Author: Christiane France
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: Extended Amber Kiss (17K)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
The perfect plan for success, or a guaranteed recipe for disaster?
It sounded like such a simple, mutually beneficial arrangement when the idea was hatched over drinks in a bar late one night. A little short-term pain for long-term gain, or so Nick’s ambitious boyfriend, Al, believed. If Nick would take a back seat while Al played the doting husband to Missy, daughter of the town’s leading lawyer for a couple of months, Al’s lifelong dream of a partnership with Hilldale & Partners would finally be achieved. In return, Missy would be out from under her daddy’s thumb, free to follow her own alternative lifestyle. And then, after a short interval, Nick and Al could pick up where they left off, and everyone would live happily ever after.
As far as spur-of-the-moment plans went, this one sounded perfect.
What could possibly go wrong?
Don’t bother reading the blurb as everything mentioned in the blurb takes place before the book even starts and tells you next to nothing about the events in this story.
This story begins when we meet our hero, Nick, who has recently sold his restaurant and moved to Las Vegas. He’s currently working in a small coffee shop in a hotel complex and biding his time until a bigger job opportunity came along. It’s taken a while but he’s finally getting settled into his new life and has made a friend in Trip who works at the hotel complex too. Just when a fantastic job offer comes his way and things look to be on the up for Nick, he is paid a visit by the one person he moved to Las Vegas to escape, his ex-lover, Al. Al wants him back, and Nick finds the lure of Al’s body and love difficult to resist. But things are not as clear cut as they may seem and Nick has to make a choice between going back to all he’s tried to escape from or to stay and make the best of a new life.
There was much to like about this short story especially in terms of the characterisation. During the story we get to see the points of view of both Nick and Al. This gives the reader quite an interesting insight into the way both characters feel about each other and their motivations in acting as they do. What I liked most about this was in the way that both the men think through the decisions they have to make now, and the decisions they made in the past. Nick really loves Al, but also knows that Al has treated him badly in the past, all for the sake of ambition. The way that Nick’s thoughts veer from thinking with his heart – and therefore willing to go back to Al, and thinking with his head – knowing that Al was taking advantage of him and that he should stay in Las Vegas and forget about Al and his manipulative ways, was written in such a way that I sympathised with his confusion, even as I feared he’d make the wrong choice.
Al also loves Nick, but has let bad decisions and an ambitious hunger for power get in the way of that love, so one minute he’s regretting that he’s hurt Nick and yet in the next he is plotting how to get him back without making any sacrifices himself. This way of portraying the characters meant that my sympathies for both men rose and dipped depending on how they were thinking at the time, so Nick came across as strong as well as weak and Al came across as caring as well as selfish. I found it to be quite an original way of showing two complex characters who needed to make some hard decisions with their heads but often allowed their hearts (and loins) to dictate their thinking.
As you can see from the above, I found this story rather engrossing and raced through to see what decision Nick would make – would he stay or go with Al? This leads me to the one very disappointing thing about this book – it’s a two parter. The story ends, not with a HEA or HFN, but on a cliff hanger rather like one of those two part special Dramas you get on the TV. This puzzled me as the publisher doesn’t make any mention of this being the first of a two part story – the only indication is that there’s a mention of the ‘sequel’ which is coming in April and the fact that the book is labelled as a ‘series’ book. The next book isn’t a sequel, it’s the second half of what really should have been a novella, and I’m not sure why the publisher didn’t just hang on a couple of months and publish the story in one go. Needless to say, I was rather disgruntled by this. If it had been stated up-front that this was a two part story, I would have hung on until the second part was released and then read it all in one go – and that is what I am suggesting that the readers do here.
Overall, I really liked the story, it was well paced and contained flawed characters who have some hard decisions to make. I’m very much looking forward to the end of the story and seeing how it all works out. It’s just a shame I’ve got to wait until next month to find out what’s going to happen.