Monday, May 19, 2008

Exceptions to the Rule by Fae Sutherland & Marguerite Labbe

TITLE: Exceptions to the Rule
AUTHOR: Fae Sutherland & Marguerite Labbe
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 25k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.45

Nathan Daniels is an analyst for a health care organization. Jamie Nolan is a bartender with a bad boy appearance. Meeting in a strip club shouldn’t lead to more than a one-night stand, or even that. Except it does…

I have certain bugaboos in reading that almost always end up spoiling stories for me. Headhopping. Dialogue that doesn’t sound like real people talking. Lust substituting for love. Men sounding or feeling like women. Even women sounding or feeling like men, though honestly that rarely, rarely happens. This particular story fell prey to three of these, so the odds of me enjoying it were probably pretty bad from the midway point of chapter one where it all started happening.

The first instance happened while Jamie and Nathan were still at the bar, making arrangements to hook up after Jamie got off shift. Jamie called Nathan “honey.” In and of itself, it’s not that bad. Men do use endearments. Except Jamie then proceeds to use it in every other line of dialogue. And then Nathan starts in on his own endearments. His favorite seems to be dearling. Too, too sappy for my tastes, and felt far too feminine for a character that was deeply in the closet at work. Nathan’s entire character is about being stiff upper lip to Jamie’s free spirit. Turning into a Hallmark card at the drop of a hat? Unbelievable.

A lot of the dialogue feels stilted and unrealistic to me, though more so in the sex scenes than elsewhere. The exchange – “You feel like heaven.”, “What’s a sinner like you doing in heaven, dearling?”, “Stealing an angel, that’s what.” – is probably the worst. Maybe if I was invested more in the romance, it wouldn’t seem so eye-roll-worthy. But I wasn’t. Which leads to the second big problem in this.

Nathan and Jamie fall for each other that very first night. They’re talking love very, very quickly. This wouldn’t be a problem if we got to see what and why they love each other, but we don’t. We get told that there’s just something in the other man’s eyes. Nathan and Jamie both see something deeper, and apparently, that’s enough to declare everlasting love so they can spend the bulk of the story having lots and lots of sex. A reader doesn’t get to witness any of the supposed emotional growth or reasons for it. We just have to take the characters’ words for it. In a short story, it wouldn’t be quite as much of a crime, but the authors have 25k here. That’s more than enough time to give us more evidence than they saw it in each other’s eyes. There’s an attempt ¾’s of the way through the story to create conflict with one of Jamie’s exes, but it comes from so far out of left field, and Nathan reacts to it so hysterically, it completely misses the mark.

In the end, it feels like an excuse to write opposites attract sex scenes. The emotion doesn’t feel genuine because I have no reason to believe the hidden depths the characters are supposed to have. I need to see it to believe it, not told it’s there the moments before they hop into bed. Between that and overly sentimental men, there was too much here getting in my way of enjoying the story.


6/10 – The overuse of endearments and telling not showing made me take twice as long to finish

Hero #1

5/10 – Slightly more depth than his younger counterpart, though he falls prey to many of the attributes that annoy me.

Hero #2

3/10 – Unbelievable and annoying

Entertainment value

3/10 – All the endearments and sappy behavior had me rolling my eyes instead of falling for the characters

World building

5/10 – The author tells more about the setting than shows.



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