Title: Coliseum Square
Author: Lynn Lorenz
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical M/M Romance
Rating: 1.5 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A case of too little input to justify the outcome and a good story suffers as a result.
Blurb: When Mark Madison accepts a position as tutor in New Orleans, he does so to run away from his past. Yet he never once believed the house on Coliseum Square would actually hold the key to his future.
Royal DuCote, the wealthy owner of the house and father to a son named Luc, is dark, sexy, and haunted. Ever since the death of his wife and Luc’s mother, nothing has been the same. Luc refuses to speak or let Royal near him, and putting Luc in school is out of the question, so he hires a tutor for his son. But when he meets Mark Madison, he’s instantly attracted to the younger man.
As tensions build between Mark and Royal, Luc’s affliction becomes a mystery Mark wants to solve. But will what Mark discovers destroy all that is left of the DuCote family?
Review: After reading this novella, I struggled with what exactly it was about the story that left me disappointed. Coliseum Square began well, with an air of mystery and a pervasive sense of foreboding. We quickly learned that the main character, Mark Madison, is running form something dark, life threatening and dire enough to have caused him to change his name. The opportunity to tutor for a wealthy New Orleans family seems to be a last chance for Mark to escape whatever fate awaits him at his former home.
When he arrives, the mystery deepens as we are introduced to a mute boy and his often, icy and withdrawn, father. Both are wounded by the death of the boy’s mother and even here we feel just a bit of a tingle of unease at how she may have come to fall to her death. I was captured and fairly engrossed in this story, even delighting in the idea that most if not all of the historical references were true and consistent. Then with in just a few pages, the story took a decided turn, events seemed to pile on top of one another and the estranged relationship and tragedy that had taken place two years ago was systematically healed by Mark’s presence.
All of a sudden Royal was lusting for Mark, little Luc was opening up and allowing another person to not only touch him but he was speaking, a word here an there and then within days whole sentences after two solid years of withdrawal. I rapidly lost track of the time flow but had the nagging suspicion that somewhere in the neighborhood of a week or three, Mark was not only able to reach a child who had been a self-induce mute but also fall head over heels in love with the boy’s father as well. The reasons for Mark’s run from his own home were shoved away as he explored a new found relationship and young Luc cooperated by not only divulging the horrible guilt he had surrounding his mother’s death, but found a way to completely recover from that tragedy.
All of a sudden the story was finished. Everyone was happy and the idea that two men could live out their lives in an era that hunted down and severely punished homosexuals was casually brushed off and left by the wayside. I was flummoxed. Where had this story derailed? How had this author whom I had heard such good things about allowed such apparent weaknesses to go unchecked in what could have been a really solid historical drama?
Coliseum Square was a rushed affair that left too many questions unanswered and tied up way too neatly. To imagine that a complete stranger can stride into the midst of such tragedy and make it all okay within weeks of his arrival is just too farfetched. I liked these characters collectively and the basis for the story was a good one, but the cavalier handling of young Luc’s healing and the blatant disregard for societal norms concerning Royal and Mark’s relationship really destroyed any believability the author was trying to achieve. In the end, the novella became just another so-so story that left me unsatisfied and longing for the second half to have rung as true as the first part. When a solid plot is rushed for the sake of making a happy ending a reality, the story suffers. This was the fate of Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz. It was the case of too little story to support a good idea.