ll refrain from waxing lyrical again. In this book we also meet Kelly, Teegan’s ex-wife who is his staunchest supporter and a wonderful antidote to his cold parents.

All in all this was, once again, a wonderful, uplifting and delightful reading experience. I’ve only just finished reading Mascara & Bandages and already find myself eagerly awaiting my next journey into this wonderful world. Is it time for Deeds & Confetti yet? And should I ever make it to Denver, I know exactly which establishment will be at the top of my lists of places to visit.

Related reviews: Nachos & Hash | Vodka & Handcuffs

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