Review: Rough Canvas

Review: Rough Canvas by Joey W. Hill

When his father dies, Thomas is forced to abandon a burgeoning art career in New York. As difficult as it was to give up his lifelong dream, it’s nothing next to walking away from the man he loves. Marcus taught him to embrace who he is, a sexual submissive who responds to the touch of only one Master. But why would the sophisticated Marcus need some farm kid from the South?

Then Marcus shows up and offers him a way to continue his art career and help his family. There’s only one hitch – he asks Thomas to spend a week with him in the Berkshires. Thomas knows he should refuse. But he’s never been able to say no to his Master.

Nature of Desire Series Book Six (series does not need to be read in order) does one encompass within a review the seemingly endless emotional range of a Joey W. Hill novel? I'm sitting here trying to organize my thoughts into a some semblance of understanding with little luck. I've already started the review once and managed to get half through it before deleting it all. And apparently now I'm whining. Okay, moving on.

Let me first start off by explaining that this was my first male/male romance. I didn't steer clear of the subject matter over prejudice but rather because I thought my own heterosexual preferences would leave much to be desired. Would I be able to relate without a female perspective? Due to my initial hesitance, I turned to my trusted reader source: Joey W. Hill. She's a remarkable writer with astounding talent and because I know that I would enjoy reading the contents of her grocery list, I would most likely enjoy her m/m BSDM novels. And yes, 'Rough Canvas' does delve into the Dominant/submissive sexual roles.

For some readers, extreme to even light BDSM erotic novels make them uncomfortable. Therefore, I think it's crucial to point out that Joey W. Hill not only creates a safe environment for her characters and their sexual preferences, but she also instills the morale belief in them that a true D/s relationship only works with absolute trust. This is perhaps partially the reason for her success for not only are her characters safe, but that safety also transcends into the reader mind.

Marcus is a sexual Dominant. He's also filthy rich, absurdly gorgeous and in possession of a rapier wit making him desired equally by both sexes. Unfortunately for the females of this world, Marcus is a homosexual and has been from a very early age. Despite being forty - give or take a few years - Marcus has only truly loved one man. But eighteen months ago, that love was lost - torn apart by family obligation and human prejudice. But Marcus has waited long enough to claim what's his and this time, he'll not let the man he loves go without a fight.

Thomas has done nothing but try to survive since he left not only the thriving art world of New York City but more importantly his lover Marcus. He's convinced himself that leaving Marcus was the right thing to do. His father had died and one month later his younger brother was paralyzed in a tractor accident. Now, as the head of the family, it's Thomas' job to make sure that their hardware store - his father's dream - stays alive while his own dream of being a painter is crushed.

It was Thomas' incredible gift of painting that captured Marcus' initial attention. As a very reputable art gallery owner, Marcus had always had a knack for detecting raw talent and Thomas' work shined bright as the next artist to revolutionize erotic art. But beyond that, it was Thomas and his shy farm boy nature that perked Marcus' sexual interest. It was within the bonds of trust that Marcus stripped Thomas down, revealing his previously unknown inner submissive. Even Marcus wouldn't have predicted the desperate need that grew within his heart to possess Thomas forever. Not until he was gone did he even realize that he loved Thomas. In an attempt to win Thomas forever, Marcus offers him one week. One week to start some projects for an interested buyer with the ultimate underlying goal of possessing Thomas' soul.

Since Thomas abandoned his life with Marcus, his muse has dried up leaving his imagination a barren wasteland that has only served to kindle the fires of his hellish prison of responsibility. Although he's in financial despair, Thomas is reluctant to entertain Marcus' offer but ultimately seizes the opportunity to provide for his family and hopefully purge Marcus from his system after one week of bliss. Well aware that seven days with Marcus might leave the already fragile pieces of his soul shattered, he rationalizes that it's better to have one week then no week at all.

Marcus wastes no time in re-establishing his claim of Thomas' body but in addition to unleashing his pent up lust, Marcus is delving as deeply as he can into Thomas' heart and soul. With his yearning knowing no bounds, Marcus reveals that he loves Thomas - has loved him and is determined to make a life with him.

