Joe is a 22 year-old young man just starting out in working life after college. Escaping from a work party one night, he's pondering the menu at a trendy, and expensive, raw food restaurant when he's spotted by Francis, an older man who takes an instant liking to Joe. The two end up back at Francis' place, where Joe is treated to some rather kinky sex that both delights and confuses him.
The next day Joe is distracted at work, and his boss Marty notices. Marty has had his own designs on Joe, although the young man has never been sure of that. Joe is thrilled by the praise and attention lavished on him by Francis, but also disturbed by how fast things are moving and how little he knows about the other man. Despite his misgivings, Joe rushes to meet Francis that night. He learns more about the older man's past and is drawn ever more closer to him, although he still has his doubts.
On Friday Joe has promised to stay the night with Francis, and he's very nervous about that. But things don't go according to plan, as one of Francis' quirky neighbors ends up in the hospital. Panic and confusion ensues when Joe's parents, who don't yet know about Francis, are told it's Joe in hospital.
It's easy to see why the reviews of Raw Food are all over the map. The blurb probably fools people into thinking this is an ordinary if slightly kinky m/m romance. While the protagonists are gay and there certainly is some romancing going on here, this is not a story of man-on-man action that suburban housewives would be comfortable reading while waiting to pick the kids up from school, especially if she has brought along bananas for them to snack on. A big part of that is the food fetish Francis shares with Joe. This is not 50 Shades of Grey vanilla kinkiness. It's on a whole different level, and one that might well put off people who think they're into kink. I for one was not put off by it, and I don't doubt that there are such people in the world.
The sex is just one aspect of the book that might make people uncomfortable. This author breaks a lot of `rules' in what is probably a conscious attempt to make you uncomfortable. The dialog and references are very contemporary, and Joe shares thoughts with us that `nice' people aren't supposed to have. Actually, everyone has them, but you almost never see them in print.
Such obvious provocation could be put down as juvenile, and that's a hard accusation to counter. Raw Food is not the work of a mature author. Clever, yes, but seasoned authors do a better job of making the characters real and don't have to try so hard. But does that alone make it bad? Certainly not, the story is a bit silly, but it's clear from the author's bio at the end that it's all meant to be taken as satire, although that same bio is also what makes people think the author is a pretentious twit. In the search for respectability, Austen is probably his own worst enemy.
If you read Raw Food for what it appears to be, a light comedy, it's actually a rather enjoyable little farce. The main drawback is the character of Francis, who is a bit too broadly drawn, particularly in his speech. He has a particularly
anachronistic way of talking, which is at odds with his age, and the flattery he uses to woo Joe is more like the language one would use with a child rather than a young man. Knowing a bit of the author's history leads one to make a guess at where this comes from, but it still seems out of place. And since Francis is the mirror through which we find out a lot about Joe, it means that neither character is quite as well developed as they could be.
As what is essentially a first effort, Raw Food is quite promising. I can almost guarantee it won't be like anything else you've read. It isn't polished, or even edited very well, which is why I'm not rating it higher, but it is interesting and I'll definitely be watching to see what else the author comes up with in the future.