Tag Archives: cops

Review of Partners, by T. L. Stowe

PartnersI picked up a copy of Partners, by T. L. Stowe from the Amazon free list. At the time of posting it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
When two gay policemen, both desiring each other, finally discover the other is also gay, sparks fly, long time erotic desires are fulfilled, and questions of unrequited love begin to hang in the air. Will a heart be broken or will lust blossom into mutual love?

I’m afraid this review is all about the numbers. I didn’t plan it that way, but it turned out that way.

I picked this book up because I recently wrote a blog post about how much it annoys me when authors put tags in book titles on Amazon. I chose this book as an illustration of this, because it went one step farther. On Amazon it’s titled as such: Gay Romance: Partners: Gay Romance by T. L. Stowe (Author), Gay Fiction (Foreword). Seriously, did they think I’d miss that this is a book about gay men? And if I did, did they think I’d miss the first “Gay Romance” or the second? Better throw it in as an author too. And just in case I did somehow miss it, they use the word gay a further 13 times in the two-paragraph book description. The whole blurb is only 134 words long, so a full 10% of it is the word gay! I love m/m, but surely I’m not alone in thinking that’s overkill. Just how stupid do the authors think their readers are? I was astounded.

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But then, I thought it might be parody and as parody I thought it might be a little funny. It reminded me a bit of Daffyd Thomas (Little Britton) who, despite being questionably gay, repeatedly insists that he’s the only gay in village, while remaining oblivious to the fact that everyone around him is having copious amounts of gay sex (unlike him).

So, I decided I’d best just read the book. Well, it’s not a parody. It’s a serious novel, yes, about gay men. And other than having two points that irritated me, it could have been an ok read…except the numbers. The author’s tendency to overuse words, as noticed in the blurb, haunted me throughout the book. And because I read on a Kindle I can show you just how much. These words stood out, not just because they were used so often, but because they were also unnecessary. I get it; these men are cops and thus, a bit dude-bro like. But the use of direct addresses tacked onto the end of sentences was vastly overplayed.

They called each-other buddy 28 times. And it felt like soooo many more. As soon as they kissed the first time the baby & babes stared. They used those endearments 40 times. But it was man that really stood out. It was used 245 flipping times in this book! Granted, some of them are obviously used as a standard noun, as in ‘The man turned around.’ But the vast majority were used as a direct addresses, as in the last comment of the book, ‘Me too man. Me too.’ And they’re all just like that, with no comma. I would really like to know what a me too man is. You can probably imagine what the combined effect of all these extra words was. Could someone maybe lend me something to pry my eyes from the back of my skull?

With a decent editor to address the repeat words, typos (come on, there’s one in the first line of the book, the fourth freakin’ word), missing words and grammar mistakes (commas, people, commas) this might have been pretty good. It’s a very sweet, friends to lovers, first time gay, maybe GFY book…except the wife.

Now, this is a personal niggle but I have never figured out why so many MM books have to create some false competition between gay men and straight women. I didn’t like that the author went to such lengths to highlight how much better sex with Alex was for Rick than with his wife. Prefer one to the other, but don’t make it about debasing the woman just because you have a preference. Similarly, I disliked that she was made out to be such a witch because she was always suspecting Rick of sleeping with other women. Fair enough, he wasn’t and that would get old, but he was fucking a man, so it’s kind of difficult to claim the moral high ground here and this dichotomy was never addressed. Really, the wife was hardly even considered as anything other than an obstacle to them moving in together and this wasn’t fair to her. Such selfish callousness (ostensibly excused because she’s supposed to be a b/witch) made it hard for me to respect the men or their HEA.

Lastly, Alex is gay. Rick is attracted to women and men, but by the end of the book he’s calling himself gay instead of bi (his attraction to women doesn’t seem to have died or anything) and this felt a bit like…is there such a thing as gay washing, like white washing in race relations, where everything but the dominant categories are glossed over and downplayed? I don’t know. While everyone is obviously entitled to their own sense of self-identity, it didn’t feel quite right to me.

All in all, a sweet enough story but, objectively speaking, it’s a pretty rough draft.

Review of Nothing special, by A. E. Via

Nothing SpecialI bought a copy of A. E. Via‘s Nothing Special.

Description from Goodreads:

Cashel Godfrey is big, tattooed, and angry, so people typically keep their distance. Fresh out of the police academy no one is looking to partner with the six foot four beast. When Cashel scanned the orientation room, he wasn’t expecting sexy hazel eyes to be locked onto him. Eyes of the gorgeous Leonidis Day. 

