Title: Once in a Lifetime
Author: Ariel Tachna
Cover artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Once in a Lifetime
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This sweet story of a young man finding himself while travelling and working in France somewhat disappointed me because of the overwhelming naïveté of the narrator.
Offered a yearlong medical research fellowship in France, Shane Johnson has many hopes for the experience: a chance to improve his French, an opportunity to hone his research skills before starting his PhD at Baylor, and the freedom to live life as an openly gay man for the first time. He’ll chronicle his year abroad with its challenges, victories, and setbacks as he struggles to balance his faith with his sexuality.
As he navigates the shoals of a first kiss, a first relationship, and perhaps even lasting love, Shane will have to balance his newfound emotions with his long-term plans, and he’ll face the decision of how his once-in-a-lifetime experience will fit into the life he wants to lead.
Since I enjoyed the two last books that I read by this writer so much, I really wanted to like this one. Unfortunately it was mostly a miss for me. As the blurb tells us, Shane is travelling to France to work in a research lab for a year before starting his PhD in America. As the blurb also tells us, the story is written in the form of diary. At first I found Shane’s worries as to whether he would be able to communicate in French adorable, and his happiness that people on the plane understood him was exhilarating and easy to relate to. Unfortunately very quickly his naïveté turned from adorable to really annoying. Shane is twenty-two years old and he is only recently coming to terms with being a gay man. Apparently the process started in college, and Shane is really looking forward to living his life openly as a gay man in France, because he feels that France is more progressive country than the state of Texas. So far, so good, right? Shane is also Christian, and while he never even kissed another person at his age, he is starting to plan a life together with his first crush. I found his thoughts and attitudes to be incredibly naïve and from that point on it did not get better, naïveté wise.
While reading Shane’s diary I also slowly but surely lost the feeling that a twenty-two-year-old was writing it; he sounded more like sixteen- or seventeen-year-old to me. Yes, his college was religious and restrictive, but I was having trouble believing that while being there he never tried to kiss anybody and/or nobody was trying to kiss him. Shane was just overwhelmingly naïve in my opinion.
Additionally, the diary style of narration did not work for me in this story. Sometimes it worked, but here it felt that when narrator tells the events after the fact, he felt somewhat detached from the story — even events that were hugely important to him. The whole story overall just felt anticlimactic to me.
On the positive side, the writing flows very well as usual when I pick up the books by this writer, and I learned a lot about France. And while the secondary characters did not come alive for me, and even though I had trouble believing this Shane was the age he was, I felt that his character was well-drawn.
Recommended with reservations.