yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (BUF-Interpretation-mangofandango)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian posting in [community profile] sps
I'm not reading much in published fiction as fanfic is plentiful and, I've found, often far more entertaining. Case in point, two books that are supposed to be romances with a mystery angle.

I've always enjoyed mysteries though I'm more tentative with romances given more misses than hits in my reading history. However, a discount promo for Brushback by Jamie Scofield caught my attention. It promised a m/m romance accompanying a mystery (private detective hero) and it had a baseball on the cover, which was particularly appealing as I have enjoyed fanfic AUs done in a sports setting. It can be found at its publisher site, dancingfools.com.

Unfortunately, this book disappointed on all fronts. I had to force myself to finish it, which was a few months ago now. The only baseball angle is that the hero is a fan of the Seattle Mariners and attends a ballgame during the story. The romance failed to grab me as I didn't really see the points of connection between the detective and his client. There was apparently a physical attraction but I wasn't really sold. Like many mysteries, this story is told in the first person from the detective's viewpoint and I wondered if this limitation in viewpoint affected the way I was able to understand their dynamic. The hero, incidentally, is very reluctant to become involved for reasons which didn't strike me as particularly compelling, particularly since during the story he realizes he has put a bad breakup from his past into the past and is moving on.

Of most importance to me is that the mystery wasn't all that mysterious and the novel does less to present one so much as show us how the hero spends his time. Oddly, this seems to consist mostly of doing work for free which doesn't bode well for his business. It's mentioned that he does some paying work but this is glossed over in a paragraph here and there.

His employees showed some promise as characters but there wasn't much done with them and his best friend, a tech billionaire who he ropes into helping him out, fails to get any development. What's more this book read as if it was farther along in a series and we had already been introduced to many of these people, but so far as I can tell this was the first of a series. For example, one plot thread that goes nowhere refers to a person that the hero has worked with in the past, who seems to be in some sort of trouble, and he may have to help out.

A big problem is that too much was going on and none of it was particularly gripping. The center story of a teenage boy not wanting to be found by his estranged mother takes up most of the book. Then there's also a side story of the guy in trouble I mention above which never comes into focus, and also a side story about a woman the hero happens to come across while on a date who he decides to defend from her abusive boyfriend. (Hurt/comfort fans may enjoy the hero being badly beaten at one point, I didn't). In addition to the romance plot, the book opens with him on a date with someone who comes back briefly later, and his meeting with his ex.

My feeling is that, aside from a really clever plot, a mystery lives or dies due to how interesting or compatible with the reader a detective is, and for me nothing clicked with Brushback. The book just seemed endless with the hero running about engaging with or referring to all his plot threads, and a lot of it not adding up to much.

The second book, The Death of Davy Moss: A Love Story is by Kristine Kathryn Rusch which can be found at Smashwords. This book offered a free eight chapter preview which worked well enough for me. Unfortunately, nothing developed much after that.

The premise quickly grabbed me because back in the 80s I was really intrigued by the idea presented in Eddie and the Cruisers, of a rock star that may have faked his own death. I didn't find the way it was handled in the film all that interesting, and I've read a few stories since that also follow this idea, none of them completely satisfying.

Davy Moss isn't exactly a mystery since we know from the start what's happened -- at least in general terms, though I initially had hoped this would be developed in some way. How he did it all is explained late in the book but this is entirely a side point. The story is much more of a romance than Brushback, with the heroine, Emily, hearing the former Davy doing an impromptu performance in a casino bar. She's been hired to do promotion for the facility and has a background, and a bad relationship in her past, in music. The story is told 3rd person alternating between Davy (now Josh) and Emily.

The opening seemed promising, the two characters adults with adult, and, of most interest to me, professional issues relating to the entertainment field they've worked in. I thought if nothing else the book might be an interesting insider account of how that business works and the issues of fame that drove Davy from his previous high perch in his field. But much of that discussion is superficial. There are some interesting details regarding music promotion, and perhaps band development, but one problem I had with the book in general is that it seemed quite dainty. There's nothing polite and drawing room about people in that field and the book's characters lacked either the eccentricities, or the language and personal issues that are often found among entertainers. Emily is also often described as "tough" but the few examples we get of that seem quite mild to me and nothing like the brassy, ballsy woman she'd probably have to be to survive as a woman in that misogynistic field. The reason is probably the same one that appeared when a female singer had an exchange with Josh which I thought was rather brassy but also somewhat funny. My instinctive reaction was that he would laugh it off and bat things right back at her, maybe do some bantering. Instead, the reader's informed that all the band members think she's an utter bitch. (No wonder Joss couldn't survive his first round in the music business...)

This brings up the biggest problem of all, which is that characters never seem well developed. Emily fares best with a lot more detail given about her and her motivations as well as, I thought, a realistic perspective on the likely outcome of getting involved with her client. However I didn't believe anything about the "romance" which seemed abrupt and based largely on physical attraction. Case in point, quite early on the hero suddenly blurts out that he loves her. My reaction was to snort out loud. This is not what you should feel when the hero confesses his love, which also should have some sort of build up.

There were other irritating omissions or decisions which are probably personal bugaboos but detracted from my involvement. When we get to the sex scene (the only one, I think, in the book -- but I may have skipped over another) he has suddenly, late at night in a relatively small town with very little advance warning, managed to get rose petals spread all over a bed along with the usual champagne and chocolates (and then they eat crackers in bed). Apparently that's a commonly ordered hotel feature. I don't know, maybe it is? Worse though was that there was no condom use, no reference to it whatsoever. I can't imagine how someone portrayed as an intelligent, saavy woman in that field would ever think to have first time sex with a musician and not be discussing safe sex.

The participants in the story just didn't seem very realistic, and I didn't really care how they ended up (everything was tidied up rather conveniently). After the hero promises that he's going to "take things slow" he ends up proposing to the heroine only a month or so into their relationship. I was generally unimpressed and forced myself to finish this.
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