Leonidis is charming, witty, hilariously sarcastic, and the only one that can make Cashel smile. He’s an out and badass detective, but when Cashel saves his life in a raid that turns deadly, he sees something in the big man that no one else does…something special. 

Warning: Two sexy narcotics detectives. One with a serious hot spot for big gun-toting men, the other that yields a cannon; so be ready for the obscene sexual bang when these two come together.

Review: **spoiler alert**

Brace yourself. I’m about to rant and it’s not going to be pretty. I’ll apologise up front, but I didn’t find a lot to like about this book.

If I had to choose one word for this book, it would be inelegant. It’s not that the story is a bad one. It isn’t. It’s one that’s been written about a thousand times. But as I happen to really like growly cops falling in love, I don’t have a real problem with that. What I have a problem with are inaccuracies and jerky developments.

For example, the second sentence of the book introduces one of the main characters thus:

Detective Cashel Godfrey groaned and rolled his eyes at the captain’s obvious statement of most of their goals.

It’s their first day on the job as rookie officers. They’re in polyester uniforms and presumably beat cops. Then, part way through chapter one, we’re told,

It’d only taken four years for the two of them to make detective and get promoted to the Tactical Narcotics Team…

Well, if it took four years to make detective, God(frey) couldn’t have been a detective on page one (four years earlier). Further, it’s suggested that this is an impressive feat of promotion, accomplished because they are such a dynamic duo, but everyone from their cohort seems to have been promoted to detective too. 

Or how about the fact that just a page or so after God’s introduction, Leo is said to have a skull and crossbones tattoo on his arm, but later in the book, it’s God who has the skull and crossbones on his bicep, while Leo has “a couple armbands on each arm.” Consistency is important. Obvious errors pull me right out of a story.

Another thing that disrupts my reading experience is when solutions to problems are discovered or remembered so abruptly as to cause a stutter in the reading. Example: how about smooth transitions like this one,

Day got up and started pacing back and forth in his spacious living room. He stopped and ran his hands through his blond hair thinking about where God could be…then an idea hit him like a ton of bricks. Our tracking apps.

Yeah, that felt natural. This kind of thing happens a lot. Here’s another one, 

“What the hell am I supposed to do? I can’t move him by myself.” Day’s eyes widened. Oh. His neighbors. Those were some big motherfuckers.

Light bulbs just never feel unobtrusive and I hate them. 

But it’s not just problem-solving that isn’t handled well in this book. There are passages like this one,

God said that they have kind of a strained relationship. He never went into specifics and I didn’t press the issue. But I’m sure it’s not that strained that his brother wouldn’t help him if he’s really sick. This will be a good way for his brother to show him that he loves him.”

Really this is fine, unless you consider that you don’t need to actually know that God has been disowned by his family to know he’s been disowned by his family, by virtue of the obviousness of that setup. (Not to mention what’s gonna happen, how it’s going to be resolved and what the HEA will be. All right there in that one statement.) I don’t like to see the scaffolding of a story quite so obviously.

And for the record, the resulting drama is just as gag-worthy and horribly sappy as you would imagine. In one fell swoop (finding tapes hidden in an attic of a house that the family moved into years after the hider died, so no idea how they got there) all is forgiven and God’s mom and brother are suddenly completely different characters. You might think almost ten years of hating and being horrible to someone might take a little more time to get over. But apparently it can be instantaneous and personality altering for all parties.

The thing is that there is so much about this book that is all almost good, but just so darned clumsy that it isn’t. Like when God becomes so sick he almost dies, but somehow never noticed it until he’s passing out? Sure it’s a perfect time for Day to nurse him back to health (and luckily prove he’s really loyal to God, as he was conveniently challenged to do just one scene earlier) but it’s also really abrupt, as is he miraculous healing as soon as it no longer benefits the plot.

In fact, everything is fast. Anyone out there ever worked in or with law enforcement? Ever tried to make an appointment with a lawyer to meet you at the jail to speak to an inmate (or the appointment to speak to the inmate at all…or well, just get any of them to answer the phone the first three times you call)? How about managed to get face time with a DA to discuss an appropriate deal, let alone get the decision made? Get the paperwork for any of that?

I guarantee that stuff doesn’t ALL happen in less than an hour in real life (or even believable fiction), but it apparently does in the Atlanta Drug Taskforce of this book, and with no effort too. I don’t know, maybe they have support staff to make the phone calls. Because, as an example, at one point God and Day were told some information, flirted a bit, God rush to the bathroom to take care of some personal business and then they ran to the truck and straight to the jail to see the informant, with a deal in hand and the lawyer already there. How? How, ’cause I want to work in that department.

