AUTHOR: Sophia Deri-Bowen
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 9k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
Ex-con Danny Johnson is trying to rebuild his life, starting with buying a bar in
Maybe I should have guessed between the blurb and the excerpt where this story was going to go. I feel like I’m the only person to blame for buying this, when it became obvious very early on I wasn’t going to enjoy it. It’s not because the blurb and excerpt were misleading. I think it’s because it’s not like a lot of short story romances that are out there, so I just wasn’t expecting it.
So what’s the way it’s not like other short stories? Its voice. The story feels like it wants to be third person omniscient, but because so much of it is in Danny’s POV – with only the occasional outside POV thrown in – I’m not sure if the author might not intend it to be third limited but lapsed a few times on perspective. I lean toward the former, to be honest, because of the narrative style. The entire thing has a distant storyteller quality to it, much like some literary fiction or older works. These days, it’s just not common to find in genre fiction (outside of fantasy), and it’s not a style I like at all. I can’t engage with it, which is why I don’t enjoy a lot of what is considered classical literature. Because this reminded me so much of that, it distanced me even further.
But barring that, it’s difficult for me to buy into the characterizations of both Danny and Ratio, the third man he meets. They never feel like men to me, primarily because of the dialogue. Exchanges like this…
“And hey. This is your celebration. What d’you want, sweetheart?”
“You!” Ratio grinned and pushed their hips together, grinding his far too sweet and slow. “I want you to take your pleasure, Danny-my-Danny. I want you to be happy with me. I want you to celebrate too.”
“Oh, honey, I am. I’m so happy.” He hugged Ratio tightly. “Remember? You make me feel real again.”
…occur too often, and feel unrealistic, even within the boundaries of thinking of this as more literary romance. This story is short, and their portion of it not that long, but it took no time at all for me to start rolling my eyes in their scene. This guy is supposed to be an ex-con? Not to me.
In the end, I’m left underwhelmed. Readers who might not have the same problems with the voice style might not be.
6/10 – The author’s voice just doesn’t work for me, it’s almost 3rd person omniscient but not quite so ends up feeling like headhopping
4/10 – The distance with the voice keeps him rather flat, then when he gets a chance to do something, he doesn’t feel male at all
4/10 – Same problems I had with the primary hero
4/10 – I can rarely engage with this type of storytelling, so though I kept hoping for more, it just didn’t happen.
7/10 – The strongest aspect of the book, because the setting is likely meant to be another character