Chance Encounter

Title & Link: Chance Encounter
Author: Christiane France
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Cop/PI
Length: Novella (25,000 words)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: A somewhat misleading blurb and many, many issues contributed to a disappointing read.

The Blurb:

In high school and through their first year of college, Jase Thoman and Matt Lester were best friends and lovers. But then Matt’s family moved across country, Matt transferred to another school, and the pair eventually drifted apart.

Now, ten years later, they meet again by chance. Jase is a private investigator, desperate to find his kid brother, Donny, who, in addition to two other teenage boys, has mysteriously disappeared after last being seen at a local gay bar. Matt is an undercover police officer brought in on the case by the local police department in the hope he can succeed where they have so far failed.

Matt is the only man Jase has ever really loved, but ten years is a long time. They’re not the same people they once were, and when Matt tries to pick up where they left off, Jase takes a step back. His first priority is finding his brother, yet he appears to Matt like a deer caught in the headlights of a vehicle with little or no chance of escape—confused, unsure, and at the same time, positive whatever he does will be the wrong thing.

Can Matt help Jase solve the mystery of his brother’s whereabouts, while also convincing him to give their relationship a fresh start?

The Review:

When first we meet Jase, he is in a local disreputable gay bar, Rafe’s, investigating the disappearance of his younger brother and two other teenage boys, all of whom were last known to have been in that bar, despite all being underage. Jase is a private investigator who is attempting to solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance on his own time, since it appears the local police have reached an impasse. He is following up on an anonymous call tipping him off to the possibility that there exist more than two exits (the main entrance and the delivery door). While waiting for the bartender to take his drink order, he watches what he presumes to be a young hustler at the bar. The hustler is clearly unwashed with glittery eye shadow, chipped black nail polish, a sequined top (with some of them about to fall off) and  skintight jeans. Jase, feeling sorry for the down-on-his-luck kid, offers to buy him a drink. And here’s where the whole story begins to unravel for me.

The street urchin is, in actuality, Jase’s long-lost college lover and current police officer (in another town), Matt. It seems Matt is on sort of a special assignment in the bar. He’s been brought in as a pair of outside eyes, charged with finding answers the local police cannot. Despite being undercover as part of the band (hence the grungy appearance), he breaks cover as soon as Jase offers him the drink, even though it is clear Jase has no idea who Matt is. After all, it has been ten years since they’ve seen one another.

As the story progresses, it is clearly the story of Matt and Jase’s reunion. Both men are still in love with the other, but Jase is more hesitant than Matt to start things up again. Matt lives in another town, they’ve been separated for ten years, and they may have grown into adults who have very little to nothing in common, so why should Jase risk his heart on the off chance he and Matt can recapture what they once had. Yet, Matt is persistent and Jase’s defenses where Matt is concerned are minimal at best.

The romance is sweet and, except for Jase’s initial reservations, angst-free. Unfortunately for me, that translated into not having any driving need to see them together. There was nothing for me to lose if they simply went their separate ways at the end (or at any other part) of the book. Sadly, this means that the many, many issues I had with the book far outweighed the possibility of a happy ever after.

These are my issues, so hopefully they won’t bother you if you read the book, but I want to forewarn those of you who have similar tastes to mine. First, Matt breaks cover at the first opportunity, which strikes me as incredibly bad police work. Second, there were some particularly bad turns of phrase, such as this one that reminded me of a horrific Tori Spelling Lifetime movie, “Jase was an adult, and if he wanted to flirt with danger, that was his business.” Then there’s Jase’s bubble-gum chewing secretary who reminded me of Flo from the TV show Alice. When Matt shows up at Jase’s office to apologize for the argument they got into that first night, Teri pokes here head into Jase’s office:

“There’s a man here who wants to see you, boss,” she announced around the fat wad of gum Jase kept asking her to lose. “He’s really cute, but he doesn’t have an appointment, and he won’t give me his name. Want me to tell him to get lost?”

Really? At a private investigator’s office, someone might not want to give his/her name? Mightn’t he be a potential client? Why was she so eager to get rid of him? Methinks Jase needs to find a new secretary–quickly!

Aside from the numerous little quibbles I had with the book, two stand out. Matt tells Jase that, while he’s on assignment undercover to investigate the disappearances of the three boys, he has not only not seen the case files, but he didn’t even know Jase’s brother, Donny, was the first to disappear:

“Maybe so, but I haven’t seen the files. The chief doesn’t like mysteries, and he wanted a fresh face with a fresh eye and a completely open mind. He figured if someone who hadn’t worked the case previously and knew none of the details hung around Rafe’s for a few weeks, there was a chance he might pick up on something everyone else has missed.”

What sort of police department would put one of their men undercover in an obviously dangerous situation without even the slightest idea what to expect? Matt actually explains this twice in the book, and Jase takes it at face value, not questioning it either time.

