Friday, June 12, 2009

An Officer and His Gentleman by Ryan Field

TITLE: An Officer and His Gentleman
AUTHOR: Ryan Field
PUBLISHER: Ravenous Romance
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 52k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Chance Martin’s got it rough. The only way for him to have a roof over his head is to accept the less than noble terms of his aging boss – work in the market by day, be naked in the man’s presence during off-hours. Chance gets through it by focusing on his love for cooking, one day dreaming of making it big on the Food Network, but when a gorgeous naval officer on leave catches his eye, his dreams start to expand…

I have a number of Ravenous Romance books sitting on my TBR pile, books I bought months ago before a lot of the recent brouhaha about the company seemed to appear in the blogverse. I have to admit to being a little reluctant to pull any of them out, but when one of the nicest things I can say about this particular book is that it isn’t nearly as terrible as I feared it would be, I wonder if I should review it at all. Except I’ve read it now, and while it’s not as awful as might be expected, it’s still pretty bad.

The basic premise is that Chance is a pretty young thing who can’t afford to live on his own, kicked out by his parents when they found out he’s gay with little talents except his love for food, and his love for sex. He gets a job and a room to live in at an Italian market, on the condition that after hours, he doesn’t wear any clothing. The lecherous old man who owns it doesn’t do much more than grope him, but it’s still a pretty tacky situation. I had hoped from reading the blurb and excerpt that it would end up being quirky instead, but Dan treats Chance so abysmally, it might as well be abuse. And the problem is, Chance takes it. This was one of my biggest stumbling blocks in the entire set-up. Chance is an incredibly talented cook. He’s young. He’s reasonably bright. He’s a hard worker. How am I expected to believe this is his only alternative? There’s never enough reason or depth provided to make this situation plausible in the slightest. Its only purpose seems to be to put Chance in the most awful circumstances possible and then show him a man who can save him from all that.

Not that Brody Chambers, the Naval officer, is really all that terrific. He’s certainly nice enough at the start, but when his behavior turns belligerent and controlling early in their relationship, I applauded Chance’s decision to leave him in the dust. The reasons given to explain it away are flimsy at best. Plus, Brody is pretty much in the closet and is going to stay that way, he’s only in town because his mother is dying, and all he seems interested in Chance for is sex. None of this inspires me to invest in the romance. Not in the slightest.

Along with the weak characterizations, the prose suffers from frequent editing errors. There are shift tenses and inconsistencies galore. For instance, the first time Chance is going to meet Brody at a nearby amusement park, it’s agreed that they’ll meet at eight. The store closes at seven, Chance finally gets to dash out just past seven-thirty, but when he arrives at his friend Sarah’s house – the girl who is acting as his front for his boss – she complains that it’s nearly seven. Oops. This is just the first of many mistakes, which increasingly annoy me. There is no usual romance dirty talk in this, either. The language in the sex scenes is crude and meant to be so, and lines such as this are not uncommon: “I'm gonna fuck you hard, baby. I'm gonna breed that fucking hot ass until you can't take it." “Breed” is actually a favorite word in this, used repetitively throughout the book. I know it’s meant to be erotic, and perhaps for some people it is, but I didn’t find it particularly so.

There is one aspect that’s done amazingly well. Any time Chance focuses on food or cooking, the details come to life. My mouth watered more than once at the description of one of his specials, and I found myself wishing for more material like that, rather than the endless parade of sex scenes with Brody. There’s not enough of it to carry the weaker sections of the story, however, and ultimately, I was just relieved to be done with it.


5/10 – Frequent editing errors and tedious characters made this a slow read

Hero #1

4/10 – Never really believable for him to be in the situation he is, it’s hard to feel sorry for him when he doesn’t look at options

Hero #2

4/10 – Flat and a control freak

Entertainment value

4/10 – The appeal wears thin quickly when it’s obvious there won’t be any depth to the story

World building

7/10 – The food parts were particularly great, as well as some of the quirkier character bits




Obsidian Bookshelf said...

Very good review! You confirmed my suspicions about this book. I read an excerpt on the site and thought, "Why on earth is our young hero putting up with this?"

I, too, thought that maybe the naked situation -- weird as it is -- might have worked if done for quirky black humor or to show both men getting something out of it, but the excerpt made it read like deadly serious oppression. I decided to pass on picking up the book, and now I'm thinking that was the right decision.

Book Utopia Mom said...

I was hoping there might be more of an homage to the play on the movie title, too, but that was blatant and heavyhanded when it occurred. I'm not sure I would buy this now, from what I've heard about the publisher, too, though I still have 5 of their books on my TBR pile.

Obsidian Bookshelf said...

Yes, the title had me wondering. I think there is another Ravenous Romance novel by Ryan Field titled Pretty Man that is a little bit more obvious in its movie homage. (Haven't read it, though!)