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REVIEW: The Bear at the Bar, by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Bear at the Bar

Title: The Bear at the Bar

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth

Genre: Magical Realism, Gay Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Publisher: Self

Pages: 29

Reviewer: Pat

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About The Book

Dex is a gay Adonis.

When he walks into Seattle’s Ransom bar, heads turn. He can have just about anyone he wants, and he does, every night.

Until he meets a bear at the bar and everything changes.

“The Bear at the Bar” is a short story originally published in 2014 in the “A Taste of Honey” anthology.

The Review

I met J. Scott Coatsworth in Seattle’s Ransom bar. Okay, not in reality, but virtually when I read his short story The Bear at the Bar. The story made me smile, and some of the turns of phrase made me admire his writing. From that story, I knew I wanted to read more of his work.

In the story, Dex is the man, handsome, built, all-around gorgeous. He works hard at being perfect. And now that he’s at the top of his game, he knows it and flaunts it. One-night-stands with guys who are as young, beautiful, and vacuous as he is are his candy of choice.

When at Dex’s favorite bar he’s approached by big, heavy, hairy Colin, Dex tells the bear of a man to get lost even though Colin says he only wants to talk. Being seen with someone like Colin equates social death to Dex, and he’s having none of it.
The next day, however, Dex must walk in Colin’s shoes and along the way must face some hard truths.

It’s a simple and predictable story, but Coatsworth infuses it with the kind of truth and insight that’s often missing in the briefest of tales. The message here isn’t so much about Dex and his journey from narcissistic to introspective, but the reassurance for readers that there is no one, right way to be a gay man just as there is no one, right way to be straight. At the core, human is human.

The joy of this story—and really all of Coatsworth’s writing—is that the ostensible ah-ha moments for his characters transcend to his readers and are magnified. The little seeds of insight a character experiences become life lessons for everyone. We’ve all met and dealt with Dexs in our lives, but Coatsworth illuminates the moment when we and Dex know how empty his life is.

Those revelations are why we read. And Coatsworth gives them to us by the handful in his stories.

Nothing is better than to walk into Ransom with Dex and have Coatsworth lead the way. Because of stories like this one, he should be on the top of everyone’s must read list.

The Reviewer

Pat Henshaw:

  • Is a she, not a he.
  • Writes MM romances.
  • Has interviewed Arlo Guthrie, Big Bird, Fred Rogers, Liberace, and Vincent Price.
  • Has lived and worked on all three US coasts and in the middle of the country, too.
  • Has been a reviewer, costumer, librarian, and teacher.
  • Has ridden an elephant, touched the pyramids, and stood at the edge of a volcano.
  • Believes love is essential to everyone’s happiness.
  • She wants you to remember: Every day is a good day for romance!

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