The Cost of Secrets

costofsecretsTitle: The Cost of Secrets
Author: Cassandra Gold
Cover Artist: Kalen O’Donnell
Buy Link: Buy Link The Cost of Secrets
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 121 (PDF)/Word count: 35,457
Rating: 1 star out of 5

A Guest Review by Cryssy Crankypants

Review Summary: Serious issues are used glibly and without examination, leading to disappointment in plot and characterization, and are not compensated for with style.

Blurb

Police officer Dan Fallon knows the streets, but he’s a rookie at romance, and still very much in the closet. He thinks sexy fitness instructor Isaac is way out of his league, until a dangerous situation breaks the ice between them.

Isaac Weiss has spent years trying to get his life back together after a series of terrible mistakes. The last thing he should be doing is trying to have a relationship with a cop, especially with his past. Too bad he’s unable to resist sweet, shy Dan.

It’s not long though, before the secrets both men are keeping rise to the surface and threaten to destroy the fragile connection they’ve forged with one another. Can Dan and Isaac find acceptance or will the cost of secrets be too high?

Review

The blurb sure looked good. Given that the stated theme is secrets, one expects that total honesty will be hard to achieve, but the problems in this story go far beyond difficulties in communication. Between the treatment of some serious life issues and stylistic clunkers, I would have DNF’d this story at the 20% mark had I not been reading for review.

I was very disappointed, because the major issues in each character’s life would make establishing a healthy relationship challenging, and they deserve thoughtful treatment. Here, unfortunately, they are used only as defenses against communication, and growth in overcoming them isn’t really happening. Body image is an important topic, as is unwilling participation in exploitative situations and drug addiction, but they deserve better handling than they received.

Officer Dan Fallon is the confident, adept policeman, but Dan the man carries around the memories of a difficult adolescence as a 450 pound band geek, and takes off his social skills with his uniform. Personal trainer, kick-boxing instructor, nursing student Isaac is the sexy twink who’s making his life into something better. At twenty three, he’s still trying to recover from the horrors he went through as a teenager, and what he went through would definitely leave marks. He’s determined to keep everything about his past to himself, believing he’s too sullied for a wonderful guy like Dan, who of course hasn’t a clue about his appeal.

All of this could be worked up into a touching and healing story, but that’s not what we have. Various plot points occurring in the present day are either handled clumsily or ignored, and the past traumas come to light as bricks of prose thrown at the plot whenever handy. This cheapens very real problems of sexual abuse and exploitation, drug abuse, morbid obesity, and suicide, and does a disservice to those who have suffered. There isn’t a lot of thoughtful examination or of character growth and change, more melodrama than drama.

Dan comes across as having personality transplants every few pages. It’s disconcerting, unpleasant, and overdone, and when his off-duty persona bleeds into his professional life toward the end, it’s consistent but irritating. He’s shed 240 lbs and still finds himself too soft in the middle for his own liking, but feeds on chocolate milk and sticky rolls even in situations where it’s not clearly for comfort. His unwillingness to be seen naked at least rings true, and renders it somewhat likely that he’s twenty eight and never been kissed. He’s certainly sweet, a word that appears 17 times and yes I counted, but he’s not very interesting. That’s sad, because he could be.

Isaac has had way too much sex and no love, and can’t believe he’s more than a sex object. He spends much of the story either melting, angsting, or weeping, and at no time is it clear how he obtained the skills he makes his living with. One would expect a certain amount of street smarts from Isaac, given his history, but he stops to worry about Dan’s bloody nose before they’ve completely subdued the armed robber. Once the robber is carted off to the station, the incident is never mentioned again—it’s only a device to get the men alone together.

Again, the point of the book is secrets vs communication, but this devolves into one Big Misunderstanding after another, which is not improved by style. Walls of exposition go on for pages, telling us what the characters are doing and thinking, but not illustrating it with an incident or even breaking it up with dialog. The POV is very shallow and distant, not really allowing the readers to feel along with the MCs and exacerbating the feeling of glib treatment of the major traumas. Between the adverbs, the feelings named outright rather than being illustrated, and caroming from cliché to cliché, the story offers no stylistic balm to make up for the characterizations and clunky plot.

I would like to say that the sex was completely hot, but alas, that consolation is not there either. We are in Isaac’s POV when they have their first time, and this event is more a cause for terror for Isaac than a source of joy—he’s the bottom without discussion, apparently because he’s built more slightly and/or has his horrid past. He doesn’t even stop to savor the orgasm before he’s running away from the big handsome cop he doesn’t deserve. Of course he has no idea of the significance of the event for Dan, just one more thing they don’t discuss. The fallacy of only anal sex is real sex is alive here, and lube is optional. The final sex scene where they are saying some really cheesy things together, and aware of the cheesiness and able to laugh about it, is the warmest moment of the story.