Second, and most important to me, was that the pair didn’t even begin investigating the disappearances until the 64% mark. The blurb had led me to believe that this would be a good old-fashioned mystery that I would enjoy solving along with the guys. Not the case at all. Their first clue comes at 69% and it’s all over except for the cleanup by 91%. There are no red herrings, no false starts and no dead ends. These boys are pretty smart, because it all worked out exactly the way they theorized (endlessly).

In the end, I was disappointed with this book. The characters are only mildly interesting, not stand-out. The mystery is almost non-existent. For me, the niggles were more memorable than the story itself. Recommended to fans of the author, those who don’t like angst, and those who prefer the romance to dominate the mystery.

17 comments

    • Hi Helena. Thanks for the comment. I would venture to guess this book wouldn’t work for you any more than it did for me. Maybe next week I can rec something you’ll really like. 🙂

      Reply
  • Buda
    Your review sets out exactly why I wouldn’t read this book. I love mysteries and obviously the blurb misrepresents what the story is all about. I would have been upset if what I thought was a murder mystery turned out to be far from it.

    As for your other concerns about an undercover officer outing himself immediately upon meeting an old friend, that would set my teeth on edge. Also, for the Police Chief to send one of his officers out on such a dangerous assignment without the necessary information and access to the case files – that is criminal, parden the pun. Why didn’t the author write the blurb downplaying the mystery and focusing on a regular contemporary love story with two old lovers reconnecting, rather than all the hype of a mystery?

    Great job as usual Buda. I have read a few books by this author and you share some of my concerns about her writing. I reviewed 3 or 4 of Ms France’s books a few years ago and if I remember correctly one had two heroes who were CWD’s, another had a Big Misunderstanding, and the third was just as forgettable. After that I stopped reviewing her books but it seems that the writing hasn’t changed.

    Reply
    • Hi, Wave. Thank you for the comments and information. I hadn’t read France before, so I went in blind. This isn’t a book that has put her on my must-buy list, though she hasn’t been relegated to the never-af*&^inggain list either.

      I’ve heard blurbs are incredibly hard for authors to write, and I’ve been burned by them before. I thought the Ins and Outs series had a post about writing blurbs, but I didn’t find it. Maybe that could be someone (else)’s next secret project, eh? 😉

      Reply
      • Buda
        I did a post two years ago about blurbs and excerpts but maybe it’s time to do another one. I thought I had done another one but I can’t find it. lol.

        Reply
  • Hey Buda, thanks for the review! I usually love undercover cop stories but I hate it when they break their cover so easily. I have another Christiane France book waiting for me to read it, so I’m hoping this one isn’t indicative of all her books. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Leslie! I was really appalled by the breaking cover and lack of information angles in the story. Good luck with the other book; you’ll have to let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  • HI Buda! Yeah, I read the blurb and passed on this one myself. From your review, there is nothing which would change my mind on this one. Thanks for taking the time to review it. You did a great job of being specific yet leaving the door open for others who have different priorities.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Reggie. Thanks so much for the comments! If I’d know it was going to be angst- and action-free, I wouldn’t have signed up, but I know many readers like that sort of book better. I’m glad that came through. 🙂

      Reply
  • That’s a shame. I love me some cop stories but it sounds like this one was a little lacking. I like cops, but I like to have to worry a little for my HEA. Thanks for reading it so I don’t have to. :reading1:

    Reply
    • Hi, Marilyn. Thanks for the comment. I’m like you–love me some cops and need to care about the characters. Sadly, this one didn’t give me what I needed.

      Reply
  • OH NO! I was suckered in by the blurb and have bought but not read this one. I should know better than to buy before reviews. I’ll still give it a shot though.

    Reply
    • Hi nolagal! Just before I wrote this response, I adjusted my rating from 2.75 up to 3. That’s what it was when I originally started to write the review a couple of days ago. I’m more comfortable with it there.

      Since you’ve already bought the book and read the review, you will have an advantage over me. You won’t keep expecting the guys to launch into an investigation on the next page. I hope that means you will enjoy it more than I did! Good luck and please come share your thoughts when you’ve finished! Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Oh, oh. normally, I like this author, but this looks as if she had a bad day. Since you and I seem to have usually similar tastes, I think I’ll skip this one. Thanks Buda!

    Reply
    • Hey, Feliz! Thanks for commenting. This is my first time reading Christiane France, so I don’t know what her other books are like. Remember, this is just :my2cents: If you’ve liked her previous books, give it a shot. Then you can let me know what you think of it. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi, Jaime. Thanks for the comment. Perhaps my mistake was reading it three times. By the time I’d finished it the third time, the only thing that stood out were the things I didn’t like. I’m really glad you enjoyed the book! 😀

      Reply

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