Review of Double Alchemy, by Susan Mac Nicol

Double AlchemyI bought a copy of Double Alchemy, by Susan Mac Nicol.

Description from Goodreads:
Powerful yet tormented modern warlock Quinn Fairmont must initiate the silver-eyed Cade Mairston into the world of witchfinders, Withinners, and what can happen when two men fall truly, madly, deeply in love. 

THE WORLD IN SHADOW 

In modern London there lurks a warlock, Quinn Fairmont. Dangerous, powerful, tortured, sharing his body with the soul of an ancient Welsh sorcerer, Quinn is never alone—and never wholly himself. He fights against all those who would exploit his kind. He takes pleasure where he can find it. 

In the forest of Hampstead Heath, Quinn’s hometown, Cade Mairston appears to him like a waking dream. Lithe, lean and silver-eyed, he evokes feelings in Quinn unlike any other: lust with true affection, immediate and shocking. Cade is clearly more than he seems. And yet, if a man of the world, Cade is innocent. He knows nothing of warlocks, witchfinders or Withinners. He knows nothing of what he is, what he might be, or what he might feel. For him, the story is just beginning. Magyck, peril and passion await.

 Review:
This book has a great cover. That’s the best thing I can say for it. Well, that and I appreciate Quinn and Cade being 36 & 35 years old. It’s nice to encounter older leads, or at least not ridiculously youthful ones. But again, those are my only true compliments for this book. And now I’m going to rant a bit.

First and foremost, though possibly backwards to mention it in the beginning, this book is seemingly ennnnnddddllesssss. I swear I prayed and prayed for the end and it always seemed hours off. Even after the baddie had been beaten, the hero gone to the hospital, healed and been released, then returned home, made love to his boyfriend (again) and ensured the wellbeing of his injured business partner, when it seems like there can’t possibly anything more to the book there is another 7% left and a new angle is pursued. (One I couldn’t have cared less about.)

My god this book is all over the freakin’ place. To say it needs to be trimmed and tightened up is like saying one of those people with disgustingly long, curling toe nails needs a pedicure. As a start, the author could cut about 50 pseudo-sex scenes. No joke, I’m not exaggerating.

From page one, the book jumps right into the sexual attraction. It then focuses almost exclusively on it, taking a really long time to find an actual plot (which is pretty darned weak). There is simply too much pseudo-sex, much, much, much too much.

Sure, I love an occasional smut-fest erotic novel, in which I wouldn’t expect to have much in line of a plot. But this doesn’t seem to have been written with that intent, it just fails to be anything else. Contradictorily, however, despite having a sex scene on just about every other page (and I’m being pretty literally about that) most of it is off screen. The reader gets the kissing, the attempt at dirty talk and is told this or that might have happened, but usually the actual act isn’t shown. Thus, it also fails as porn and I termed it pseudo-sex. And it too is eeennnnddddllesssss (rather, a large part of why the book feels endless).

I also have to inquire, is this romance? I ask because the a huge part of the plot is that a warlock and a fey would always be attracted like magnets. That means ANY warlock and ANY fey would be attracted to one another. Thus the characters could and would be attracted to any other warlock or fey they encountered. It has nothing, nothing at all, to do with THESE characters. That’s not romantic in the least. In fact, I find it kind of off-putting. It’s kind of like rape in the sense that they have no free will about it. In further fact, when the same magnetic force is used by someone other than Quinn, even he likens it to rape.

So, I am completely unable to figure out how the ‘honey’ and ‘baby’ and ‘wanting only him’ and ‘soul mate’ make sense. What makes their attraction any different than the sexual pull they would feel with any other person of said genetics? Plus, these declarations of love cropped up AS SOON AS the men had sex, as if by having sex (unavoidable sex at that) suddenly made them a couple for life.

Then there was the annoyingly ‘safe sex.’ Early on Quinn makes the socially mandated (but utterly unnatural and forced) fuss about ensuring they practice safe sex. Then the next time they’re together they ‘agreed they trusted eachother enough for a no-condom policy.’ Yeah, because the diseases they were previously concerned about are only contagious when two people don’t trust each-other, right? Why bother with it if your just going to throw it away?

One of my biggest mm pet peeves is seeing one half of a couple written as a woman. Cade is definitely such a character, complete with an ‘inner bitch.’ Not to mention calling himself a ‘bitch from hell’ and ‘prima donna’ within a paragraph on eachother and having his displeasure called a ‘girl fight.’ Everything from his personality, thoughts and actions (and all that shame) to how Quinn sees and treats him cues the reader into his role as a female. (And he’s not described as a femme.)

Most significantly though, is the way he has no real control over his sexual urges and the implication that all a man needs is access to ‘have’ him. This is especially obvious when one looks at the magical pull that’s supposed to exist between warlocks and fey. It’s only Cade (the girl) who is helpless to resist or even think in the face of it. Both Quinn and Taliesin seem to function and hunt just fine under its influence.

(As an annoying side note, it’s also inconsistent as the book progresses. It allows Cade different reactions at different times, that according to the rules previous set up in the book he shouldn’t have had. For example, we’re told it’s an effect that always occurs, but Cade meets Percy and Magnus without so much as a twinge.)

Then there is the writing, OMG, the writing. It is really clumsy, not necessarily bad but not such that I sunk into it and lost myself. Things like the use of the word ‘happy’ three times in a paragraph or  boyfriend 33 times in the book, groin 41 times, cock 50 times, lover 70 times, lips 71 times, chuckle 80 times, or kiss 110 flipping times. They’re noticeable in their repetition. (Eventually, I had a hell of a lot more fun clocking these repetitions than reading the actual book.)

Or passages like this: “…feeling a strange disquiet as well as a familiar sexual stirring in his groin, with his cock slowly rising, scenting a possible conquest. He was used to getting rock hard when he saw something he liked but the speedy progression of his current hard-on surprised him.” Well, is it slow or speedy? Or “Jomo chuckled loudly, a deep belly laugh”…a chuckle, by definition, can be neither loud nor a deep belly laugh. It’s not being these things that makes it a chuckle. I highlighted a ton of such passages. For example, at one point we’re told Cade is lying supine while tied into a chair.

It also often used bigger words than necessary, but not quite in the right context—like the time Quinn kisses Cade on the ‘proboscis.’ A proboscis is “the nose of a mammal, especially when it is long and mobile, such as the trunk of an elephant or the snout of a tapir.” It has been used to describe, in a derogatory way, a person with a large nose, true. But Cade wasn’t suggested to have a particularly big one. So proboscis, while meaning a nose, doesn’t really describe Cade’s nose. So why bother with the $10 word. (And it’s worth noting that I generally love big words in my lit, but it has to be appropriately used.

The exposition is clumsy too. There are a number of lengthy and…well, again, clumsy conversation in which a ton of questions were asked and answered. (This usually happens in bed, before and/or after sex was supposed to have occurred.)

The editing is a disaster. Not only because of the not quite right words, but wrong words, missing words, and mishaps; for example, swimming in the pool when someone’s gone to the pond. A pond, by the way, that must be huge if it requires a buoy. (Where’s the line between a pond and lake?) Plus, good lord, surely an editor would have told the author to cut at least a third of the book.

I found the internal dialogue annoying. Annoying in and of itself, but also because it was italicised in the same manner as Quinn’s inner dialogues with Talisen, making them confuseable. The whole thing was also painfully predictable, with a wooden cardboard cut out villain, prone to cliché monologues.

So in the end, I’m throwing this on the short list of worst books I’ve read this year. Fail!

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