Monday, February 8, 2010

Bounty of the Heart by J.M. Snyder

TITLE: Bounty of the Heart
AUTHOR: J.M. Snyder
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Gay historical romance
COST: $5.00

Bounty hunters Emmett Ward and Jack Robison find themselves in icy Alaska, on the outskirts of a small mining town where a dog sled race is about to commence. Their purpose? To kill Lin Ji, a Korean criminal responsible for more horrors in both men’s histories than either wants to talk about. When Jack’s old partner shows up, however, his dogged interest in Emmett creates strife between the partners – in Emmett because he loves Jack but has never had the benefit of more than his platonic friendship, in Jack because there is more to this old partner than meets the eye…

The single greatest strength to this story is the reason the reader gets sucked in from the very first page – its vivid Alaskan setting. The temperature chills from beyond the page, the sense of isolation exacerbated by the young and innocent Emmett’s emotional distance from the partner he’s been in love with for years. It’s an excellent use of setting to act as a metaphor for the protagonist’s turmoil, primarily because it’s not one often exploited in romantic fiction. This sense of place puts the reader right in the spot with these two men, with promises of an intense ride to come.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the ride never really happens. While this is most definitely a very smooth and swift read, it doesn’t meet the standards set in those first couple pages. For one thing, it’s labeled a historical, and while that becomes evident as the story progresses, there is still a very contemporary feel to a lot of the various elements – Monty’s (Jack’s old partner) openness regarding homosexuality, some of the dialogue, and so on. The characterizations never quite reach the depths the opening hints at, either. Everything is told from Emmett’s POV, and it’s apparent very early on that his perspective is very unreliable. We see Jack only through his eyes, and frankly, he hero worships the man. So much time is spent in his head, and with Monty, we get little opportunity to actually get an opinion of Jack for ourselves, except as a grizzled older man determined to protect Emmett at all costs. I liked Jack, but I never felt like I knew him, and considering he’s half of the romantic pairing in this short novella, that’s a problem.

The progression of both the romance and the action plot never runs as evenly as the prose would suggest, either. Both rely on convenience and coincidence to run its course, and as a result, neither really manages to fully satisfy. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story, though. In spite of its flaws, Emmett is full of such longing for Jack that it’s impossible not to want him to get it. I’m not convinced it wasn’t misplaced gratitude, but it’s still far too palpable to ignore. Add in the vivid setting, and I found myself smiling when the story was done. Hope sprang from the frigid terrain, warm and rich where their world was not. My one wish is that the story was longer, to better give the author time to more fully flesh out her characters and streamline the plot they were given. Then, it could have been incredible.


9/10 – Smooth and clean, with enough variation in pacing to keep it interesting

Hero #1

7/10 – Sweet and innocent

Hero #2

5/10 – Focus on Emmett without more of Jake makes Jakes more of an enigma, even if he is an intriguing one

Entertainment value

7/10 – Room for so much more, and the romance is underdeveloped, but I liked the characters and mood of this

World building

8/10 – Vivid Alaskan setting, though the time period feels more contemporary than I think is intended



No comments: