Sins of the Father

Title: Sins of the Father
Author: D.W. Marchwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (232 pages); also ebook
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie

THE BLURB

THE REVIEW

Wondering where the blurb is? I didn’t include it because 1) it completely misses the point of this book and 2) it contains a huge spoiler which totally ruined the build-up to the main part of the story that occurs in the first one-third of the book. If you decide you want to read this book based on this review (and I would be flattered if you do, but more importantly, it’s very good and I can easily recommend it) then use this link, which will take you to the order page at Dreamspinner. Shade your eyes and avoid the synopsis…or maybe have someone else order the book for you!

I’ll be honest—spoiler type blurbs and reviews usually don’t bother me. I read tons of reviews before reading a book or seeing a movie. But really, this is a book is best read “cold” without a lot of pre-knowledge. It needs to unfold on its own to be totally enjoyed, in my opinion.

So now my challenge is to write a spoiler-free review that will entice you to read this book. Hmmm…is saying it is very good enough? No, you want more detail? Okay, I’ll try.

This is a book about Charlie Kirby. From two brief prologues, the reader learns that Charlie’s mother died when he was 17, and a few years later, when he was a student at the university, he met a man named Jesse. These events occurred in the eighties.

Flash forward to the present when the story proper begins. Charlie is in a bookstore buying a book from a new author whose writing he really likes. He goes home and settles into his favorite chair, losing all track of time. He forgets that he has a blind date that evening, arranged by his neighbors and good friends, Beth and Deanna. Apparently, Charlie did get together with Jesse, and they shared many happy years, but now Jesse is gone; he died two years prior. (As an aside, we eventually find out how Jesse died, but it is a slow build up and careful reveal, which is the way the whole book is written. It is sort of like peeling away the layers of an onion which is why I believe it is best to read the book knowing very little. It allows us, as readers, to be surprised with every turn of the page.) Charlie is trying to take the steps necessary to move forward and move on but it’s hard—he had a wonderful relationship with Jesse and he’s not sure he can ever find that kind of love again—or if he even wants to.

Charlie teaches high school and enjoys his job. He also volunteers at a local prison, teaching GED courses to inmates so that they might get a high school diploma. Both of these activities are very important components of Charlie’s life.

That’s about as far as I want to go with specifics. Like I said, you really need to let this story unfold on the page and not know what is going to happen. It’s better that way. Trust me.

I love character driven stories and this is very much Charlie’s story. He’s a thoughtful, kind man who has experienced some events that anyone would call challenging. But he has managed to process this information, integrate it into his life, and move on. When the story begins, he is doing the same thing with the loss of his 20+ year lover and making progress. Then life throws a few obstacles in his path, and Charlie has to figure out how to cope.

The story was completely absorbing. I started reading it at 8 am. At 2 pm in the afternoon, I realized I was still at my kitchen table, wearing my bathrobe, not bathed, not dressed, and devouring this book. It pulled me in that strongly. For me, this happens rarely. In fact, I found I could identify with Charlie, who sat in his comfy chair and lost track of time. It happened to me, too.

That said, it’s not a perfect book, but my criticisms are minor. For example, character names are way, way, way too often repeated. In real life, we don’t say someone’s name in every single sentence; this book needed an editor to X out the totally overused names. Also, there were a few “sort of” plot lines that were introduced and went nowhere—they should have been exorcised. But the core of the story was well written and truly felt and that is why you should read this book.

There is a bit of angst (well, quite a bit, actually) and you may find yourself reaching for the tissues a time or two, but it is realistically presented and honest to the characters. Even if you say, “I don’t do angst!” you should give this book a try because it’s worth it in the end as a very satisfying read.

D.W. Marchwell is a new author to me. This is his second novel; his first is Good to Know which I will be seeking out to read (and maybe review here, since it hasn’t been reviewed yet). If you read that and liked it, then I am sure you will definitely like this. If not, then here is a chance to discover a new author. If you like contemporary, modern, realistic love stories (a love story, to me, is a higher compliment than romance) then give this one a go. I definitely recommend it.

NB: I realize I didn’t give a lot of specifics. Just so you know, this story does not contain any violence, gore, rape, incest, M/F sex, ménage, etc. Two characters have had tragic things happen in the past and they talk about their memories but that is about it for the potential squick factor stuff and instant reader turn-offs.

If you have questions or comments, leave them here and I’ll try to answer without giving anything away.

