Title: This Is Love
Author: Allison Cassatta and Remmy Duchene
Cover Artist: Allison Cassata
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com Genre: Contemporary
Length: 198 pages
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Review by Zac D
Review Summary: A good premise and brave idea. Some wonderful elements, let down by some weak execution. Ultimately, a vacation read. (And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?)
Anderson “Andy” Hartley Jr. lives the life of a playboy with Daddy’s money, but without love. If his father finds out Andy’s gay, the game’s over. So he restricts his sex life to the pool house and seems content until he meets the gorgeous new groundskeeper, who just might turn his life upside-down. Merrick “Maverick” Washington is African-American, an ex-SEAL, and recently released from prison after his false conviction was overturned. Working for a rich white dude who looks down his nose at him is one more blow to his spirit. But any job is a step toward self-sufficiency, and Maverick’s not willing to risk that for a spoiled brat. Then Andy tugs at more than Maverick’s body, and he’s starting to wonder how things would shake out if they both overcame their fears and let their worlds collide.
This is Love centers around Anderson, a rich, spoiled playboy, and his would be love interest, African-American, ex SEAL turned reformed felon, Merrick. Anderson (Andy) is in the closet, motherless and terrorized by his uncaring, bigot father, and Merrick is a haunted war vet, plagued by bad dreams.
Their pairing is unconventional, and for much of the book, seems unlikely to work due to their vastly different backgrounds. I won’t clue you in as to whether they do last the storm.
Now, there were several things I liked about this book, the first being the authentic use of an African-American protagonist. The language, the physical descriptions–it all read well, and felt believable and true to its roots. I liked it, I liked it a lot, and I wish we saw more of such characters in MM. These guys exist, let’s tell their stories.
I also dug the relationship between Merrick and his sister. It was warm, resonate and rather beautiful. Often in romance books, relationships with secondary characters seem forced or disregarded. Not so here. Merrick’s bond with his sibling it a big part of who he is, and it was skillfully woven in to the narrative. I also enjoyed the communal feel of Merrick’s neighborhood, which leads me nicely into my other big thumbs up.
I really enjoyed the emotional backdrop surrounding the two sides of the plane the two main characters came from. The startling contrast between the lonely, isolated wealthy character, and the poor, big hearted, working class MC was well described without becoming an obvious cliché.
And now on to the nagging…
There are some huge bugbears in this book, for me at least. The narration, especially at the start, is very poor in places. Each sentence is crammed full of redundant words, adverbs and passive voice. It made the read kinda laborious, and for a while, I struggled to get through it. A firmer edit needed, and an iron fist with some terrible metaphors and mismatched dialogue tags.
The worst examples? A butthole described as ‘his precious, puckered rosette…‘ And a sex scene where a character manages to both bark and purr. If we’re going to use animals as dialogue tags (which we absolutely should not, but I’ll save that for another day), we need to at least stick to one species, people!
Okay, back to the serious. Some aspects of the characterization bugged me. Merrick is not very SEAL like. He lacks the edge and grit one expects from a military character, and in places this frustrated me. He seemed weak in places I expected him to be stoic and strong.
Andy was another issue, and one I’ve come across before in books where a character (s) is rich and privileged. The problem is, to sell a thoroughly dislikable character, the writing must be superb, which as I’m blathered about above, isn’t the case here, and Andy is the one who suffers for it. He is absolutely hideous in places. In fact, for most of the book, he comes across as somewhat of a dick, and that’s hard to ignore. For me, a romance story only works if I care…can empathize…with both characters. I need to root for them, pray for them, and above all, I need to like them.
I did not like Andy. I didn’t like him at all, and as such, the climax of the book meant little to me. A shame, because the plot of this book had huge promise and the general premise is great, but blended together with the weak parts of the book, the execution suffers, and suffers a lot.
To sum up, a good idea that goes slightly awry. A recommended read for a vacation, but not if you’re looking for something deep and resonating. In short, a book that begins well, but ultimately winds up a little trashy.