Monday, October 20, 2008

Handyman by Claire Thompson

TITLE: Handyman
AUTHOR: Claire Thompson
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 61k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $5.50

Will Spencer has taken a six-month sabbatical from his high pressure life in Manhattan, retreating to the quiet world of Scarsdale and a new home in desperate need of a makeover. Enter Jack Crawford, handyman. Will hires Jack to gut and redo his kitchen, but he’s taken aback at his attraction to the older man. Jack just doesn’t seem to be his type, not to mention that he’s most likely straight. The best he can hope for is friendship. Considering how lonely Jack has been since his wife died two years earlier, that friendship finds deeper roots than either man expects. So does the desire…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

The fantasy is a common one in romance. The sexy handyman showing up to fix whatever needs to be done, addressing the lonely homeowner – usually a woman – in such a way to fuel desires for more than a little bit of stolen conversation. There’s a safety in this fantasy, because who hasn’t experienced that moment of loneliness for themselves? In Handyman, author Claire Thompson has transposed it into a gay romance, and sometimes, it actually works. Both men are nice guys, though at different ends of the spectrum. Will has long embraced his sexuality, but he’s never had a committed relationship, sticking with sex buddies and casual flings. Jack married young and is Mr. Faithful, even after his wife’s death. When the men get to simply act, they’re not only believable, they’re likeable, too. This is one of the novel’s greatest strengths.

Where it falters is the author’s propensity for speechifying. Both men have a tendency to talk and talk for multiple paragraphs, as they expound on their feelings and history and then their feelings again. If it was internal monologue, it would be a lot more believable. Placing it in the dialogue gives the story an artificial air and pulled me out of it, because frankly, people don’t talk like that. I could probably buy it if it happened once, or twice, or was restricted to one of the men. But both Jack and Will do it. Repeatedly. And more than once I had the thought, I don’t even know women who talk this much.

That type of overtelling mars the first quarter of the story, too. Backstory for both men is told while they’re alone and in their POV, but then, when they’re getting to know each other, it all gets told again. Without much change. It’s repetitive and redundant, and frankly, a little boring. It eventually smoothes over, but it’s a sluggish start, and it holds the story back from what ultimately turns out to be a quite sweet romance.

I was impressed for quite a while at how realistic the author made Jack’s responses. True to his lifetime rooted in his heterosexuality, he was slow to come around, and reluctant to pursue the more intimate aspects of a sexual relationship. But after all the set-up, it gets sacrificed for expediency. It takes only a couple of days for him to give it up all the way, which felt like a cheat after all the careful work that had been done setting up his characterization. I didn’t believe it, which makes it hard to believe as strongly in the romance, too.

All that being said, when the men are simply allowed to be, it’s a quiet, safe romance with more than a little charm. It just could have been so much more.


7/10 – Nice prose gets bogged down with long speechifying in the dialogue

Hero #1

6/10 – The speeches replace character development, though he’s a nice enough guy.

Hero #2

6/10 – I thought the turnaround was a little too swift to be believable, but again, a nice guy.

Entertainment value

6/10 – This would have been higher if I hadn’t been jerked out of the story by long, unrealistic speeches.

World building

8/10 – Solid and indicative of the writer’s capabilities outside of dialogue



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