Summary Review: A fantasy and a contemporary romance rolled into one. If you like this author you will love the story. I had a few difficulties with the plot and its execution
Julian Nash should be excited: he’s just earned a huge promotion at work and is going out to celebrate. But his happiness fades when he discovers his date cheating on him an hour before. Suddenly alone when everyone knows he’s supposed to have a plus one, Julian is set for a long night until longtime acquaintance Ryan Dean bails him out of the embarrassing situation. During dinner, they discover they have more than just friendship between them: there is mutual admiration and heated attraction. But getting to know Ryan better—and finding a place in his life—will bring Julian surprises and danger he never expected or dreamed existed.
The beautiful people are back. Whenever I want to read about characters who are so beautiful they make my eyes hurt and I wonder why I wasn’t created by an author, I know where to go, and I wasn’t disappointed when I opened Mary Calmes’ latest. The characters in His Hearth are drop dead gorgeous as well as talented, articulate, intelligent, just altogether perfect, and everyone adores them. They are strikingly similar to the protagonists in a series by this author, A Matter of Time, that I reviewed. I decided to review this book because I wanted to see if Ms Calmes could give readers flawed, complex characters who had to work really hard for their HEA, as well as an engaging plot, but alas it was not to be.
The story begins with Julian, our main protagonist, walking into an office on his big day and seeing his new BFF Channing Isner giving oral sex to another man. He wasn’t really too upset about this betrayal because they had not taken their relationship to the next level i.e having sex, since Julian didn’t believe in giving it up too soon and they had only been dating for a few weeks. Julian’s only concern was how was he going to explain to his colleagues and senior management why he was at the celebratory event for his promotion without a date. Lucky for him, Ryan Dean, a former client who apparently had the hots for him (but never told him), showed up just as Channing was trying to explain the reason for his actions. Turns out 6 weeks without sex was just too much for Channing and his hormones got the better of him.
Gorgeous Ryan was a former international model and now local celebrity with his own television show who had a reputation for one night stands. He made his pitch to Julian to take Channing’s place at the celebration and Julian was only too happy to take him up on his offer, so they attended the dinner as a couple. After a great deal of persuasion on Ryan’s part Julian goes home with him. Of course they had sex. Who wouldn’t want to have hot sex with Ryan? The man was stunning and unbelievably charismatic. Barebacking was on the menu and Ryan swore he was ‘clean’ and had the papers to prove it. Even though Julian apparently didn’t walk around with his documents, Ryan took him at his word about his sero status. The next morning when they woke up after a night filled with sex, things began to get a bit weird, and it wasn’t long before Ryan confessed why he was acting strange. Julian had to decide immediately whether he was going to be Ryan’s hearth or let nature take its course, which would not be a good outcome. What followed were a few confusing events of a fantasy nature that were intended to be serious and profound but I found unintentionally hilarious. Sorry I can’t provide many details because those would be spoilers.
Julian’s relationship with his creative partner Cash was symbiotic and the dialogue between them was pretty good
Some of the dialogue in the book was quite funny
If Julian and Ryan weren’t so gosh darned perfect I could really love them.
What I didn’t like
Julian going to bed with Ryan after a first date seemed inconsistent with his characterization, as we’re told that he usually waits for several months before entering into a sexual relationship.
The prose was choppy in parts of the book and sort of meandered without focus.
Both characters talked about being ‘clean,’ i.e. they were HIV negative. I wish that straight M/M authors would consult with gay men about the use of this word in this context because it’s insulting. There is a post in the polls on this site where a gay man was quite eloquent about how this word made him and other gay men feel when it was used in M/M romances to denote sero status.
The excuse why Ryan had not been in touch with Julian since their last project ended didn’t ring true. If Julian’s assistant had refused to put Ryan through on the telephone, there’s always IM, voice mail (he had Julian’s cell phone number), texting, or he could have showed up in the office in person. Also, there was no information about why Julian’s assistant acted the way he did.
Julian fell in love (or maybe it was in lust) with Ryan in 24 hours, just as soon as he found out that Ryan had the hots for him. Another case of insta-love. Of course they had worked together before, but that was strictly a professional relationship.
Many of the secondary characters seemed to be ‘walk-ons’ who didn’t have any role in the book other than for set decoration. This is standard technique for this author. There was even a black character, Kevin Winters, a former client of Julian’s, whose only role seemed to be to make Julian look good, because he certainly didn’t add anything to the story. Maybe his story is next!
Parts of this book struck me as really funny but I don’t think the author intended them to be amusing. For example there’s a scene with swords (I kid you not) that’s reminiscent of movies starring Japanese warriors riding into battle on their horses, swords aloft, except in this case there were no horses just the swords. 🙂
In my opinion, where the book fell apart was in the fantasy segments because the supporting characters were one dimensional. As a matter of fact I didn’t quite ‘get’ the fantasy which I thought lacked depth and reminded me of superheroes in DC comics fighting on the side of good and eliminating evil on the planet.
Although His Hearth didn’t work for me I can understand why this author has such devoted fans because all of the main characters are beautiful. If you’re looking for a fantasy, sheer escapism even in a contemporary story, she knows how to give her fans characters who are larger than life with whom everyone falls in love.
His Hearth should have been the ultimate fantasy romance – it just wasn’t mine. This book is contemporary with fantasy components, or the converse – a fantasy with contemporary elements. All the building blocks were there to make it a good read and I wish I could like it more, but I felt that the story lacked finesse. You will have to read it for yourself and decide if the author pulled off the fantasy. Say what you like about this author’s techniques, her stories sure are entertaining.