Monday, December 1, 2008

The Gospel of Love: According to Luke by Jackie Barbosa

TITLE: The Gospel of Love: According to Luke
AUTHOR: Jackie Barbosa
PUBLISHER: Cobblestone Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 22k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

When Luke’s latest girlfriend calls it quits, he’s left stewing with his brothers and favorite gal pal on their weekly get-together at the pub. While the men are left debating what a woman wants, Lisa makes it plain and clear that Luke’s problem is he’s only looking for women he won’t marry. Her suggestion? For Luke to try her out for a change. Not for anything serious, but she’s wanted him for too long not to take advantage of his freedom now. And Luke is just happy enough to take her up on the offer of a no-strings relationship. At least, he is for now…

Told in 1st person from Luke’s perspective, the first of what will likely be a series about all the Finley men is an odd mix of casual eroticism with wannabe romance. It opens with a realistic bonding session between Luke and his brothers, with Lisa’s female wisdom offered as counterpoint. Luke feels very three-dimensional in this opening, and if he’s a little shallow regarding his relationships, at least he recognizes it. In fact, he seems – on the surface – like a lot of men, so believing him is relatively easy. When Lisa throws herself at him, he reacts like a guy, and I was actually quite taken with the casualness and fun these two have this single night they hook up.

Then comes the morning after. And my problems with the story begin.

Before agreeing to no-strings sex, Luke and Lisa make it very clear that neither is looking for anything more. Luke has vowed never to get married, and Lisa seems content with a one-night stand. Nothing wrong there. Two adults, mutual desire, matching needs. Except the next morning, Lisa does the expected and walks away clean, telling Luke it’ll never happen again because she doesn’t want to be his rebound affair. If it does happen, it won’t be until months later if, and only if, he decides he wants more than a fling. I can’t say I’m terribly thrilled with what she says – after being introduced and thinking of her as a very honest person, this seems more than a little sneaky to me – but I understand it. What I don’t understand is why Luke seems to do a 180. He’s not content to let things lie. He starts pursuing Lisa like there’s no tomorrow. Yes, the sex was hot, but he seems to have changed his mind about her completely, even if he’s not willing to contemplate marrying her. It’s this chasm that I can’t completely leap. I really like Luke and Lisa when they’re casual, but one night of great sex doesn’t seem like nearly enough to change his perspective on her so quickly. It’s sentiments like this – I came in dizzying waves, pummeling the entrance to her womb, desperate to leave a piece of myself within her forever. – a thought which comes at the end of their first real date, that disconnect me from the reality even more.

I also have a personal peccadillo with some of the erotic scenes. While they are for the most part hot and fun, the author has a tendency to toss in a clinical term among her slang that pulls me out of the rhythm. “Sphincter” will never be sexy to me, as in I withdrew my fingers in a rush and lubed up my dick, which was by now in agony from anticipation. I lined up with the rapidly shrinking hole and pushed. The sphincter resisted for just a second, then relaxed, and just like that, I was in up to the ring of the glans. I find the juxtaposition of terminology jarring. I can read and enjoy scenes written either way (unless the word sphincter is used), but not combined unfortunately. (The exception to that is “clit,” because, well, alternatives like “nub” just make me laugh.) But like I said, this is a personal thing. I know a lot of readers don’t have issue with the combining. It was just one more thing to lessen my overall satisfaction with the story.

When all is said and done, I’m not sure how to characterize this story. As a fun, bantery, casual affair, it’s airy and enjoyable. As a romance, it stretches the realm of credibility that the real world feel of the banter demands. Neither is enough to carry the story through to a satisfactory conclusion, and I end up wishing they hadn’t tried to make things so serious so soon. More banter and less forced romance, please. That’s where these two excel.


7/10 – Quick and easy, though the mix of clinical with slang words in erotic scenes always throws me off


5/10 – Believable in the general sense, not so believable in the sudden change of attitude toward Lisa


6/10 – Likable and strong-willed

Entertainment value

5/10 – Without believing in the romantic leap, I end up wishing this was more an erotic romp than a romance

World building

6/10 – Sketchy at best, more time is spent on banter than setting much of a scene



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