Monday, January 21, 2008

One Good Hand by Rowan McBride

TITLE: One Good Hand
AUTHOR: Rowan McBride
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 23k)
GENRE: Paranormal gay erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Poker player Ace Donovan is at the top of the heap when he wins a beautiful, mysterious man in a game. At the man’s request, Ace names him, and from that moment on, Spade becomes everything Ace has ever wanted. He anticipates Ace’s needs, literally changing before his eyes. But when an old rival shows up in town, Ace has to decide which is more important – finally getting that one good hand, or letting go of the past.

There’s always an ounce of trepidation when I read a second book by an author I really like, the question of, “Was it a fluke? Was I right to love that other book so much?” Rowan McBride made a lot of my favorite lists for 2007, including having my favorite hero and erotic romance, so I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about picking up this re-release. It wasn’t part of the other series, and even more frightening, it was a novella. Novellas require different skill sets than novels. How did I know this author had them?

My fears were in vain. One Good Hand is tightly written, with compelling sympathetic characters you root for, and a satisfying – and most importantly, believable – emotional arc.

Presented in 1st person, we experience the story completely from Ace’s perspective. We get his confusion when he first wins Spade, his pain when he visits his uncle suffering from Alzheimer’s, his exaltation when Spade gives him everything he needs. The emotions are blended seamlessly, progressing both logically and smoothly so that you’re always in the moment, just as much as Ace is. The scenes with his uncle, especially, are poignant, revealing just why Ace has grown into the man he is without being heavy-handed about it.

There’s always a risk when half of your romantic couple is supposedly perfect. Spade’s characterization walked a very fine line throughout most of the story, but where I found Kian in Paul’s Dream to be grating, Spade never goes that far. He exhibits flashes of humanism that turn him from the perfect partner for Ace into the right partner. By the time the story draws to a close, I was on both of their sides. I wanted both of them to be happy, and not just because I wanted one who happened to want the other.

There are hints that this might be the first of a series, but as this is a re-release, I don’t know if that was something that never came to fruition or something that got added in the new edits. I’m not sure which I’m leaning toward. How many times can you write about the perfect partner without it turning into the same story over and over again? On the other hand, this is Rowan McBride. An author I trust. I daresay that if this is the start of a new series, I’ll be along for the ride anyway.


9/10 – Clean, light prose that made it easy to completely forget time while I was reading.

Hero #1

8/10 – Well-rounded and flawed without dwelling on the angst

Hero #2

7/10 – Surprisingly believable considering he’s a mirror to another person’s wants/desires

Entertainment value

8/10 – I got hooked into both the romance and the overlying character development, never feeling short-changed because of the length.

World building

8/10 – Solid, but I expect that from this author now.



No comments: