A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: An overall disappointing novel — containing characters I never quite understood and choppy prose that seemed more like various scenes cobbled together than a free-flowing story.
Australian adventurer Adam Yager arrives in Athens for a conference and meets a colleague from the past: Dmitri Pryce, a brilliant archaeologist, a charming individual, and a beautiful man. Adam has never found a man beautiful before, not like this, and between remembrances of the dig in Tanzania four years ago and talk of more recent work, Adam does his best to keep his arousal hidden… until he blurts out his admiration for the way Dmitri says the word “ass.” And once Adam’s said it out loud, it’s too late to take it back.
Dmitri remembers lusting after Adam four years ago with painful clarity, but he made himself get over his crush and accept Adam’s friendship at face value. Now, as a documentary of the dig they both worked on is about to be released to the public, Adam clearly wants more, but Dmitri believes their opportunity to have passed. Except Adam is unwilling to miss this once in a lifetime chance to really get to know Dmitri and explore the passion they both feel.
Adam Yager is a professional adventurer who has a knack for stumbling upon incredibly important historical finds. He is a very intelligent man — who, though he never finished college because adventure called to him on the wind, has managed to use his daring and experience to trek into the untouched places in the world. He has created a unique business, to take his clients to these places for whatever their purposes, usually of a scientific endeavor. Four years ago, he was on just such a job, taking a group of scientists from several different countries and universities to Tanzania on an archeological dig looking for evidence of higher intelligence in pre-hominid culture. While he’s there, he meets Dmitri Pryce, the protégé of a famous archeologist who is only about 18 years old and has been allowed to attend a dig on his own for the first time. Yet, though he may be young, shy, and always acting nervous, Adam sees the brilliance of his mind, already growing to surpass his mentor. He is also incredibly beautiful, which Adam finds strange to admit to himself, though surprisingly comfortable doing. Yet, Adam is straight and married — and though his marriage has been rocky at best, he has never looked at another woman and no matter how ‘pretty’ this young boy is, he is ashamed and guilty for feeling anything more than friendly feelings toward him. They quickly become friends, Adam looking out for the young man (who he still believes is straight) and striking out on their own, combining Adam’s fearlessness and Dmitri’s brilliance, to ultimately make a very important archeological discovery — one that could change the way the world understands early human evolution.
On the other hand, Dmitri already knows that he is gay and he wants Adam without a doubt. The problem is that he can’t bring himself to ruin their wonderful friendship by coming on to a straight, married man that is much older than him. Yet, no matter how long he pines for Adam, their joint discovery is groundbreaking — and to reveal it to the world, they will have to work together in the future. Now, it is four years later and Adam and Dmitri have met up at the archeology convention that will premiere the documentary filmed during their dig and their great discovery. Even if Adam finds out how Dmitri felt about him those four years ago, nothing can happen now that Dmitri’s career has taken off. Adam’s might be stable in his career because he works for himself and can afford to never work again, but Dmitri still has to work within the politics of the academic and archaeology community — a place that is notorious for stuffy, closed-minded scientists. Can he risk a relationship with Adam while staying in the closet? Does he want to? And, is he really over Adam like he thought?
I have to say that the premise of this novel sounded pretty great. Though there are many GFY stories and stories about characters coming together after time apart, this one seemed promising. I also loved the beautiful cover, which was what immediately drew me to this novel. It wasn’t far into the story, however, that I started to lose interest. There are certainly many great scenes in this story (in particular the shooting star scene, as well as the scene with the flashlight, which those of you who have read this story will definitely not forget about), but that was pretty much the basis of what I liked about the story — a few scenes and the premise. Not a lot to go on. The problem was that this book needed a really good content editor, someone to take this book and its characters apart and put them back together in the proper order. I have no problem with flashbacks, but this book was all over the place. The first half of the book does a pretty even back and forth of present time (at the conference) to the past (the Tanzanian dig), except for the flashback scenes were in no particular order. They were more like vingnettes of the past, some of which happened before and some later, but with nothing stringing them together into a whole. The second half of the novel takes place almost completely in the present at the conference, but it is also not in chronological order. Now, if the order made sense in some other way, I wouldn’t mind. I certainly don’t dislike any plotline that is not in chronological order. But, it seemed to have no particular pattern. All of this had me really very confused by the time I finished the novel and I felt like I really didn’t know the full story of their past, which is possibly the most important part of the story because hardly any plot takes place in the present (except for sex, of course, but more on that later).
I was particularly looking forward to the topic of archaeology, which I have always found fascinating. This also disappointed me a bit. A large portion of the story is given to the subject — it is in the setting, their dialogue, it is their passion. But it was almost all in technical descriptions. What I most wanted to read about was the impact that archaeology has had on their lives and others’ lives. What makes them passionate about it? We don’t need to understand how carbon dating works (that’s just an example), but I would like to know the cultural significance of archaeology and what that means to Adam and especially Dmitri. This is particularly important in reference to their discovery, but that isn’t referenced either.
Another peeve of mine, and the ultimate clincher, was that both Adam and Dmitry never came alive for me. We never really learn a whole lot about Adam, and though we do learn more about Dmitri, he still remains a caricature. Even that, though, was a bit disjointed, like Dmitri couldn’t figure out which character to play. In the past he was meek and shy, and he was the same desperately submissive bottom boy in the present. But, as soon as they get together he becomes strangely dominant, so far that, even though he’s been fantasizing about Adam topping him for the whole book, their first time together has Dmitri throwing Adam down on the bed and topping him. This continued for the rest of the novel, until he strangely realized that he hadn’t bottomed — as if it had never crossed his mind. This seemed so out of character for him that it really bothered me. Conversely, as to Adam the straight man, only about 30 minutes after realizing he’s really gay and has been lusting after Dmitri all those years, he goes arse-over-end to give it up to Dmitri over and over and over for several days. Seriously? Could he even walk? I mean, with no experience and no prep at all… in my opinion that is either love or masochism.
There were a few other things that bothered me: like an excess of cock twitching and so much thinking but rarely, if ever, actually talking to each other about anything. Ultimately, the lack of dialogue about their issues is the curse of the whole novel, because it means that somewhere in their relationship there is going to be a big misunderstanding. And while it wasn’t so much a misunderstanding, the lack of telling each other how they feel is what led to their four year separation.
Overall, I found this story rather frustrating, because the technical aspects of the writing were done quite well. Dar Mavison clearly has writing talent. But, in my opinion, Mavison also needs a strong editor. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading further books by this author in the future, as this is her first novel. She has had several short stories published in various Dreamspinner anthologies to date, which could be the reason I felt like the book was a collection of scenes that felt disjointed and needed to be blended together. I wish I had enjoyed this story more than I did, and sadly, I can’t recommend it to readers. However, other readers might have taken a completely different view of the novel than I did. As always, one reader’s opinion differs from another’s, and if that is the case here, I would love to hear your thoughts on The Way You Say.