It’s not that I want to read each and every phone call or anything (that would be boring), but I need to know appropriate time has passed for things to have happened and I need things to sound right, in some vague but appropriate way. And it just doesn’t here.

I’m no expert on any of this, but that just makes the whole thing worse. If you had to be an expert to notice the errors, it would be forgivable. But I’m not. I just have a little real world experience (and I never had to speak to a DA) but I still couldn’t hack it. People who don’t know police procedure or know any more of the lingo than can be gleaned from late-night TV, shouldn’t write it. Sorry, that sounds mean, but more research was required to make this sound more natural than two boys playing cops and robbers.

All the talk of catching the “kingpin,” with no further clarification of the hierarchal nature of the gang involved is a perfect example. Is it a mafia? Cosa Nostra? La Eme? Triad? Yakuza? Bratva? Or just some punk kid calling himself the big cheese in the area? Each would be different and just talking endlessly about the generic ‘kingpin’ suggests no further knowledge on the subject, no deeper thought to the shallow plotting than an avid Law & Order fan. It says, “I know the kingpin is the top dog, whatever that is, but I don’t really know what that means so I’m not going to delve into it any further.” And this is REALLY felt by the reader. And this is not the only example I could use. 

Far worse than God’s miraculous recovery abilities or the department’s apparently super efficient administrative staff is the sudden development of a romance between God and Day. They had been partners for four year (and sinse when do cops get to choose their partners, anyway?). One is straight; one is gay. There has been no evidence of unresolved sexual tension between them. Then, BAM, suddenly they’re all over eachother and in love. What!? There is no real impetus of change, nor is there a gradual growth of feelings. It came out of nowhere. I think the author tried to use the events of one particular night to accomplish this, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t enough. So, it too felt completely unsupported.

Then, just about the time you come to terms with the romance (and the fact that God’s a complete selfish asswipe as a lover), the author throws in a foursome! A foursome? Really? I don’t have any problem with four men. It’s kinda hot actually, but when the book is full of lines like this, “Day was his and only his…” and the characters pull the “Mine, Mine, Mine” cards over and over, it doesn’t work when they then turn around and start swapping. NOT. AT. ALL. And if it doesn’t fit the plot, it’s just there as titillation and is therefore a complete fail.

Plus, it required personality shifts on everyone’s part. God and Day both hated Johnson and Konowski up to that point, not to mention Konowski was really, really homophobic. So to have the four of them suddenly partner up just didn’t work. And much like God’s mom and brother, Konowski became a completely different character afterwards. Complete personality 180. Personally, I like consistency in my characters as much as in my plot. (Though, I did have a decent laugh at the fact that the author posted a note in the blurb of book 2 saying that there were no “polygamous sexual pairings” in the novel. I guess she’s already gotten the message that readers weren’t happy about it in this book.)

I also had a hard time with the names, God and Day. For one, God, really? Was there supposed to be some subtle religious message hidden here? If so, I missed it. But also, because they’re nouns, so my brain just apparently refused to read them as names. There were a lot of instances of having to reread a sentence because I misread it the first time, plus two short clipped names were easily confused.

There were also a lot of things that just plain annoyed me, even if not necessarily wrong. Like God carrying and actually using a Desert Eagle. I know the man is supposed to be huge, but still, a Desert Eagle? Really? Those things are 4+ pounds, empty! I would also have liked more description of the characters too. For example, at 58% it’s mentioned that Day trimmed his beard and I thought, what beard? No beard had been mentioned up to that point. Things like that.

Lastly, the book needed a bit more editing. There are a lot of misused words and typos. For example, the word ‘off’ was often missing its second F, to spell ‘of’ instead. And, you know, to catch the inconsistencies.

So, final thoughts: this was basically just barley ok. I know I probably made it sound even worse than that, since I didn’t care for it. But I’ll give it OK, even if not much more. I didn’t toss it on the DNF pile, but the best way to illustrate my opinion is by admitting that I bought Nothing Special and Embracing His Syn at the same time. I would never return a book after reading it, but halfway through Nothing Special, I returned Embracing His Syn. My book budget is too small to keep it when I wasn’t that impressed with the first one.

However, I want to end by saying that what irks me won’t necessarily annoy another reader. So, as always, I encourage people to pick the book up and make their own decision on it.