|Click the cover art to purchase Fugly at Amazon.com.|
What happens to a young man's self-image, and his sex life, when he wakes up one morning to see his good looks significantly altered for the worse? Three twenty-something gay friends—an embalmer, a movement coach, and a literary agent—find out the answer when they hit on the wrong patron of a club one night.
Todd, Fallon, and Jake, aka the Hunt Club, think they're pretty damned hot. As a result, their standards for worthwhile hook-ups are appallingly superficial. The men aren't total jerks; they just need an adjustment in perspective. And they get it, in spades, from a mysterious stranger who's sick of seeing his beautiful partner pawed by dawgs.
There’s no medical explanation for the hideous rashes that erupt on the trio overnight. Doctors can’t even detect it, much less cure it. Still, the Hunt Club’s mirrors reflect ravaged faces, and the toned, handsome guys they normally pursue now shun them.
As the vulnerability that’s always lurked beneath their vanity begins to surface, Todd, Fallon, and Jake begin to see themselves and potential partners in a new light. Little did they know that in the eyes of three ordinary, overlooked men on the sidelines of their lives, it's always been the heart that’s mattered far more than the hot.
No question about it, K.Z. Snow writes beautifully. At least half a dozen turns of phrase stopped me cold with their cleverness, with a new way of framing a common thought or a recasting of a metaphor. Very, very clean and well-done.
The other thing that particularly threw me about Fugly was the shift from 1st person POV to what seemed to waver between close and omniscient 3rd, and then back to 1st again at the end. I couldn't determine at first, after the switch from 1st to 3rd, if the narrator in the first part was the same guy being referred to in the second part (although eventually it was made clear that, yes, it is the same man).
As much as I'd have preferred this be one story told once rather than three times, I must say that the level of attention and care that went into constructing each of the characters' lives was tremendous. I've never learned so much about embalming in my life; K.Z. clearly did her research, and I think that went a long way toward painting a large number of fairly well-realized characters in a fairly short amount of space.
On a final note, I've gotta give a HOLY CRAP to the cover artist. Gorgeous work, both as a standalone and as a perfect fit to the story. I've used the full-sized image here because, really, it's just that amazing.
Overall, Fugly wasn't a bad way to pass an evening. I felt like I was being bludgeoned repeatedly over the head by the moral of the story, but at least it was a beautifully written bludgeon :-) I can't give Fugly a ringing endorsement, but nor would I put anyone off from it. And I feel comfortable saying that K.Z. is one of the best craftsmen on a sentence level that I've come across so far in the M/M genre. In fact, her talent as a wordsmith shines through so brightly here that I'll definitely be giving her another try. Or two. Or three :-)