Title: More Than This
Author: Lissa Matthews
Cover Artist: Dar Albert
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy Link: Buy Link More Than This, Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A chance encounter that leads to insta-love that simply did not ring true.
Blurb: Adam Sanchez makes good money, drives a vintage BMW, and is living up to the promise he made that he’d never be poor again. After two years without seeing his family for the holidays, he’s taking time off to give them a dream Christmas. At least, that was the plan. But after taking a wrong turn off the interstate in search of the Blue Ridge Parkway, he finds himself skidding on a patch of ice and crashing into a big red barn. He wakes up sore, grumpy, and immediately attracted to his less than pleasant host who happens to be the spitting image of a young Elvis Presley. Army veteran Josh Atkins doesn’t have time to babysit the idiot currently recovering on his family’s Christmas tree farm, but is left with little choice. That the man stirs something deep and primal in Josh can’t and doesn’t matter. It’s the busiest time of year and he’s needed at home. As the two men begin to talk and share their stories, Josh’s hard-nosed stance softens. When he learns of Adam’s need to get to Asheville before Christmas, Josh is torn between letting him go and asking him to stay. Maybe Josh can help Adam see that there’s more to happiness and freedom than a large bank account, and maybe Adam can teach Josh to see beyond the surface to the man beneath. Maybe, just maybe, they can show each other that there really is more than this.
Review: I really struggled with this review. There was, at its core, a nice story here. There was an expressively written, character driven novel that had great potential. There was the possibility for a sweeping story of instant attraction and the eventual growth of an all-consuming love for the two main characters. There were so many possibilities. Unfortunately, More Than This by Lissa Matthews was the victim of too much: too much rushing the love development between Adam and Josh, too much repetitive soul searching, particularly in the last third of the novel, too much unbelievability surrounding the depth of love and the swift resolution to all their seeming insurmountable differences.
I now found myself at a loss as to how to review this novel. I was at a loss as to how to explain that the story simply derailed within the first 25 pages or so and that I had to force myself to continue a novel that I normally would have placed on my DNF shelf. I was really at a loss since I actually feel this author has incredible potential to produce a good, strong novel that has a compelling storyline. It’s all there and you can see tiny glimpses of that talent come peeking through this story but simply not often enough to redeem the overall plot.
The basics: Josh has returned from a tour in Iraq where the loss of his lover and some of the men he served with has left him with PTSD which include nightmares and an inability to find the motivation to love again. Crashing (literally, he crashes into the side of the barn on the property after skidding off a snow and ice covered road) into Josh’s idyllic life, living and working on his family’s tree farm, comes a young Latino man, Alex.
He is the total opposite of Josh, seemingly only interested in working himself to the bone in order to rise above the crushing poverty he was raised with and give back to his family a better life than they had previously. Within a few days, the attraction between these two men sparks right off the charts and there is even talk of love at first sight. However, Alex has worked way to hard to give up the lifestyle he has been used to living and Josh will not leave the tranquility of the farm in order to pursue a relationship. Their desires may be huge but their problems are even bigger.
First, there were, what I felt to be, major inconsistencies in the story itself–perhaps I am misreading but here are two examples that had me shaking my head in confusion. In the first, Josh is talking about Brett his lover in the military–take note of how as the novel progresses, so do Josh’s experiences.
“He hadn’t dated anyone in five years. He hadn’t even been attracted to anyone. He’d met the man he loved. He’d met him and lost him. End of story.”
Later in the story…
“He’d had lovers since Brent had passed away, and one had never resembled the other. But after meeting Adam, he had a feeling he’d be looking more and more at Latino men…”
Uhm…huh? But he said he wasn’t attracted to anyone…hadn’t dated…
Then there was this: Josh delivers Adam to the hotel where he has booked suites for himself and his family for Christmas–a present his mother has always longed for but could not afford. Here is Josh’s reaction to walking into the suite for the first time:
“Josh was in awe from the moment his feet crossed the threshold. He’d never seen anything like it. Views outside the wall of windows of mountains and snow and trees. The furniture in deep, warm colors…”
Now his thoughts as he was leaving the hotel a few hours later:
“He didn’t have long to wait, and the sooner he was outside the hotel, the better. He’d been inside it many times, so many that the opulence and elegance of the interior didn’t faze him anymore. The rich woods and the plush carpets. The incredible smells and even more incredible views…He’d gotten used to it over the years.”
So, which was it? Brett was the only guy in 5 years or not? He was fazed by the beauty or he wasn’t? Initially I was confused and then just plain disgusted–how could no one catch these inconsistencies before this story went to publishing? Couple moments like these with the last third of the book where Adam constantly feels as though he is “missing the point” (that would be the one where every single person who talks to him tells him his desire for money is not as important as pursuing the man he thinks he is in love with, i.e., Josh) and you have a novel that hitches along, never really able to gain the momentum it needed to be a believable insta-love story that could capture and hold my attention.
Dear Reader, I cannot recommend this particular novel to you, however, I also feel that it may not be the best example of Lissa Matthew’s work overall. I will tell you that I would like to read something else by this author, that the potential she shows in the better moments this novel has indicate to me that she can be a good writer who produces a fine story. However, dear reader, More Than This is not a recommended read for me. As always, the decision is yours. I am eager to hear your thoughts.