Title: Home Sweet Home
Author: John Simpson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal-lite
Length: Novella (101 PDF pages/21k+ words)
Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: John Simpson has written much better books than this one.
Two young men meet on vacation in Key West and have a torrid affair and when they find out they both live in New York, they continue the affair after vacation.
They end up buying an Old Victorian house which begins to exhibit unusual traits upon moving in. Upon investigating the background of the house, they find that there are seventeen bodies buried in their basement.
Jason meets Kevin whilst vacationing in the Florida Keys when Kevin comes to Jason’s rescue from the beginnings of a bad situation at a party. Mutually attracted, they enjoy each other for the remainder of the trip. They amazingly discover that they both live in eastern New York — very close to one another, in fact — and continue to see each other once they return home. After spending a short while dating, Kevin asks Jason to live together and buy a house. They settle on a very old Victorian mansion on a large plot of land that is going for well under the value of the home and property. After moving in, they find out why as they begin to experience very strange and frightening things, and discover that the basement holds the remains of seventeen men who disappeared a long time ago.
Even though I may often have mixed feelings about the books by this author, I can say first, that he has grown on me over time and I look forward to his new releases, and second, I’ve read much better books than this from him. A fairly quick read, Home Sweet Home overall felt like something Simpson could have penned early on and just now brought before a publisher, and compared to his other books, this one felt like a step back to me.
It did not start of so well. Not only did the writing feel immature and unsophisticated, the first chapter read like the script to a bad porn flick, with cheesy dialog in choppy sentences and characters who showed no depth. Consider this after the early-on pool-dunking/rescue episode:
“Are you here alone?” Jason asked.
“Ah, yeah, you?”
“Yep. I’m single, so I’m here alone. You single?”
“Yeah. Broke up with my boyfriend two months ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it doesn’t still hurt.”
[a few sentence discussion about the breakup while Jason disrobes]
“Do you like what you see?” Jason asked.
“Well… I wasn’t really looking… yeah, okay, I liked what I saw.”
“Well you might as well see the rest,” Jason said as he turned around so that Kevin could check out his ass. Jason considered his ass his best physical feature and was proud to show it off.
“Well, that’s pretty nice, Jason. Very nice indeed.”
All that was missing for me was the “boom chicka wah wah” soundtrack.
While both the writing and plot did pick up some once they were back in New York and in the house, it never really got significantly better, nor did the characters ever feel three-dimensional to me. Part of this is because much of the relationship or even alone time is off-screen, thus we’re told, not shown either man in any detail or why they are together (other than physical attraction and Kevin’s large schlong), though we’re told in a single paragraph that they like the same things as well as have great smexxin. Then a lot of what we experience with them is around the issue with the haunting, so we see some reactionary thoughts, behavior and feelings instead of what they would be like normally. To this end, it’s a fairly superficial read.
Regarding the plot and the haunting, like the character development, it’s pretty light. I thought the premise was okay, the fright-factor low, and the resolution a bit pat. And I am no historian, but to me, the article and journal entries from the Revolutionary War seemed to be too contemporary. I may be wrong, but things like “hot on their trail,” “take off” and “gonna” did not seem period to me.
On the plus side, I love how Simpson writes funny doggie thoughts, and here is no different. Max is a juvenile German Shepherd and he’s pretty cute:
Max [gave] a distinct look to Jason which appeared to say, “Whoa! I’m not a fucking French Poodle, pick me out a butch collar, Dad, like that leather one with the studs over there.”
Also, I like architecture, so the details of the house, what it was like before the rebuild and the history around it was interesting.
While devoted fans of the author may disagree, less-than-fully-fleshed characters, not terribly sophisticated writing and an okay plot made Home Sweet Home not one of John Simpson’s best efforts.