These confessions from Marcus leave Thomas very disconcerted. For one, Marcus could never possibly love a farm boy like him. Just his sheer magnetism and undeniable wealth makes Thomas feel he has little to offer the perfection that is Marcus. Beyond that, Thomas can't make his homosexual preferences his way of life. His family are strict Catholics and his mother would never approve. He can't bear to hurt his family in that way. He's also promised his hand to a girl in his town therefore there is no way that he can even entertain the thought of Marcus' love for him. Resolved in his reasons, Thomas doesn't acknowledge Marcus' love.

Marcus notices Thomas' lack of response to his proclamations but truly what can he do? He knows and understands Thomas' reasons even when he doesn't voice them but he also can't help but feel anger. If all he has is a week, then that's what he'll take. But with this week Marcus is also determined to take their D/s relationship into a more intense realm. Previously, their sexual relationship, while practicing in BDSM, was still only conducted within the privacy of home. Marcus now feels that it's time to assert his dominance in a more public venue.

The Zone, a very popular and exclusive BDSM club in Florida, recently obtained another club in the north eastern area of the states that caters directly to male/male BDSM. It is here that Marcus takes Thomas. What next ensues are scenes that to me have always seemed to be choreographed as a play or dance. Hill lays out her stage in such an elaborate and captivating way with everything having a specific art and place to draw your attention and ensnare your senses. She then proceeds to place her characters in such an arrangement that not only is the reader focused on their actions, but there are also other erotic scenes playing out around them that leaves your mind's eye darting around in wonder. This is one of my favorite aspects of Hill's writing. There are fabulous examples of this "choreography" in not only 'Rough Canvas' but in The Vampire Queen's Servant, Natural Law, Ice Queen and Mirror of My Soul.

Up until this point, nothing of Marcus' past has been revealed. Thomas knows that the perfection of his exterior hides a difficult childhood but Marcus has easily deflected any of Thomas' inquires. While Marcus doesn't want to taint the purity and refreshing innocence that is Thomas, Thomas sees it as an act of distrust which allows him to further question Marcus' proclamations of love. How can Marcus love him but not trust him enough to divulge all of who he is?

When Marcus is severely injured in a brawl, the facts of his past are finally revealed and what Thomas learns doesn't surprise him but rather fills in the holes of his suspensions. It's in the unveiling of Marcus' past that opens Thomas' eyes to the truth. Marcus does love him and Thomas returns that love. But when Marcus once again reaches out to claim Thomas forever, Thomas says no. He knows that in order to complete the bonds of trust, Thomas must prove his love for Marcus. But when the darkness of Marcus' soul bleeds onto others after Thomas' refusal, Thomas knows he must work fast or loose the man that has come to mean everything.

'Rough Canvas' was an enlightening experience. Of course I've heard of the struggles that people go through to have their sexual preferences accepted by their families but to read about it in such detail brought a new found respect for anyone that needs immeasurable courage to stand up to those they love. Joey W. Hill doesn't approach the subject lightly but rather shines the power of the sun on the issue. She's also not afraid to venture into the darkest of souls to show the power of human refusal. To be abandoned by your family simply because of your love for the same sex is terrible and Hill paints a gruesome picture of it's aftereffects.

I perceived Marcus and Thomas characters, not as stereotypical, but rather easily identifiable roles in the struggle for familial acceptance of homosexuality. Marcus is the confident gay man, secure in his sexuality and life style while Thomas is the quintessential man still in the closet. He knows he's gay but fear of hurting his family is a major suppressant to him "coming out". Of course Thomas' reluctance is a major frustration for Marcus but knowing what he's personally gone through with his own family gives him an understanding of Thomas' plight.

While I enjoyed Hill's spotlight on human nature, I still had a little trouble connecting with the male/male romance. I loved how Marcus looked upon Thomas with heated passion and possession but I wanted it directed at a female so that I could relate better to the feel of his gaze. Marcus is my kind of hero and it lends credence to the saying that all the good ones are gay. Ha!

All and all, I enjoyed 'Rough Canvas' but my first love will always be male/female romances.

Hussy Approved Reading Material!



MsMoonlight (Elizabeth Jules Mason) said...

This sounds very similar to a book I read called "Switch" by Clare Thompson. Two men, one an artist who believes the other man is a submissive and wants a week at his lake side house to prove it.
Lots of bondage stuff, but the romance was good in "Switch".

Great review VFG.



VampFanGirl said...

