Beggars and Choosers

BeggarsandChoosersTitle: Beggars and Choosers
Author: Mia Kerick
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (284 pages)
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by jeayci

Review Summary: I’m in a minority that disliked this book, but disjointed narrative, strong dialect, Big Misunderstanding, and lots of unlikable characters made this story difficult for me to read.

Blurb: After a hard life filled with experiences he’d rather not remember but can’t forget, Brett Taylor decides he doesn’t need anyone or anything. He gets a job at a bar in a nothing little town where he can fish and race dirt bikes and hide from the world. So naturally as he’s walking across the parking lot at his new job, reminding himself how self-reliant he is, he meets someone he can’t shove aside.

Brett can’t help but admire Cory Butana, the kid who lives above the bar where his father is the principal bartender. Unwanted by either parent, the sweet, personable Cory grew up neglected and hungry for affection. Now he’s determined to make something of his life, even if he has to work himself ragged to do it.

Cory shouldn’t have to suffer like Brett did, and Brett wants to lend a hand. But when their relationship evolves into something Brett isn’t ready to need, he reacts… and the consequences may destroy their fledgling future. With scars like theirs, forgiveness is never easy.

Review: This was a particularly challenging review to write, because I hated this book when I thought I ought to have loved it. So many people with tastes similar to mine rated it highly, I felt like I must be missing something. And the premise was so promising, I ultimately bumped my rating up a half-star for it because I can see why people it works for love it. Friends-to-lovers, people from horrible backgrounds overcoming them and making something of themselves, being more together than alone… yeah, I should have loved this, but instead I wanted to DNF this book early on and only finished it because I had to write this review.

I think perhaps my single biggest issue with it was the vignette style in which it was told. Those can work, and I have no general objection to that as a narrative style, but in this case it had the effect (for me) of feeling choppy and keeping me from ever really connecting with the characters. This was a very character-driven story, which ordinarily I love. But not connecting with the characters in a character-driven story makes for a looooong, boring read.

Brett’s strong accent made me think, as it did many others, of Zero at the Bone. But in that one, once I connected with the characters the accent became almost invisible to me; it was just part of who D was. Because I never connected with Brett, the accent was a struggle to read from the first page to the last. I was relieved to get out of his POV, as the book was more readable at those times.

Speaking of POV, I found it jarring that twice we were suddenly, randomly, in the POV of a secondary character. Just for a scene or two, and then it went back to being told from Brett’s and Cory’s POVs. Why? What was the point of that? I’m sure the intention wasn’t to pull me even further out of the story and stare at the page blankly wondering “Whaaa?” but that was the effect it had.

I was also disconcerted by how the general population of characters in this story seemed to be mean and/or stupid and/or insane, with very few exceptions. It had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of A Confederacy of Dunces, which is one of my most-hated books of all-time. That definitely didn’t endear the story to me.

By the time Cory and Brett had a Big Misunderstanding-type falling out, I was ready to throw my ereader across the room. Despite having known each other for years as best friends, Cory apparently didn’t know Brett at all. And then some horrible things happened, which was somehow the catalyst for everything to suddenly turn around and be A-Okay. Even with Cory’s dad, who was at best an absent father.

Sure, there was a little more drama (or melodrama) around some of the after-effects of the horrible events. The angst levels in this book make even “Angst and Pain, Amy Lane” books seem like puppies and unicorns cavorting in fields of four-leaf clovers. I love some angst, and I love Amy Lane, but I did a lot of eye-rolling as I read this book. It got worse when Brett proved himself to be one of those idiots who buys into the whole Madonna/Whore thing, thinking that you don’t “defile” someone you love. Need I mention how utterly ridiculous and un-hero-like I find that mindset? I didn’t think so. But then, with just a very little conversation, they got even that sorted out. And they lived Happily Ever After. And I breathed a deep sigh of relief to be finished with this book.

I do wonder if A Confederacy of Dunces makes a good barometer for appreciation of this book. If you loved that, I think there’s a good chance you’ll love Beggars and Choosers too.

18 comments

  • I read this book a little while ago now, and you’ve made me want to go back to re-read it and think about my opinion again – I think I would have edged nearer to 3 stars.

    I wholeheartedly agree with all of the points you brought up in the review, and yet for me it must have had that little indefinable something else that made me forgive those faults and make me smile anyway.

    I’m sure everyone’s read a book like that, which somehow seems greater than the sum of its parts. And I really can’t explain it, but…

    Although the dialect irritated at first, once I’d become accustomed to it, I found it added to Brett’s character and reflected how I saw him.

    The POV didn’t disturb me too much, except for as you mentioned when all of a sudden we were dumped in the head of a secondary character. I tend to think this happens when an author lacks confidence in being able to get across a concept or feeling through the actions or feelings of the main characters and instead feels the need to spell it out for us in the mind of another convenient spectator.

    Either of those faults I can (to an extent) explain my overlooking of, but the Big Misunderstanding? I HATE those. And I remember thinking ‘Please don’t do this!’ the minute the ‘drama’ unbelievably arrived on the scene and began leading to the inevitable ‘horrible events’. It all just seemed so clumsy.

    And again, it makes me think that perhaps the author wasn’t confident enough to write the book they really wanted to; the story of a developing relationship between two characters quietly and simply growing together. They felt the need to give us a bit more ‘bang for our buck’.

