Waves of Fortune

Title: Waves of Fortune
Author: Carolyn LeVine Topol
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary/Murder Mystery
Length: Novel (240 pages)
Rating: 1 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

Jim Barton, a former hustler trying to escape a painful past, meets Greg Abel at a private Caribbean island resort. Despite significant differences in their ages and family backgrounds—Greg is heir to a technology fortune—sexual attraction draws them to one another and they become lovers. But those differences aren’t the only problem when they discover Greg’s older brother has been murdered.

While Jim and Greg agree they are destined to be together, Jim wonders whether love truly exists, and Greg refuses to give himself completely until his brother’s murderer is discovered. They devise a way to flush out the killer, but when the plan goes wrong, it doesn’t just mean the killer may go free—it might destroy Jim and Greg’s future.

THE REVIEW

Waves of Fortune, which I was looking forward to because of the Paul Richmond cover art and the blurb that interested me, is the first book by Carolyn Topol that I’ve read, and her second published novel (Veiled Security is reviewed here by Kassa). This is also the second DSP offering in a month that has been a total failure for me — and another which would have been a DNF had it not been for this review — which leads me to wonder what is going on at the publisher to allow books like these to see the light of day. If you are looking for a well-written story with three-dimensional characters, this is not the book for you.

Ex-rent boy Jim is a waiter at the Ile de Bonne Chance resort in the Caribbean where he has been watching a handsome, older mystery man on a beautiful yacht through binoculars for a while now. The man never comes ashore and Jim is left to dream from afar. A hurricane forces the yacht — and its owner — back and into the resort, allowing Jim to finally meet his “fantasy hunk,” Greg. Greg, who is mourning the recent loss of his brother, is owner of a large technology company and sole heir now that his brother is deceased. Jim and Greg have an immediate attraction and fall in love, but when Greg finds out his brother was murdered, he decides that they cannot go all the way until the murderer is caught. Enter into the picture the grieving widow, her and Greg’s attorney, detectives investigating the murder, the yacht’s crew, resort staff and others, and the plot just thickens.

I had a very hard time both reading and reviewing this book, which I read twice (per my usual process for review, though I admit that part of it was to see if I was being unfairly critical in my assessment). I made it through the prologue and first chapter fine, but then it went downhill very quickly and steadily from there. Part of that — a big part — was I couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be a serious novel or a daytime soap opera satire, something that simply isn’t good (the author makes several references to soaps, so I still don’t know for sure). In fact, there is such a soap opera feel that there were times as I was reading where I could hear the cheesy music they play during, say, an overly-dramatic reveal or an emotional plea. Additionally, the writing felt very amateurish to me with oftentimes ridiculous dialog and purple prose:

Jim’s breathing was labored as Greg stood and removed his pants. Jim licked his lips, admiring the bulbous cock darkened with desire. His tanned, muscular body glistened in the sliver of moonlight that shone across the room. The older man pulled off Jim’s sweatpants, exposing his dick filled with need.

Also making it difficult to enjoy the story is the sheer number of different POVs: eleven. It was hard to concentrate on any part of the story as it shifted around to various characters and several sub-plots involving the murder, drugs, trying to get each other into bed, a baby, everyone getting their due, and the supposed romance of the protags. Over-the-top melodramatics (She slammed her fist against the door. “Damn you, Sidney. And damn you, Greg, come back to me! I’m not ready to be alone.” and “If you want to come back to New York City and possibly watch me go to jail for a crime I didn’t commit, then do it, damn it, do it! But I won’t have you thinking I don’t want you—never again.”) added to the difficulty of taking the book seriously, making for more eye-rolling moments than I could count.

There is little character development beyond the Jim-is-an-ex-hustler and Greg-is-an-old-grieving-heir who have sexual attraction and fall into insta-love, making both protags one-dimensional at best. After a while, I got weary of hearing both men complain about their issues (either in their heads or out loud: Jim is a poor, former rent boy; Greg is old and sad because his brother is dead) and/or talk about how much they love each other.

All of the secondary cast are stereotypical caricatures and clichés, and not one of them is likable. The female characters are bitchy, scheming harpies and the men all just faded into the background for me. Add to that a few of the characters have unexplained personality transplants and I simply didn’t invest myself in any one of them.

Insta-love runs rampant here, with Jim and Greg committed to each other in less than forty-eight hours. Also, Jim, who has — by his own admission — been with possibly thousands of men, claims after four days and five rounds of tame smexxin by my count:

Jim sighed. “I know you don’t believe it, but you really are better than anyone I’ve ever been with”—he lowered his voice to barely a whisper— “and we haven’t even fucked yet. You know it’s more than that, don’t you?”

