Title: Five Star Review
Author: Lara Brukz
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Diverse
Length: Novella/102 PDF pages
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Not ready for prime time
Gay romance author Cade Montgomery is so thrilled when his latest book is given an excellent review by Eric Carillo that he sends Eric a personal e-mail thanking him for the rating. Occasional e-mails become frequent, and soon Cade and Eric are talking online almost every day. Their online relationship spans a thousand miles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Can their virtual romance survive in the real world? Because both men want to give their own romance a five star review.
I really wanted to like this book because it’s by a relatively new author and I believe that there’s a lot of talented upcoming writers in the genre. On my first run through of Five Star Review it seemed okay although not sparkling and a barrel of fun, but on the second reading when I was paying attention because I was reviewing the story, it kept getting worse until I almost didn’t finish it because the end was so incredibly bad.
I initially thought that the premise was somewhat original and as a reviewer I wanted to see how a romance between a writer and a book reviewer/textbook editor would develop, and how the reviewer would navigate the conflicts inherent in an affair with an author whose books he was reviewing. It was a pretty thin plot but it had possibilities if handled well and the blurb sounded interesting.
Our MC’s met through a review by Eric of Cade’s latest romance on a site known as www.MMreviewers.com. After the usual gushing on the part of the author for the high rating of his book they started emailing each other; not long after they started sexting each other. This went on for a period of about a year and during that time they also exchanged information about their lives and families, although Eric had a secret that he hadn’t shared with Cade. Eventually they arranged to meet when Cade was coming to town and by the thinnest of plot devices he just had to stay with Eric because the hotel where he had reservations was overbooked.
The romance took off as they had already progressed through the “getting to know you” stage of their relationship during the time they spent emailing but the story quickly floundered, with a crazy ex boyfriend in the mix and a fight between the MCs that was supposed to be a clever plot device but turned out to be stupid and was obviously intended to manipulate readers.
The romance wasn’t rushed. The long distance relationship between Cade and Eric was a nice touch and it developed over the period of a year through emails, texts etc. so that by the time they met they had developed a close friendship and knew each other well. The next step and transition to a romance was easy, although the romance itself may have been a tad tedious
What didn’t work:
The premise was good but the execution wasn’t.
There was no chemistry between the MCs.
I thought that the writing was clichéd, awkward and pedestrian – maybe it’s a lack of experience. There was little flow or continuity which jerked me out of the story many times. The prose was choppy and even rudimentary in part, and I found my mind wandering as I was reading the story – (not a good sign), as there was nothing to keep me glued to the plot or the characters. Once the characters met, the dialogue was amateurish and unimaginative.
The fabricated fight at the end was the final straw for me as it was way too obvious and unnecessary. These “misunderstandings” in M/M romances are getting tedious and I wish authors would find other ways to introduce internal tension into their MC’s relationships.
Here’s a small example of the dialogue:
“Mm, you better watch it, you big bad wolf. You may not be able to handle what I carry in my basket.”
“I crave some of that big meat you have packed away, the meat I never got with my cheese.”
“Now hush and let the big bad wolf gobble you whole.”
This is so sweet it made my teeth ache
They even got matching rings… well, nipple rings. Cade had his nipples pierced for Eric’s enjoyment, and they had hardware inscribed. Cade’s nipple rings were engraved with “Eric,” and Eric’s new nipple rings had “Cade.”
Eric filled his heart and soul. There would be no other. Eric was his life ’til death. Cade felt Eric’s shaft enter him to the fullest as he leaned over and kissed the love of his life to completion.
The protagonists were two dimensional at best.
Eric and Cade went straight from talking about the book review to sexting immediately after and signing emails “Love …” that sure didn’t take any time.
Marshall, Eric’s ex was one dimensional and seemed slightly demented.
I wish I could find positive things to say about Five Star Review, although the first part of the story was a lot better than the rest. I hate writing negative reviews but my responsibility is to the readers, not the authors. This story could have been much better if more care had been taken with its execution and if the prose and dialogue were not amateurish. Many of you may feel differently about this story and I’m sure that some readers enjoyed this book, but unfortunately I didn’t.
Ms Brukz is a new writer learning her craft and her writing will probably improve with experience.
On the plus side I do like the Catt Ford cover. 🙂