17 comments

  • I loved Good To Know and I am so liking this additional layer that has gone into this second book by Marchwell…I am getting it.

    Thanks for not posting the blurb – I am going to resist reading it – as best as I possibly can…

    *
    Thanks for the heads up…

    E.H>

    Reply
  • Great review, Leslie. It sounds like a book I’d really like. I had been hesitant to buy it because the reviews for Good To Know were just average, but based on your review, I’ll give it a try.
    *
    Funny, I read the blurb at Dreamspinner last week, but, thankfully, don’t remember any details about it.

    Reply
  • I’ve also read both and enjoyed both. I absolutely LOVED ‘Sins’ for the first 150 pages (or so). It totally drew me in and held me in the palm of its hand, so much so that I forgot everything else around me (though, not in my bathrobe hours later). I do have to confess, though, I did not care for the sex scenes. But that’s me getting tired of the same ol’ same ol’ where sex in romances are concerned. What bothered me most about this story, I cannot write for fear of spoiling it for other commenters.

    *

    Final recommendation is – the good outweighs the bad, in my opinion. I LOVED the slow steady build up and Charlie’s evolution; how he manages to use his life experiences as true growth experiences; how he manages to overcome his past, love to his fullest and have no regrets. I wish more stories were written with such character depth and that steady build up to the end.

    Reply
    • It wasn’t a perfect book, I agree, which is why I went with 4.5 stars. But as you said, the good outweighs the bad, and for me, makes this an easy book to recommend.

      L

      Reply
  • You know, because you said “don’t read the blurb” my finger is itching to click on that link don’t you? Yes, my inner child is 3 years old. LOL
    *
    Does sound interesting so I’ll keep it in mind. Loved the way you reviewed this one. Great job.

    Reply
    • My inner child is 3, too, so I know what you mean. Like I said, I usually have no problem with spoilers and so on, but there are occasions when I am glad I know next-to-nothing about a book or movie. In this one, it was the BLURB that gave it away to me, not even the review, and I think that’s a bit of a shame. This book would benefit from a better blurb, that’s for sure!

      L

      Reply
  • I’ve read both GtK and SotF and enjoyed both. I think you can see (read) the progress he is making in his writing with this one. I have not read the novella that was released between these two, but I’m guessing his voice is getting better with each new work.

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    In regards to the blurb, I did read it before hand (about 2 weeks before the release). While it does give away some important info, once you start reading it is easy to figure out along which lines the story will head, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. Although not reading the blurb before hand will probably make the story more enjoyable for those who have not read it yet.

    *
    And some tissues on hand would be wise.

    Reply
    • I do think some of the early chapters could have been written a bit more deftly to not telegraph what is coming quite so much….but that’s a minor quibble.

      L

      Reply
  • I’ve been eyeing this one at DSP for a while now. I’ve been reading a lot of angst recently and wasn’t sure I was up for more, but your review has convinced me that I need to get hold of this book, Leslie. Great review :).

    Reply
  • I have read ‘ Good to know’ and thought it was good except…. I found the ‘angst’ a bit forced. It was off putting. But overall it was well written and a nice way to spend a couple of hours.
    I have been eyeing up this one so I’ll take the plunge next time I stop by Dreamspinner.

    tish

    Reply
    • Reading some comments over at Goodreads, I suspect this book is a little bit more well written than his first. D.W. Marchwell is a new author and he tells good stories. I think he just needs to polish his craft a bit but I get the feeling that he is moving in the right direction to become a more accomplished author.

      L

      Reply
  • I read the blurb and it did not immediately catch me. The fact that the main protag worked in a prison is sort of, of puting. Based on this review it does sounds worth picking up.

    Reply
    • Like I said above, he’s a high school teacher and volunteers in the prison in the evenings. All the prison scenes take place in Charlie’s classroom where he is tutoring various inmates. Don’t worry, there aren’t any sadistic guards or horrible prison rapes scene or whatever.

      L

      Reply
  • Leslie
    You totally drew me in with the lack of a blurb. Great strategy! I’ve noticed recently that blurbs are almost an entire page with a lot of information that’s totally unnecessary or misleading.
    *
    I do know the background because I read the blurb on the website and I totally agree with you that it contains spoilers.
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    That said, this is a wonderful review and I will definitely read the book soon even though I’m not really into a lot of angst 😀 Thank you for this. I’m sure that many readers will pick up Sins of the Fathers because of your review. New authors who are wonderful writers are hard to come by.

    Reply

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