A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: An okay performance by a first time author, but still a book that I found had quite a few problems.
Noah Forman wakes up in a hospital and can’t remember how he got there. He holds it together, taking comfort in the fact that the man he has loved since childhood, his partner, Clark Lehman, is on his way. But when Clark finally arrives, Noah is horrified to discover that he doesn’t remember anything from the past three years, and he simply can’t understand why. It will take some painful confrontations if Noah’s going to figure out why he’s lost all memories of his recent past… and secure the future he’s dreamed of having with Clark.
Home Again opens in the hospital room of Noah Forman, who has been in a coma for four weeks. Upon opening his eyes, he is surprised to see his brother Ben, to whom he has been estranged, not his partner Clark. Immediately, his first fear is that Clark has died in whatever accident has landed him in the hospital. He is quickly reassured, however, that that isn’t the case. Before Ben can explain why Clark isn’t there, Noah assumes that Clark is being kept away from the hospital by his brother, both of whom used to be best friends before they told Ben that they loved one another. After they both came out to Noah’s family, each as gay men and as a couple, they have been estranged from Noah’s family, of which Clark was always close after the death of his mother at eighteen. When Clark finally makes it to the hospital, Noah can’t understand why he looks so much older, until he finally realizes that the last date he can remember is three years prior. The doctors are worried, however, that Noah doesn’t seem to have any brain damage, and they decide that there must have been some emotional event that Noah doesn’t want to remember. On top of this revelation, Clark seems to shy away from any reminders of the past three years, all of which Noah assumes were shared as a happily domesticated couple.
About half of Home Again is told through flashbacks to the time when Ben first befriended Clark in high school. At that time, Clark also meets Ben’s younger brother Noah, the black sheep of the family, and is immediately smitten. I thought that the past/present dynamic worked well for the story, as we need a great deal of back-tracking from where the story starts to understand how the two characters came to be in the hospital room. I did, however, have a problem with how they met. When Clark came home with his new friend Ben, he was seventeen. The problem is that when they meet, Noah is only thirteen. There is no sex until Noah turns eighteen, but the romance is basically already established at this point. I suppose I could have overlooked a great deal of this if I felt like the situation was properly explained, but I never really felt like I understood it. Noah, at age thirteen, is already sneaking out of the house every night and having sex with strangers, while Clark, at seventeen, is not only virginal, but incredibly naive. Not only has he not realized that he is gay at this point, but he also hasn’t sexually woken yet. This is explained a bit by Clark’s nature as well as most of his time as a teenager spent caring for his dying mother. I also understand the message that the author was trying to prove, which is that people mature at different ages. Yet, for all that Clark debates during this time that they are at two different emotional stages in life, it really makes no difference if he is falling in love with Noah at the same time. This is, ultimately, where the problem lies — we’re told this by Clark, but at the same time we aren’t shown that they are at different places and must come together at a later point when they’re at the same stage in life. It really felt like a way to prolong the sex until it wasn’t seen as a criminal act.
I felt like this problem was interspersed throughout the book — the general rookie mistake of telling instead of showing. There were numerous instances throughout the story, specifically where the characters didn’t stay true to themselves, that I never grasped because most of the story was told to me. There were also several times, like I mentioned before, that the characters changed, made uncharacteristic statements, or made very strange decisions that just didn’t seem like them at all. There was even one point in the story where one character, in a moment’s notice, turns into some sort of feral beast and tries to mark his territory on the other by grinding his cock into the other in front of another character (in very strange company, in my opinion). There were several examples like this that dragged me out of the story and made me think … what?
There were also some problems with the pacing of the story. A few times the action would pause at a precipitous moment, only to go back and tell how the character came to that place and why. Examples like these should be woven throughout the story, so that we almost accept them by osmosis; that way, when the character gets to that moment, the pace of the story isn’t interrupted and we understand the character’s actions or feelings without realizing how we got there. This happened a few times as well, when an aspect of the characters would suddenly appear and I had no indication of why (both Noah’s interest in submission and his jealousy). At this point, in the present part of the story the characters have been together for what amounts to somewhere between 6-8 years, so the sudden emergence of new traits that are previously not alluded to drew me out of the story. Furthermore, the reason that Noah is in a coma in the first place is never answered. We never learn about the accident that put him into the hospital.
The good news about this is that these are all things the author can work on. These are all problems that will get better the more the author writes (and the more constructive criticism and editing they receive), and I hope that Cardeno C.’s further stories reflect that. The next book in this series is set to be released soon, and I did like the couple that is to be the focus the sequel, though we barely meet them and it felt like they were stuck into this book as a brief introduction. I would have liked to get to know them a little better and to understand how well they know Clark. Also, I know that many people like the amnesia plotline and the plot itself was rather good, though the execution of it was a bit shaky.
While I can’t say that I would recommend this book, I won’t write off the author or the series altogether. I think that the more s/he writes, the better they will get. I’m holding my recommendations until I read the next book. Hopefully, Cardeno C will surprise me.