Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starting Over by Annmarie McKenna

TITLE: Starting Over
AUTHOR: Annmarie McKenna
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 21k)
GENRE: Contemporary gay menage erotic romance
COST: $4.99

A hit and run accident puts Aaron Gardner in the hospital with multiple injuries, including a fractured leg, concussion, and a dislocated shoulder. He’s surprised when he wakes up to discover that the cop who witnessed it, who provided an anchor for him while EMTs arrived, is still at his bedside, and even more so when one of his doctors is the cop’s lover. Dane and Garrett are both taken in by the damaged Aaron, and when they learn he has nobody local to help him out, they offer to let him stay with them. What they don’t tell him right away is that they’re hoping he’ll become the third that completes their relationship…

Though this is my first review of this author for my blog, it’s not the first time I’ve read her. However, those were het paranormal stories, read before I started posting reviews online, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when I picked up this gay ménage. I’d liked her voice in the past, and while she’s still highly readable, I had too many problems with this to really enjoy it.

The biggest stems in my inability to resolve what is clearly meant to be a story of contemporary realism with an element that requires my complete suspension of disbelief. Aaron is hurt badly in the car accident. He is constantly hopped up on morphine to deal with the pain. Yet, even in the hospital, he’s getting a hard-on for Garrett and Dane, and within just a few weeks, indulging in sex. Not only should it be physically painful for him to do so, but morphine inhibits erections. They make it very clear that they are keeping him on a regular schedule of painkillers, so I just can’t settle it in my head without requiring a massive suspension of disbelief. It might have been possible, but the author is very clear to give Aaron valid reasons to be reluctant to enter into a relationship with Garrett and Dane. He’s in a grieving process, and has been for two years. He’s still so damaged from his lover’s accidental death that he still has panic attacks just thinking about the related causes. This is heavy duty drama. This in no way encourages me to pretend it’s a fantasy world where a guy on a bike getting slammed into by a Mustang going 65 mph can become a walking hard-on the next day.

Therein lies my other primary problem. Aaron is damaged, both physically and emotionally. Yet, he overcomes both obstacles without the attention the story suggests they deserve. This dichotomy of serious drama/too easy answers never sat well with me, and though I could smile at her charming – though too perfect – Garrett and Dane, and I could feel bad for Aaron’s plight, I was never able to believe any of them or the romance and emotions they professed. Even the mild D/s elements, sexy though they may be, did nothing to add to it. A real miss for me.


8/10 – Humorous and readable, which made for a quick read, but lacks any kind of depth


4/10 – I had difficulties believing both the speed at which Aaron was able to be interested in sex again and the quickness he was able to throw over his grief


5/10 – Though the three have promise, I never believed them

Entertainment value

5/10 – The story is very readable, but since I could never buy into the romance or believe the characters, I couldn’t care much

World building

5/10 – In spite of some verisimilitude regarding the settings, I can’t give a high score to a story striving for contemporary realism with Aaron’s grief and pain when it ignores both medical reasons and depth of exploration



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