“The Bachelors” by Gregory L. Norris from Best Gay Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Richard Labonté.

This story is set within the world of reality television. I’ve actually never seen more than a second or two of either The Bachelorette or The Bachelor while flipping channels.  Still, I found this story to be absolutely engaging from start to finish.

Jake is a contestant on Dudes and the Debutante. He seems like a smart, reasonable guy, so I’m not sure how in the world he got mixed up in such drivel, but whatever, he’s there. He discovers rather quickly that he is, at best, only mildly interested in the debutante, Amy, but is quite attracted to one of the other bachelors, Kasey. Apparently, the possibility of that happening is a complete revelation to him, one he weathers well. It helps that the attraction appears to be mutual.

The drama is heightened by the presence of a villain, a wannabee hip-hop recording artist named Baxter. Now, the villain dynamic is one I am familiar with. I do watch reality television, just never the kind where the only goal is fake romance. People competing to prepare haute cuisine, aim projectiles at impossible targets, build the fiercest fighting robot, design clothes, launch a singing career, cut hair, or makeover a restaurant, a house, or a straight man’s whole life? Heck, yeah. I’ve watched those shows. Oftentimes the real jerk in the bunch stays around much longer than they should, and it’s clear it’s for the ratings. Baxter’s place is secured when he homes in on the chemistry between Jake and Kasey, and starts shooting his mouth off about it.

I wasn’t sure how it was all going to turn out and I was riveted. A very fun read.