Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gambling on Love by Jane Davitt

TITLE: Gambling on Love
AUTHOR: Jane Davitt
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 87k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Eleven years ago, Gary ran away from the small town he grew up in on the night he accidentally outed himself and his best friend Abe to Abe’s coach. Now, a winter storm he underestimated and a toss of his lucky quarter have him stranded on the side of the road just miles from where he grew up. As fate would have it, the driver of the truck he hit belongs to none other than Abe, but they have to get out of the storm before they can even begin to deal with the shock of seeing each other again…

Jane Davitt is one of the those authors I can trust to write intelligent prose, which is why I don’t usually have to think to hard about buying one of her books. Unfortunately, it takes more than a strong grasp of language to make a great story.

The book opens in 1998 with best friends Abe and Gary as teenagers. We learn of their close friendship that suffers slightly when Abe realizes Gary is attracted to him, but that soon shifts when Abe finally confesses he’s gay, too, and in love with Gary. A puppy love, in the closet, relationship develops, but one day, the two boys are caught in the locker room kissing by Abe’s coach. Terrified about what’s going to happen to them as gay in their small town, Gary runs away, leaving behind a confused Abe when Abe refuses to come with him. Cut forward eleven years, and Gary is just a few miles away from his home town, on his way to do one last thing for his lover/employer who just died. He underestimates the storm he’s driving through, and ends up getting into an accident with a truck. The truck driver is Abe, who was on his way home, and after the initial shock of seeing each other and a couple arguments, they work together to get to the safety of Abe’s house. The pair end up snowed in together for a few days, during which time they have to come to grips with the resentment and residual feelings between them.

The prologue is appropriately gripping and entertaining, with likeable, believable teenagers discovering that first thrill of love. It backslides a little with the jump forward in time, because the twenty-nine year-old Gary is clearly not the same as the teenaged Gary, and the effect is jarring. It seemed to even out, however, and I was excited when Abe came onto the scene. I was looking forward to seeing these two iron out their differences.

However, that doesn’t happen for a long time. More than half the book is given over to this prologue and the first twenty-four hours they spend together. A lot has to happen in that time, I know, but it created a telescope effect, with far too much intense time spent on dragging out their initial conflict, then not nearly enough time spent on the days that came afterward. Once they get clear of the snow, the most conflict we get is from one or the both of them saying the wrong thing to the other, issues that get resolved too quickly in relation to the pace set in the first half of the story. That schism interrupts the flow, and makes it feel like you’re reading two different books, where the characters only vaguely resemble each other. Ultimately, it’s very frustrating, because Gary ends up proving uneven as a result. His prickly behavior lacks enough context most of the time to make the reader empathize with him. Instead, all feeling ends up getting aimed at Abe, who already has the bonus of being the wronged party in this by being the one left behind.

That imbalance typifies the story’s biggest weakness. While the sex scenes are usually hot, with some mild D/s thrown in as Gary finally gets to be dominant and Abe learns to better accept his submissive sexual side, everything around it lacks the cohesion to glue it all together. It’s not helped that the ending is telegraphed early on, easy to predict for anybody paying attention. The solid prose just isn’t enough in this case.


8/10 – Intelligent prose and believable dialogue, but pacing was all over the place and slowed it down considerably

Hero #1

6/10 – His skittishness is all over the map, making it hard to get a consistent bead on him

Hero #2

7/10 – Though I thought his turnaround in forgiving Gary was too swift, I definitely empathized with him more

Entertainment value

6/10 – It took forever to get past the first twenty-four hours, and then the rest of it snowballed too quickly to really feel much of anything

World building

7/10 – The prologue and storm aspects felt chillingly real



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