No Sacrifice - Grace R. Duncan
2.5 Stars

Patrick is a straight man playing the role of a gay lover in a cable network TV series. He lives a fairly solitary life spent mostly apart from his son and his wife, who is also an actress. More and more he is feeling the strain of being away from his family and is confused by what seems to be a widening gulf between he and his wife. To complicate matters, he must face the contracted love scenes that will place he and his costar, Rhys, in rather uncompromising situations, which include full nudity. When Patrick realizes that he is beginning to get aroused during one such scene, he must come to terms with the fact that he is not as straight as he always supposed himself to be. In fact, Patrick must acknowledge the fact that he may well be bisexual and must now try to make sense of that in light of his rapidly dissolving marriage.

However, neither divorce nor gay are words one uses in his parent’s home. His mother is staunchly catholic and a good portion of his family is homophobic. Therefore, Patrick must hide not only the fact that he is in the midst of a divorce, but that he has found a new lover who is also a male, Chance Dillon. When pieces of Patrick’s secretive and closeted life come to light, there are devastating consequences for him, his newfound love and their potential future together.

I struggled mightily with No Sacrifice. While I felt the premise for the story was good, there were so many small problems with its execution that continued to mount and eventually really frustrate me as I read. Many may argue that the “insta-love” aspect of the relationship between Patrick and Chance seemed weak, but that actually was not a problem for me. Rather, it was how Patrick failed to realistically stack up as a main character. Please forgive me, but I think it best if I go point by point to explain why this novel fell so very short for me.

1. Patrick’s “street gang” and karate background. Apparently, the admittedly wish-washy person Patrick becomes in this novel began as a tough street gang member who knows how to kick ass and was saved by a high school drama teacher from becoming a low life thug. So, why can’t adult Patrick head off his co-star, Rhys, when he starts to put the moves on him in a truly underhanded way before the camera? I mean, Patrick comes right out and tells Rhys he does not like him—that he is, in fact, in love with Chance. Yet each time Rhys puts the moves on him under the guise of “acting his role,” Patrick folds up and gives in? It just did not make any sense that this man who once ran with a street gang had no strength to shut down the advances of a man he did not love.

2. His over the top catholic family, i.e. a stereotypical irate and demanding mother and a weak father. Patrick just completely lost himself when he went home to visit the parents. His mother ruled the roost with an iron fist and some of his siblings actually hated him for not only being bi, but worse, for divorcing his wife. Patrick’s father was effectively a whipped man who dared not cross his wife or correct her remarkably homophobic and extremely rigid religious beliefs. While I could understand this plot point; i.e. the “horrible family,” I could not understand that they had NO reservations about Patrick playing a gay male and doing full frontal nudity on a TV show. So they could accept that but could not even harbor the idea that he and his wife no longer loved each other and were filing for divorce? Really? No one balked at Patrick’s day job? Yet they were sanctimonious and holier than thou when it came to him remaining in a loveless marriage? It simply did not compute.

3. The endless repetition of the dreaded sex scenes and Patrick’s inability to fight off arousal. Okay, I understood that the author wanted to have us see how the contracted sex scenes with both Rhys and Angelo were so difficult for Patrick. I further understood how they allowed for Chance and Patrick to come to terms with the idea that this was Patrick’s job and nothing more—that the loss of bodily control and subsequent aroused state did not mean that Patrick was cheating on Chance in any way. But truly, one scene would have been enough to prove this point. Instead, we are subjected to several sex scenes where even I felt the line between cheating and Patrick’s inability to control his wayward penis was essentially crossed. This is the point where I also could not understand that Patrick did not insist that Rhys back off from his sexual assaults. Over and over again, the author gave us lengthy and extremely detailed moments where Patrick lost control and was even brought to the point of orgasm on set. Really? Was the money and the job really worth his partner, Chance, having to endure watching these scenes again and again? I also found myself wondering why so many? Surely once was enough for us to get the gist that Patrick had no bodily control or ability to resist Rhys on set and was guilt ridden over that fact. All in all—it was just too much! And that leads me to my last point…

4. The overall length of this novel. I felt it rambled and hit the same points far too often. I truly felt that the editor on this book did not do their job. So much of the same type of action was thrown at us, from the show’s sex scenes to the continual worry about Patrick being outed. In fact, for such a huge fear, Patrick’s actions—such as holding Chance’s hand and kissing in public—happened way too frequently to make his fear over coming out as bisexual in any way realistic. But seriously, 400 pages of story demands some huge plot twists and action to keep it interesting. This is where I really struggled. Patrick’s life was just not exciting enough to hold my interest for so very many pages of text. I have read many lengthy novels that held me captive. This one just missed the mark, for me.

All in all, No Sacrifice was not the pager turner I had hoped it to be. The rather tame storyline, the gratuitous and repetitive sex scenes, and the inconsistencies in the character development left me confused and dismayed. I believe this author has some really good work out there to be read, but No Sacrifice is not one I can recommend.