    So it seems ironic, dissecting the book as a whole, that it was that simple, quiet, touching love story that was beginning to develop between the two characters, before all of that falsely added melodrama that was the little something else that made me smile.

    Reply
    • Great points, Pen! 🙂 I’m curious, what did you rate it when you first read it? Is the 3 it’s edging toward now heading up or down?

      I’ve definitely had books that worked for me despite an abundance of issues. I think, for me at least, it comes down to how much I like and connect with the characters (or not). If I’m living it with the characters, I’ll forgive, overlook, or maybe not even notice all sorts of things that would otherwise drive me bananas. 😀

      Your experience with Brett’s dialect mirrors my own with D in Zero at the Bone and Deputy Joe in the James Buchanan books. Loving the characters made all the difference in the world.

      Interesting question about the author’s confidence. This does seem to be her first published book, so you could be right. Though I found the vignette style kept me from connecting with the characters in the first place, so even if those bits had been done differently I still don’t think I’d have loved the book. But it might at least have been 3 stars for me, and 4 or 5 for you. 🙂

      Have you read anything by L.M. Turner? I loved both books I’ve read, and they stick in my mind as the sort of quiet, developing relationship you describe.

      Reply
      • Hi Jeayci,
        I think I would have rated it at 2.5 stars at the time of reading. Probably not quite rating a 3. Although as I said, I’m really curious now to re-read it and see how my opinion would change. Pretty confident it would go down on rating in a re-read rather than up – not that there’s a free slot in my TBR pile for some time yet!

        I believe I may have my British-ness to thank for an immunity toward awkward dialects in books (no problem with Zero at the Bone or Deputy Joe). The vast majority of the m/m books I read are written in American English. And to save my sanity I seem to have turned my irritation ( I know, I’m easily irritated!) into more of a general curiosity with how different the same language can be. I confess to being an avid human spellchecker and I’m continuously surprised by spelling differences! Perhaps it’s this more distanced observation of the language, that makes the dialects simply more entertaining to me than irksome.

        I certainly can’t claim to have loved the book, but I was content enough with the sweet relationship on the page and hopeful about the ending until the villain of the piece was suddenly unbelievably introduced and everything began to go drastically downhill. On re-reading I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving.

        I haven’t read anything by L. M. Turner yet, but I’ll definitely find the time based on your recommendation. My tastes are extremely varied, depending on my mood, but I do enjoy romances with a slow, gentle build up from time to time.

        Thanks for your review. It really was spot on in everything that you said, but made me very aware of just how much your gut feeling sways you in how you feel about a book. 🙂

        Reply
  • I’m with Treasure. I loved this book but I get what you mean. I have HUGE respect for your review. You explained very clearly what didn’t float your boat and you weren’t mean about it. It’s really okay for a reviewer to have a dissenting opinion from the majority.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Mary, I really appreciate that! I know intellectually it’s fine for a reviewer to have a dissenting opinion from the majority. And I agree whole-heartedly when that reviewer is someone else. But when that reviewer is me, I second-guess myself a lot trying to figure out what the heck I missed that everyone else loved. 😕 😆

      Reply
  • Jess, thanks for this review! I haven’t read this particular book, but I think it can be very hard to give any book a low rating when it looks like everyone is inexplicably loving it on Goodreads. (I just had a similar reviewing experience.)

    But you provide compelling supporting evidence as to why this book didn’t work for you, and we readers need that for the complete informed picture. I’m a lot like Sirius in reading tastes so what she said above goes for me. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, Val! It is tough to be the lone voice of dissent. This one worked for so many people, but it sounds like it may not be for you, either.

      Tangentially, I typo’d “lone” as “loin” and found myself wondering what “loin voices” might have to say. And then I realized I don’t need to wonder, as they are so clearly the primary voices many people – men especially – listen to for all major (and minor) decisions. :hysterics:

      Reply
  • I liked this book more than you, but I don’t disagree with the points in the review. The switching POV’s are tough to read, The dialect didn’t bother me too much, in the books’ favor, it’s not really an insta love story and the love story develops over years.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Treasure! I do think this book had a lot of potential, and I can see why others might love it. Unfortunately for me, I’m not one of them. 🙁

      Reply
  • Oh dear – you had me saying pass to this one on Big misunderstanding , accent like Ds means I will never go near this book ever. And I loved D, but even with D I cringed every time when I needed to figure out what word he meant to say ( when English is your second language it may be a little harder to do – to figure out phonetically spelled out accent).

    And angst level higher than Amy Lane? Sirius runs away at the speed of light.

    Reply
    • I could see how English as a second language could make dialect almost impossible to decipher. I struggled enough with both D and Brett, and English is my first language! 😆

      Yeah, I think this book is not for you, Sirius. 😀

      Reply
      • I cannot tell you how happy I was that when D was thinking his dialect was not spelled out and as I said in that book I definitely emotionally connected to him, and it still was a problem. So yeah, looks like not for me.

        Reply
    • I think we often have pretty similar tastes, so yeah, this may not be for you. But if the blurb appeals at all, you might check out some other reviews. Because several other people with similar tastes loved this, so perhaps you’d fall into that camp. 🙂

      Reply

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