A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: An absent-minded cardiology researcher gets stuck in London and an unexpected surprise in the form of his boss.
Attending the cardiology conference in London was important for Dr. Howard Vandenburg’s career — missing the cruise ship and losing his passport and then having to face his boss, hospital COO Michael Sullivan, were not so good for his career. But when Michael takes Van completely by surprise complete with a plan that will change life for both of them, what’s an absent-minded researcher to do?
This is a Torquere Press Charity Short. All proceeds benefit Doctors Without Borders.
Airhead-y Van is in London for a conference, but gets to talking about work and loses enough time that he misses his boat — literally. Hoping to catch up with the cruise at its next port, he heads to Heathrow take a plane, only to somehow lose his passport between the ticket counter and security. Not sure what to do next, he is shocked and embarrassed to find that the administrator of his hospital, Michael, has just arrived at the airport seemingly to help him out. Michael wants to help him out, all right, taking Van to his hotel to make it all better and to offer a totally unexpected proposal.
As it goes with anthologies, there are good and even great stories, some that are so-so and some that aren’t even that, and though I suspect there will be readers who will think this is a cute and sexy little story, I admit that it mostly rubbed me the wrong way. While I do know it is difficult to pack a lot of character development and plot into a book with an under 10k word count, it can be done. I’ve read them. Here, it didn’t happen for me.
I think part of it was that I didn’t connect with either protag, and especially Michael. The narrator Van is a walking cliché, the stereotypical absent-minded professor — from his crazy hair, messy clothes, and forgetful nature — who is distracted by everything in his head and bumbles around in life. Although he at times was cute-ish in his obliviousness, I unfortunately pictured Jerry Lewis without the dorky facial contortions. Outside of that, I didn’t feel like I got to know him much other than his devotion to his profession and that he is a virgin with a cap “V.”
And Michael, he was completely one-dimensional and somewhat incredible for me. I think I actually disliked him. I think part of it was his arrogance, which came through clearly. Another part was that I had no idea what drove him to be attracted to Van, and because of this the proposal he offered seemed odd (to say more about this would be to include spoilers). In fact, it was one of those “What?!” moments for me. Perhaps if the story had been longer, and/or if we were given access into Michael’s head, that could have been fixed for me.
Also, Michael’s over-use of the endearments “sweetheart,” and “baby” grated on my nerves. Most everything that comes out of Michael’s mouth once they arrive at the hotel had one of those endearments — oh, with “honey” thrown in once in a while — attached. I counted 27 “sweetheart”s in the last 20 pages.
A few other things: Michael’s sudden appearance at Heathrow at the exact moment Van needed help felt contrived to me. Plus, I couldn’t determine if this was supposed to have BDSM-light or D/s undertones, which I’m not sure is a good thing (if I couldn’t tell, that is). There were a few moments that indicated it might go in that direction, but it then felt abandoned. Finally, the writing felt a bit underpolished. As I was unable to find any other title attributed to this author — and unless it’s a pseudonym of an established author — I will assume it is his/her first effort. The writing was generally decent, so I do think that there is a good base and with time, it will become more sophisticated.
An okay story that I had some problems with, but perhaps other readers of the genre would like just fine.