- File Size: 499 KB
- Print Length: 181 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: January 21, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01MR8OAL8
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,727 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Aiden, a former elite soldier and an PTSD victim, has reoccuring visions, and holds coversations with his dead BF and former lover, with a heavy dose of self-blame guilt and survivors remorse. Liam, lost his parents at 15 yo- had himself emacipated from the foster system, and took on full responsibility of himself and his younger brother Jamie, at the age of 16 yo. Later working his way through college and law school, totally giving up his life for his brother. Together, these two men struggle trying to save young Jamie from an abusive wealthy man, MORE THAN ONCE! They do get a somewhat happy ending, but I see this story as more of a 'happy for now' story as they both need some MAJOR counciling in their near futures to finally get their emotionally safe, happy ending.
I gave this 4 stars as it did keep my interest throughout; I liked the two main characters despite their flaws; and it was well written. Would I read more from this author? Probably not. Too emotionally draining. I read to de-stress. I don't want to get more. Sorry.
The biggest flaw here is that *something* about the narrative style was really bothering me throughout the entire story, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. I finally figured it out when I was getting close to the end, and suddenly the style problem became vividly apparent. Nearly 90% of the book seems to be an extremely detailed outline of a story - every theme and idea that the author wanted to convey, who each character was supposed to be (their background, motivations, inner dialogue, emotions, etc), what the characters should think and feel about each other, and what readers should be thinking and feeling during every part of the story. But then, rather than writing a story based on that outline, the outline was published as the story itself.
Okay, I know that probably sounds confusing. To put it simply, the book took two important narrative guidelines and threw them completely out the window.
One: show - don't tell. There was far too much explanation of every single little thing, to the point that it was downright patronizing. Intentionally or not, the author didn't trust readers to "read between the lines", so every bit of nuance was written out rather than left to the imagination. Barely more than two or three lines of dialogue or plot went by without an enormous amount of exposition following immediately afterward to explain what the characters were thinking or why that part of the plot is important, or to let you know exactly what you should think about it. To further exacerbate this problem, even though the chapters alternated with the titles "Liam" and "Aidan", it was never clear whose point of view the story was coming from. It was written all in third person, but the enormous amount of inner dialogue made it hard to figure out if the narrator was supposed to be detached from the character or entirely inside the character's head. This is something that is easy to mess up, since there's always a strong temptation to take the easy way out and just tell readers what the character is thinking, but it really muddies the story's point of view.
Two: dialogue should be able to stand on its own. This one is a part of the first rule, but specific to characters' words. I'm going to quote writing teacher Marg McAlister here: "Take your scene... and strip out everything except... the actual spoken words. Imagine that this is ALL your readers have to tell them about the character's emotions, moods, and concerns. Most people are surprised by how much they rely on the narrative... to do the work." I want to say this story stomped all over that rule, but honestly I couldn't tell you if the story would stand up without all the exposition because there was just so much of it that I don't even remember how much the characters actually spoke.
Now, the enormous style problem (the story being an outline rather than what should have resulted from that outline) was the biggest issue, but there were others.
Some will disagree with me here, but I think the most egregious characterization problem was the fact that Alistair is an extreme one-dimensional caricature of a sociopath. I'm surprised he didn't have a handlebar mustache and wear a top hat and a cape. From the beginning to the end, he had some significant "screen time", yet not a single bit of it was devoted to making him seem real. Instead, his appearance, his personality, his words, his actions, and even his ridiculous name were all very specifically written to be the "perfect" antagonist for plot purposes. Often times, less is more... but in Alistair's case, we only got more and more and more. The author relentlessly painted him as a cartoon villain in every conceivable way, to the point that I was pulled out of the story because I just couldn't imagine this guy as a real person.
The second major characterization issue was that this author made the same huge mistake that a lot of authors do in a romance story... she forced the primary relationship to happen in an unnatural way. She focused so much effort on moving the plot along that she forgot to flesh out the progression of the romance. It was as if the characters are "supposed to get together", so they're just going to get together and you have to deal with it. There wasn't any falling in love, there was barely any getting-to-know-you, and even the initial attraction got very little "screen time". Some other reviewers mentioned that the relationship felt flat, and this is why. It just wasn't developed in any meaningful way. Additionally, something seemed "off" about the way that each character felt essentially the same about the other, and had essentially the same end goal. I suspect this was an accident that can be chalked up to a failure to give them separate personalities. I felt like they were on the same page far too quickly, and all of the "will they get together?" drama was transparently manufactured. I would have appreciated more differentiation when it came to how they approached each other and how they felt about being in a relationship, let alone how quickly they arrived at the same place in the end.
And speaking of developing the relationship, the characters weren't particularly developed either... especially Liam. Ironically, he was as utilitarian to the narrative as his character was supposed to be in the story. In other words, he seemed to exist solely to serve the plot in the same way that his character decided to exist solely to protect his brother. Aidan was more fleshed out, but was still lacking in ways that left him feeling flat. The brother wasn't very developed, but he was sort of a supporting character so that was understandable. But like I said before, by far the worst character was the cartoonishly evil Alistair.
VAGUE SPOILER ALERT (this paragraph only): I also had an enormous problem with each main characters' response when the other character revealed his past trauma. Neither character offered even a tiny sliver of compassion for what the other had lost, which just totally blew me away. If someone revealed to me that a very important person in their life had died in a terribly tragic way, my first reaction would be sympathy for their loss and for their experience. Instead, the author was too focused on the shrouded-past theme she was trying to convey, so the characters' responses served strictly to further that theme and were amazingly unsympathetic. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how blown away I was that Liam didn't offer any condolences whatsoever when he learned of Aidan's still-very-fresh loss. And to a lesser degree, the same was true of Aidan's response to Liam's story.
My last criticism is possibly nit-picking, but there was no clear distinction between what was the plot and what were subplots. Of course it isn't a hard rule that subplots have to be easily distinguished from the main plot, but this book mingled the romance story with the brother's-evil-boyfriend story and the court-case story so much that I couldn't tell what was supposed to be the main focus. I know this may not sound like a valid complaint, but it's hard to explain how the narrative suffered from it without actually reading the book to see what I'm talking about.
Now for some things I liked... first, grammatically the book was great. I only noticed a couple of missing words and one misuse of a word ("resort" instead of "retort"). I don't recall any spelling errors or strange punctuation. I know it's silly to mention grammar, but after reading a lot of Kindle books, an author with a firm grasp on grammar is very much appreciated.
Second, the "handling" of Aidan's prior lover was very cleverly executed. It was a bit confusing at first (the introduction of the device could surely be manipulated a bit to clean that up), but after I understood what the author was going for, I really liked what she did with it. It gave a lot of emotional weight to the story in a manner that perfectly fit Aidan's character. Kudos.
Third, as another reviewer said, the bones of a good story are all here, they just need overhauled and fleshed out. The ideas were compelling, the writing was skillful, the plot devices were clever. Unfortunately, as I said to begin with, the entire book sounded like a detailed outline of everything inside the author's head rather than the resulting story that readers were supposed to get. If the author is set on a third person narrative, a lot of the explanations and introspection needed to be left out of the narrative and incorporated into the actions and words of the characters instead. Otherwise, if the author really wants to keep all of that very specific introspection, she should consider switching to a first person narrative, or at least finding a better way to blend and transition with the detached parts of the narrative.
Most recent customer reviews
This was a great story about 2 very fragile characters and then insta-love hit - and it went rapidly downhill. That's sad.