The premise, two damaged men healing from their pasts and learning to find their own worth and accept love, is ambitious but poorly executed, and I cannot recommend this book. 1 star

 

 

29 comments

  • Thanks Cryselle. I was really keen to read this book because I love cop stories, but I’m glad I waited for your review. Sounds like I’d have struggled with the same things you did 🙁

    Reply
      • I had to ask Stuart (gently) to give this book up because I was afraid of what he might have said about it — also, he could have imploded. 😀 He was happy to have you take one for the team. 😎 It was my birthday present to Stu. 🙂

        Reply
  • I am a fan of Ms. Gold’s work and I will have to agree with the reviewer that this one is not up to her usual standard.

    I think that this is because it was the story that Ms. Gold had a hard time finish. On her old website she had a WIP page and ‘Cop story’ was there for a long time. Perhaps that’s why the story wasn’t very good.

    Reply
    • I have read other of her work and liked it, so I want to chalk this one up as an anomaly.

      A couple of authors have mentioned to me that if writing the story is like pulling teeth, the story is telling you there’s a problem. I wonder how widespread that idea is. Authors? Is this true?

      Reply
      • That’s an interesting question! Though I don’t think writing a story being like pulling teeth means the end result will necessarily feel like having teeth pulled to read it.

        I think it depends on whether the “wrong” bit got sorted out or just sort of smoothed over. In this particular instance, I wonder if she never sorted it out and just sort of forced herself to finish it anyway?

        I just reread one of my all-time favorite series, the Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander. And then I came across an interview with him, in which he’s asked about writing. Sharing his answer here because it seems potentially relevant:

        What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
        Everything. I was only halfway joking when I said that. For me, writing is extremely difficult. Rewriting is even more difficult. And yet, every writer except some great genius has to rewrite. Very few get it right the first time around. I have rewritten pages 30 times. Chapters, three or four times. And in some cases, I’ve rewritten the whole book two or three times. That’s hard. Anything easy . . . sorry, I can’t think of anything easy.

        Reply
  • Cryssy Crankypants! Love it! :hysterics: Thanks for the review, Crys, and to Lasha for the recommendations of good cop books.

    Reply
  • Great job on the review Crys. Having read this book I can affirm that you illustrated everything that’s wrong with the story. Haven’t read a good m/m cop story in a long, long time.

    Reply
    • There have to be some good ones. The last few I’ve read maxed out at the okay level. Perhaps someone will take this as a call from the audience and write what we’d all like to see?

      Reply
      • Frat House Troopers (just fun, don’t take it seriously), Packing Heat and A Rookie Move were all really great IMO. 🙂

        Reply
        • Lasha, just want a clarification on the authors of two of the three books you mentioned. Is that Kele Moon’s Packing Heat and A Rookie Move by Sam B. Morgan?

          Reply
          • Hi Tom

            I reviewed all of the books that Lasha recommended so you
            probably read them, and you’re right about the authors. There hasn’t been anything even close since Frat House Troopers which was really a ‘send up’ of a cop story and not at all serious. 🙂

            Reply
  • Oh great – another cop story I will not buy :(. I hate when there is one big misunderstanding but multiple? No thanks. Oh and character that changes personality several times? Also not for me . Thanks for saving me some money.

    Reply
    • These guys take “not talking” to a whole new level. The personality transplants have an explanation in the story, kind of, but I didn’t find it endearing or entirely plausible.

      Reply
  • wow, what a pity… I had an eye on this one since like Majken, I like cop books, but your review sounds as if I better go look elsewhere. Thank you!

    Reply
    • What Feliz ^ said! I won’t say, “What Majken said,” though, because I have read some great cop books lately. Like, say, the Life Lessons books by Kaje Harper. 😀

      Also, “Cryssy Crankypants” – I love it! 😆 Good job with a difficult review. I hope I did half as well on the one I’m posting tomorrow. :afraid:

      Reply
      • Hi Jeayci

        Ooh, can you rec anything? Cops, anything except BDSM & vampire/shifters will be much appreciated 🙂
        I’ve read Kaje Harpers series

        Reply
        • Gah, I wrote out a whole bunch of recs and then the comment got eaten! :curse:

          Have you read the Taking the Odds series by James Buchanan? I love Nicky and Brandon! And I adore Deputy Joe by the same author.

          I also loved Pas de Deux by Jamie Craig. And Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander. Dirty Secret by Rhys Ford. And a bunch of others, shall I go on? 🙂

          Reply
          • I haven’t read anything by James Buchanan, I’ll check those out, and that Pas de Deux book
            Rhys Ford is not really me, the plots/writing aren’t bad but I don’t really connect with her characters

            Thanks

            (Grrrr about eaten comments, I hate when that happens)

            Reply
      • I was trying not to let my distress with this story make me snarky, so I poked fun at myself. Reviews like this are hard to write, so I feel for you. We need a slew of really great books around here.

        Have to read more Kage Harper.

        Reply
        • Reviews like this are hard to write, which is why I was so impressed with how well you did with this one. 😎

          And I don’t think one could go wrong reading more Kaje Harper. 🙂

          Reply

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