Something that is mentioned in the blurb is that Greg “refuses to give himself completely [i.e. won’t have anal intercourse] until his brother’s murderer is discovered,” but the reasoning is so lame and odd that it was unbelievable to me. And apparently one way of dealing with stress for Jim and Greg is to drop everything and have sex in some form, with touching and kissing at inappropriate times — like in the middle of a police investigation. In fact, their sex life was often inconvenienced by the investigation:

Jim held his cheek to Greg’s and began to nibble his earlobe, feeling his arousal at the mere thought of connecting with his lover and facing this bizarre journey together. Leaning back, Jim’s desire guided him to Greg’s lips. Their kisses became more urgent. Jim felt himself wanting to break through the confines of his clothing, wanting Greg’s hand wrapped around his needy cock.

“Ahem.” Kathy walked into the suite, holding a box with an insignia of the NYPD on the lid.

Finally, to make it though, I had to completely suspend my disbelief. I won’t go into details in order to avoid spoilers, but in every aspect of the story — from the way various characters act around the storm to what some of the characters said throughout to especially the police procedurals and the way the detectives behaved — had me gritting my teeth and I had to wonder if the author researched this book at all before writing it. Regarding the telegraphed reveal, by the time I guessed what was going on, I didn’t care enough about the story or the characters to be bothered.

OVERALL

From cheesy dialog to under-developed characters to situations and character actions that more than tested my disbelief suspension abilities, this book was a total miss for me.  As always, I am only one reader and opinion.

33 comments

  • I’ve been somewhat disappointed with DSP recently. Not long ago I could buy with confidence knowing their books were of high quality. Recently, however, a few of the books I have purchased have been beyond bad. Same with Loose-Id. Guess demand is exceeding availability but it’s sad when press houses lower their quality.

  • I said it yesterday and today, after reading all these comments, I’ll say it again…oh my. LOL. Lynn, I had asked Wave about reviewing this book but you got it instead. I think I should count that as a blessing.

    I remembered this is the author that wrote the other book that had Newbury Street in Boston spelled as Newberry. When I saw that in the excerpt, I knew I needed to pass. Clearly this is not an author that I should read.

    I feel like I need to address the gorilla in the corner–the fact that there are authors who just can’t write. Period. This author would seem to fall into that category. Eleven POVs? Come on. That’s Writing 101. What I don’t understand is–how do they end up in print? Self-published stuff is one thing, but DSP is not a self-publisher. They also have an eye for good books, such as one of my latest favorites, Promises. But as someone said in one of the comments, they tend to run hot or cold (good or bad). I guess I don’t understand how some pubs just seem to fall asleep at the switch. Maybe it really is an issue of trying to keep up with demand and at times, quality suffers.

    L

    • Yes Leslie, it looks like you dodged the bullet with this one. I took one for the team. It seemed promising, but…
       
      I did see your comment on Veiled Security about the “Newbury/Newberry” glaring error, which should have been caught by someone. Again, beta/editing issues.
       
      *sigh* In case anyone thinks I like writing less-than-stellar reviews, I don’t. I feel terrible doing it and they are very difficult for me to write. I feel like I am trashing the author, which I really try not to do, and I hate that. In all fairness, I am not an author, nor do I aspire to be one. I am a reader first, and a reviewer second. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to put one’s imagination and heart and soul onto paper — or into the computer — and have it published for the world to see, if one is lucky enough to get published, and then get a review such as this one and the comments that follow. However, that being said, some authors cannot write. My opinion is that this author needs training/coaching and polish to avoid the glaring problems I and others have found with this book.
       
      The next problem is that publishers are allowing these writers to see the light of day and they charge us to try the substandard end product. Where are the betas? And the editors and proofers to catch the obvious problems? Like you, I would expect a book like this to be self-published, but not available through DSP. The question of why is a baffling one. Without a response from them, I can only speculate that several things could be going on: someone on staff loved the book, they are publishing pretty much anything that comes across the desk to keep up with demand, and/or that they really don’t care any longer about the “quality” part of their tag line. It’s the last two that worry me, frankly. Again, with every reader being different, there are bound to be those who will absolutely love this book (Veiled Security has multiple, very favorable — if not glowing reviews — a book which received a mixed review here by Kassa) and maybe that is what they are looking for to justify publishing it and to keep publishing books with obvious issues. I am very curious to see the other reviews when they do come in. Who knows, perhaps mine will be the only negative review? It’s possible…

  • Lynn, I had a good laugh when I saw the 1 out 5 rating! I agreed with your review of Wylde totally even tho I didn’t want to say anything about the book (I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings) however crappy it really was (the character Wylde was totally unnecessary, just change the title to Ex-Big Game Hunter (??) Murdered Slut-Wife’s Lover and the Blackmailer Cos He Knew Stuff, actually everybody in the book was unnecessary esp. the 14 yr protag who has a 12 yr old son, oh ok maybe the protag was just child like).

