Book Reviews

Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys 3) by Brandon Witt at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Doctors/Nurses/EMTs / Romance
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 13-July-2017

Book Blurb

Ariel Merman is a new drag queen who’s already finding a family at Hamburger Mary’s. After a performance as Ariel, Zachary Cooper walks home in his makeup and is assaulted by homophobes. Zachary’s worry that the attack has thrown a wrench in his good fortune is eased when he looks into the eyes of his doctor.


Dr. Teegan Chau is a little lost after divorcing his wife and coming out of the closet, but he can’t deny the pull he feels toward the young man he patches up. Luckily, Zachary takes the initiative and asks Teegan out. But attraction is the easy part of their blossoming relationship—as they deal with an ex-wife and child, being a drag queen in a heteronormative culture, Zachary’s lingering trauma from his attack, and Teegan acclimating to life as part of an out-and-proud gay couple.


The challenges seem daunting at the start of a romance. Can Zachary and Teegan make it through the rough patches and take a chance on the love that’s been missing from both their lives?


Book Review

‘Mary’s Boys’, a series around a set of characters involved in some way with Hamburger Mary’s in Denver, is into its third book, and I loved this one as much as the first two volumes. And while Hamburger Mary’s is a real chain of GLBTQ+-friendly restaurants in the US and the characters are fictional, they all feel as real to me as the restaurant. Led by ManDonna, a drag queen of considerable local fame and a supportive figure in and out of drag, leads her motley crew of drag queens with aplomb. Ariel Merman (aka Zachary) is a fairly new recruit, but she is already making waves (pun intended). She enables Zachary to let go, be creative, and be free of much of the pressure in his life as a man who is often seen as “too gay” – whatever that is supposed to mean. When Zachary ends up in the hospital as the result of a gay bashing, he meets Teegan, a Chinese-American who is recently divorced, who has come out, but is still trying to find his feet. Both men know what it means to be "different" and how tough it can be to find their place in the world, and this results in quite some tension between them as they define what sort of couple they want to be.

Zachary is a great young man and a talented drag performer, but he has a lot of issues. He lost his parents and is now running their bookstore (which sounds like a fabulous place, by the way!), so he is not in financial trouble. He loves performing with ManDonna’s troupe, so he has found something he loves to do. But he is lonely, his self-confidence is very low, and while he wants a partner, he is so shy that he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to attract someone’s interest. As for the bashing – that leaves wounds a lot deeper than the physical damage. Essentially, Zachary thinks he is weak for trying to run from his attackers (all three!!!! of them) and because many people see him as effeminate and don’t understand how much performing in drag means to him, his self-image takes a beating as much as his body does.

Teegan is professionally established and has a daughter he loves, still gets along with his ex-wife, but he has no idea how to go from admitting he is gay (probably to himself and a small group of family and friends) to openly living as part of a gay couple. He is immediately attracted to Zachary and when Zachary asks him out he plunges straight into the new-to-him world of gay dating. He is honest about how nervous he is, and I think that is a big part of the reason why he and Zachary get along and make progress - slow as that may be. Teegan has a few misconceptions about what it means to be gay, but he has an open mind and learns fast.

There is something special about watching two men – both of whom are still learning how to build a relationship – deal with the issues of dates, getting to know each other, families and friends, and some unexpected obstacles. Zachary’s trauma from the attack as well as his shyness are not easy to overcome, and while Teegan is not shy, he has some things to learn as well. As a result, both men change and grow together, and that adds a pretty unique flavor to their romance.

If you like stories about realistic relationship issues and obstacles, if you want to see two men go from shy and insecure to willing to stand up for themselves and each other, and if you’re looking for a novella that is complex enough to feel more like a novel, then you will probably like ‘Mascara and Bandages’ as much as I do. It is touching, I loved every minute of diving into its world, and, as ever, I am already hoping that Brandon Witt will keep going with this series!





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novella, 121 pages/40039 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 12-July-2017
Price $4.99 ebook
Buy Link