Monday, March 31, 2008

Aquamarine by Sara Bell

TITLE: Aquamarine
AUTHOR: Sara Bell
PUBLISHER: Torquere Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $2.49

College football player Derek Hoffman is torn between his relationship with his boyfriend Paul, and those with his family and friends. Nobody likes Paul, especially Derek’s very straight best friend Ford. When a serious injury forever alters his course, Derek has to choose once and for all where his future lies.

In order for me to invest in a romance, I need to like or at least sympathize with one of the pair. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s het or gay, but that’s one of the criteria that’s almost a given when I read romance. There are exceptions to the rule, but those are few and far between. When an entire story is told from a single POV – whether it’s first or third – I absolutely have to be able to connect in some level with that person.

In this particular story, everything is told from Derek’s POV. The problem is, Derek’s an idiot, and that’s obvious almost from the get-go. His boyfriend Paul is a showboating actor who clearly is using the notoriety Derek has for being both openly gay and a Heisman nominee to advance his own career. Nobody but Derek likes him. His father won’t even call Paul by his first name, and Derek’s best friend Ford – and other half, really – loathes the man. Yet, Derek dismisses everybody’s opinion to stick by Paul. Now, if Paul showed any redeeming characteristics at all, this might not necessarily be a bad thing, but he doesn’t. He’s an asshole, and frankly, Derek is a moron to let it go as far as he has. It’s entirely unbelievable that someone as family-oriented as he is, as trusting of his best friend as he is, would ignore all of their warnings that Paul isn’t good enough for him. It’s because of this blindness that I can’t sympathize with Derek at all. I don’t care that he ultimately gets hurt by some of Paul’s actions, or even that he got hurt playing football. And if I can’t care about that, well, there’s nothing actually left to the story, is there?

In addition to my dislike and disdain for the primary hero, the story is riddled with editorial mistakes that unfortunately typify too many Torquere offerings. Names get confused, and it happens once early enough on – where the author calls the father by the son’s name and vice versa – that I struggled throughout to keep all the characters straight. That makes it all that much harder to engage in an author’s voice that didn’t really end up appealing to me. I found the cliffhangers at the end of the chapter more annoying than anything else – probably because they seemed very much out of place in what seemed like a straightforward melodrama – and the characterizations shallow. Ford’s switch to gay two-thirds of the way through the story seems to come out of the blue, and the explanation that is offered for it the same.

A pedantic read in the end.


6/10 – Editorial mistakes such as name switches and incorrect punctuation don’t help prose that already borders on pedantic.

Hero #1

4/10 – An idiot. His blindness to his boyfriend is never understandable, which means I never had any sympathy for him.

Hero #2

4/10 – Shallow characterization. The segue from thinking he’s straight is handled clumsily.

Entertainment value

3/10 – Without being able to like the hero, it’s hard to invest in the romance or drama.

World building

6/10 – The collegiate world is fleshed out, just not that believable.




Josh Lanyon said...

In this particular story, everything is told from Derek’s POV. The problem is, Derek’s an idiot, and that’s obvious almost from the get-go.

I agree. In mainstream general fiction, the main character need only be interesting enough to make it worth following him for three hundred pages, but in romance: you've got to like the characters. Ideally both, but at least one of them.

Teddy Pig said...

Yep pretty hard to like a romance when it is not romantic.

Book Utopia Mom said...

Josh - I have to thank you for the pimp. And yes, I do think of myself as a fangirl, even if maybe that doesn't come across in the reviews. When I saw your LJ post, the first thing I did was get a hold of my best friend and squee that you mentioned me. I had a smile all day. :)

Teddy - I think authors sometimes get lost in trying to figure out conflict for their characters and forget that the characters still need to be both believable and likable.

gaia19 said...

I had the same opinion on the book. Ford sudden gay-ness had me rolling my eyes.