Hey MsM.! Wow, 'Swtich' does sound similar to 'Rough Canvas'.

Although at the end of my review, I stated that I need the female perspective....I'm starting to rethink that. In Ward's BDB, I had no trouble connecting with the romance between Butch and V. So I'm thinkin' it's just that I couldn't completely connect with Marcus and Thomas.

Thanks for enjoying the review!

;) VFG

The_Book_Queen said...

You know, I can't say that I've ever read a m/m romance before, but this one has definitely grabbed my attention!

Like you, it's not that I'm necessarily against it, I've just never picked one up. Oh, sure, I've read m/m sex scenes in some of my erotic books, but it's always the secondary characters of the book, not the main ones, and it's just not the same.

And I've never read any of Joey Hill either, though I keep hearing such good things about them! I really need to pick on up soon! :D

Great review though, VFG, I think you did a great job of telling us what you liked about it! :D

I have to say... the cover art for this one is definitely yummy, even if the guys (well, the characters, maybe not the models) aren't interested in us girls. *SIGH*.

Barbara said...

Hey VFG!! Great review!!

Okay, I can see where you're coming from with being able to connect with the characters seeing as you are a heterosexual. I did have that issue at the very beginning. Okay, that's a lie, I think what I was dealing with was more of a shock factor what held me back when I first read a m/m romance. I'm still not too sure.

In any event, now it's like any other romance for me. If the story is great, the love is flowing and the characters are easy to connect with...I love it.

Now, how you feel about m/m romance is how I am with BDSM.

I've only read two stories that had that in it. I suppose at the time, because BDSM is not something I've read before, I was kind of left wondering where the romance was in getting a light whipping. I loved the author's characters so much and their love story was wonderful, but I could not connect with the BDSM part of it. Even though she wrote it in a way that wasn't off putting in the least.

Maybe if I read the stories again I would feel different. And maybe if you read this tale again in a year, you might feel different.

I was the same way with menage books. Hell, the first time I read the word C*ck in a book I was like, O-M-G. LOL! Anything new takes time to kind of sink in I suppose, lol.

Listen, in the end, it's all about a personal preference. I think it's great to broaden your horizons as far as reading goes. It keeps things new and interesting, and that is how we find what is for us and what isn't.

Okay, that was the longest comment EVER! LOL!!!

VampFanGirl said...


I'm a HUGE fan of Joey's so I really felt comfortable diving into 'Rough Canvas' as my first m/m romance. And while I think I prefer female/male romances, 'Rough Canvas' will not be my only venture into male/male.

I highly recommend all of her books. I will warn you though that her books delve very deeply into BDSM some even on the extreme side. If you prefer lighter BDSM, I recommend 'A Mermaid's Kiss'.

lol! I'm such a hussy. I keep trying to see if I can "see" into the darkness beside the thigh of the guy on the left. No luck though... I do really like this cover. Very sensual.

Thanks for enjoying the review and I encourage you to give Hill a try.

;) VFG

LOL, Barbara!! I think you're definitely in the running for the longest comment. It should be up for best comment too though. Very insightful.

I think my problem was that I didn't go into 'Rough Canvas' with a completely open mind. I judged my response from the very beginning and I think that clouded my capacity to become completely immersed in the novel. Next time I'll keep myself more open to the romance.

BDSM. So many interesting responses to it. I recently read a novella (my review to come) and I seriously laughed out loud at the absurdity of the situtation. I think I've been spoiled with Joey W. Hill. Seriously, her BDSM scenes are a wonderous works of art where she injects such amazing and overwhelming emotion. Like I mentioned in the review, they're choreographed to perfection. I've ceased to be shocked in a uncomfortable way. Now I'm shocked with wonder like a child seeing Disneyland for the first time. The woman is brilliant but she has damaged me I think for anyone else. She challenges your mind and I love that.

I won't give up on the m/m romance. I really enjoyed RC I just think that I went into the novel with the wrong mentality. I'll have that remedied for the furture.

And while it's kinda scary, I like venturing out into different subgenres. You're right, it does broaden your horizons.

(((hugs))) VFG

alba said...

VFG I too Have not read M& M romance Though I did get the BDB play with Butch & V found it pulled at the heart strings I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a hopeless romantic enjoy reading about couples in love wither it G&G B&B B&G I will definitely give Joey W Hill a try really loved the review.

