by KZ Snow, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-618-0
Meet Charles Larkin. He is supposed to be having the time of his life with his boyfriend Kenneth at a lakeside cottage, but the cottage is rather shabby, let's just say, and Kenneth seems extra grumpy. Still, Charlie is finally out and enjoying life as a gay man and he is on very good terms with his ex-wife, so life isn't that bad as long as he silences any doubts he may be entertaining about his relationship with Kenneth. He will just try to be nice to Kenneth and... holy moly, is that a hot guy staying next door? Booker comes with a whole load of baggage, however, so the temperature around Cloud Lake is definitely got to heat up.
This is the first story from the author, written under the name KZ Snow, that I manage to read from start to finish. I couldn't finish her previous futuristic and fantasy works for one reason or the other, but I think I can get used to her contemporary "voice". The first thing that struck me while reading this story is how well Ms Snow manages to describe the setting. Be it sight, sound, or even smell, the author's way with words has me thinking that I could very well be there by Cloud Lake, taking in the view myself.
Bastards And Pretty Boys is a pretty well-suited title for this story, because for a while I find myself wondering who the bastards are. Let me take this opportunity to warn readers who may want to hold this story by traditional romance genre standards that there is a sticky issue about fidelity here that may be off-putting to some readers. I personally have no problems with this in this particular story, but I can't vouch for your reaction to the story, heh.
Charlie has a very nice first person "voice" - he comes off like a real person instead of some sensitive new age boi cliché typical of gay romances. Booker remains a question mark in some ways but this is because the story is narrated from Charlie's first person point of view. Nonetheless, this is a very engaging story with interesting characters, good pacing, and nice build-up.
My only reservation here, and it's a pretty big one, is how the author introduces plenty of elements in the plot that allow Charlie to not only solve Booker's problems but to also remove Kenneth from the equation. I feel a little sorry for poor Kenneth here as a result because he receives the shaft (in a non-sexual way, of course) from Ms Snow once he has outlived his usefulness to Charlie. Perhaps if this story has concentrated solely on the soap opera aspects of the relationships without the minor suspense plot that goes along with them, Bastards And Pretty Boys would have been a clear-cut winner. As it is, I like this story and I think I'd look out for the author's contemporary stories in the future.
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