    I cannot believe how the story Waves of Fortune which seemed promising from the excerpt, could deteriorate into such a ridiculous story. No anal intercourse till the brother’s murderer is discovered?? I wept over that one. I’ve worked in law enforcement for 11 years and I thought about the cases that went “NFA” for various reasons, and I’d never thought in a million years that to someone, somewhere out there it really meant No Further anal Action.

    The detectives wanted to talk to Greg about his brother’s murder and –

    ‘Greg finally found his voice. “Detectives, this has nothing to do with Jim. You’re here to see me. Why don’t we let him go back to the room and rest.” ‘

    Yeah right, the detectives needed the boyfriend, whom Greg just met, after the murder, to sit in for that interview.

    ‘Jim balled his fists to contain his anger and refrain from saying something he’d regret, understanding Greg was trying to shield him.’

    *sigh* I guess Greg knows how DULL police interviews can be and shielding a boyfriend from it is good.

    ‘Andy and his associate (the detectives) looked at each other. “That seems reasonable. If we need to speak to Jim, we can always do it at a later time.” ‘

    Hello?? Jim met Greg after the murder, what could he tell you except Greg’s future anal smexxxing action is totally on hold till the murderer is found. That should totally clue you in that Greg is NOT the murderer.

    ‘Jim could no longer hold back. He tried to keep his tone even and let the words speak for themselves. “No fucking way.” Looking Greg squarely in the face, he continued, “You said we were partners. Well, unless I’m not getting all the implications right, partners don’t abandon each other when the tough shit (police interviews) starts.

    “Unless you insist I leave, I have no intention of letting you meet with these two while I go out of my mind in the suite.” Greg was speechless, staring directly at Jim. “Got it? Are we in agreement here?”

    Jim searched Greg for a look or some kind of sign indicating they were in this (DULL police interview) together. Greg laced their fingers. “Partners. Got it.”

    Jim smiled, despite the strain of their situation, returning his attention to the detectives. “We’ll follow you. Lead the way.”

    While with the police on their way to the assigned room, Jim made an extra effort to eavesdrop (*roll eyes*) as Detective Parker whispered to Andy, “He’s too fucking protective of Abel—I’d never expect a young kid to be so tough, especially in a place like this. How long have they been together and why didn’t we know about him?”’

    Yes, all good boyfriends protect their, uh, boyfriends from being interviewed by the police all by themselves. Yes, it shows how tough you are, esp in a place like a, uh, hotel?, island? And detectives maybe you didn’t know about Jim bcos he’d just hooked up with Greg and that kinda happened after the murder.

    ‘Jim stood taller as he watched Andy, Detective Griffin, shrug in response.’

    Jim is such a hero.

    I hate Lila and Miguel, just bcos you work on an island doesn’t mean that you don’t know that yes, a pregnancy test can show if she’s pregnant or not and no, it won’t tell you if YOU’re the daddy. I hate the Captain and his wife, just bcos you worked on that boat for years and the owner died, it doesn’t mean he should’ve willed the boat to you. After 10 years in a law enforcement agency, I got an umbrella with the department logo on it. I hate the guy who also worked on that boat, who was always drinking and gambling and who kept popping up, drunk and broke. I hate Margaret and her lawyer and the detectives and everybody in the book, cos nobody made any sense.

    Wave, if you’re reading the book, I’d have to call you Wave of Misfortune.

    • “After 10 years in a law enforcement agency, I got an umbrella with the department logo on it.”
      *
      Wow, just like working for the government. We get a piece of paper saying “good for you for sticking around for 10 years”. LOL

    • I think we should rewrite the book, right now in this review. The reason the boyfriend wanted to stay in the interview, because it was dull and he did have knowledge of the murder. He got close to keep an eye on the investigation. And of course, he’s protecting his sister and her other boyfriend and their kids. (We need several more pov’s at this point. Don’t you think?)
      *
      And the reason for the no anal sex is because one or both these boyfriends isn’t really gay. It’s just another subplot.
      *
      Hey, I think I should write a book, maybe a sequel. lol

    • Hi Salina, and thanks for adding your two cents as someone who read the book. I didn’t put specifics in the review for a number of reasons, but the police aspect drove me batty — and I’m not even in law enforcement. I found it incredulous that the NYPD had not only given permission, but carte blanche and no apparent financial limits for two detectives to be sent to an island resort to investigate a murder. Isn’t there some kind of local police cooperation and criminal extradition agreement with that island as a US protectorate? And their behavior once there was so completely ridiculous and unprofessional that if I hadn’t been reading on my ereader, I would have thrown it against the wall several times.

    • Hi Salina….you have just made my morning! Sitting here surrounded by work – and looking at this site when I shouldn’t be, absolutely cacking myself!! Better mood already!

  • Wow! You read it twice? What torture that must have been.
    *
    By the way, what do you really think of this book? grin

    • Yes John, twice, and torture is a good word, I think. I admit that the second time contained skimming of some parts just to get through, but I did it.

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