VampFanGirl said...

alba!! Oh me too, I really fell for the whole Butch and V romance. Shhhh, but I was kinda sad that they didn't end up together. :(

Despite the fact that I didn't love RC, I highly recommend Joey W. Hill. The woman is beyond talented and I've yet to truly dislike any of her work.

Thanks for enjoying my review!!

;) VFG

Cecile said...

Vamp, wonderful review!! Really awesome! It came from your heart... it shows. I am with you on the M/M books. I have not broached them yet. I will. Although I do hold a level of reservation about them. I think it dips into the taboo of "gay." What do you think of people being gay and if you read them book, what does that make you kind-of thing. Not sure if that makes sense. But in my reading life, I want to broaden my horizon in all areas. And you are right about Joey W Hill with the BSDM, she definitely took me to another level with The Vampire Queen's Servant. I love the honesty I felt in this review. I know we are always honest in our reviews, that is the purpose. But this one shows your stuggle.
Loved it!!

VampFanGirl said...

Cecile! Girl, thanks for the super kind words you made about my review. You're the best!

Oh, TVQS does feature a gorgeous "choreographed" scene. How does Hill do that??? The woman is freakin' amazing.


Pelehini aka Lisa said...

VFG, that was one heck of a review! I loved it! Having never read Joey Hill before, I must say that you've definitely peaked my interest in her. I've read a few books where there was some m/m romance, but like someone mentioned, they were not the lead characters. I believe I'm opened minded enough to give books that have m/m, g/g or menage a chance and while some of the writing might be "uncomfortable" for me I think it stems not so much from the "act" itself but more from the fact that my imagination is not always able to picture what the author is trying to convey-thus I don't feel or connect with what the characters may or may not be feeling. I'm not sure I explained that very well. :(

And as a few people mentioned Butch and V, I have to add that I loved how Ward handled their love for each other and the scene where V confesses his feelings to Butch will always be one of my favorites!

VampFanGirl said...

Thanks Lisa! *blushing*

I totally get what you mean too, btw. The unknown is always difficult to imagine and I think it's difficult to prevent preconceived judgments from clouding the subject matter - whatever it may be. At least that's what happend with me. I was so sure that I wouldn't relate without the female perspective that it sort of happened that way. I now wish I had gone into the novel differently.

I really hope you give Joey W. Hill a chance. She truly is an artist with words. Magical really. Her stories are always emotionally intense as well which just makes the reading experience that much better. While her books are erotic and at times, on the extreme side of BDSM, she always has a plot rich with emotional depth and truly a "love will save all" kind of message.

Sigh....I love me some Butch and V. So wish those vamps could have hooked up.

(((hugs))) VFG

Mandi said...

Oooh..Your first m/m. I read my first after reading about Butch and V too..funny how they many want them together:)

I LOVE m/m...I'm not sure why - which is lame to say but I really can't put it into words. However, I am not huge into BSDM..although from your review and what others have said about Joey Hill I know she handles it well.

I think you should read Gobsmacked or Happy Ending by L.B Gregg. I would love to hear your thoughts on her.

Mandi said...

Oh - BTW - awesome review!!! I've never read Joey Hill and I definitely want to try her!

Smokinhotbooks said...

Sadly, due to my virgin status regarding m/m romance I've bypassed Joey W. Hill. Such a great review!!!!! I'm trying to add a m/m romance book to my TBR pile so I can broaden my horizons. Although I do think my hetro ways might cloud my reading enjoyment.


VampFanGirl said...

Hey Mandi!

For BDSM, you're in safe hands with Joey W. Hill. The woman is amazing!

You know, I have read about 'Gobsmacked' around the blogsphere. I'll definitely check her out. Thanks for the recommendation!

Oh, and thank you for enjoying my review. ;)

(((hugs))) VFG

Hi K.C.!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoying my review. Hill doesn't only write m/m romance. In fact, I'm thinkin' that 'Rough Canvas' is her only novel dedicated exclusively to m/m.

I denfinitely encourage you to give her a try.

;) VFG

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Sounds great, looks great, why haven't I seen this book before? How did I miss this post?

Dottie :)

VampFanGirl said...

LOL, Dottie! Thanks for reading and enjoying my review!

;) VFG

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