Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Sarah Frantz

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

Posts by Sarah Frantz:

Sarah’s Best of 2011 List

Sarah’s Best of 2011 List

The order here is me going through my reviews in reverse chronological order and listing my A- and B+ reviews (no A reviews — very sad). It was a pleasant surprise, really: I didn’t think I’d read that many good books in 2011. Shows you how memory can be a fickle thing. To keep it to ten, though, I had to cut out 4 books. Especially since I added two B reviews because they’ve stuck in my head more than some of the B+ reviews (that memory thing again).

First, some time travel: Rachel Haimowitz, Master Class and SUBlime. Haven’t reviewed them yet, but I will! Next on my list!
K.A. Mitchell, Bad Boyfriend. Grade: A-
Damon Suede, Hot Head. Grade: B+
A.L. Turner, I Just Play One on TV. Grade: A-
S.A. Reid, Something Different. Grade: B+
Heidi Cullinan, Dance With Me. Grade: B+
L.A. Witt, Out of Focus. Grade: B but how much it’s stuck with me would give it a higher grade.
J.L. Merrow, Camwolf. Grade: A-
Kit Zheng, Deconstruction. Grade: A- (Ooh, I should reread this…)
Anah Crow and Dianne Fox, One Real Thing. Grade: B for Brilliant. I recommended this one just yesterday on Twitter.

REVIEW: Daddy, Daddy, and Me by Sean Michael

REVIEW: Daddy, Daddy, and Me by Sean Michael

Dear Sean.

I like your voice. I really do. After all, it’s why I keep trying your books. I’ve even enjoyed some of your Hammer Club series (Kinky Klub of Kinkiness, ahoy! in which Sarah learns about sexual sounding. O.O ). I just wish you believed in plot a little more strongly. I think I’ve just got to stop reading your books, because they never give me what I need and I just get frustrated. It’s not even good “Plot What Plot?” I’m all for hot sex without plot (although it’s better WITH plot) but even the sex isn’t that important, at least to this story.

This story is about Donny, fresh out of college with an Early Childhood Ed degree who can’t get a job because he’s both male and gay. The world sucks in that this is probably absolutely true to life. Anyway, he goes to an interview to be an in-home nanny for Jeff. It’s trial by fire because Jeff is not doing so well and Donny walks in on a disaster-zone. Jeff inherited a three year old boy and a three month old girl. They’re his biological children, but he never expected to have them full-time. Their mother, his very close platonic female friend, to whom Jeff donated his sperm and not much else, died in a house fire. Jeff accedes to Beth’s wishes and commits to taking his kids, but he’s completely out of his depth and with his hours as a chef at a high-end restaurant, he desperately needs a nanny. Jeff and Donny connect over being gay (they call it “family,” a term I hadn’t heard before) and Donny moves in immediately.

And then everything’s perfect. They’re attracted, they make out, they share blowjobs, they become lovers, the kids are fabulously perfect, Jeff’s strangely unbalanced ex-boyfriend, who left when the kids arrived, shows up and tries to destroy everything, Jeff almost lets him by becoming depressed (but no less committed to Donny and the kids) but then he snaps out of it when his sister tells him to and they all live happily ever after. Easy-peasy.

There’s NO tension of any kind until the last quarter when the ex shows up, and then that tension’s completely manufactured and fake feeling because the ex is quite so unhinged. There’s no angst about whether Jeff should be banging his children’s nanny. There’s no angst about anything because these are two perfectly ordinary men who meet, fall in love, join households, and are happy. Their kids are well-adjusted, their relationship is healthy. There’s no barrier to their relationship, which is great in real life (falling in love is almost always an amazing feeling), but it’s not so great for a book.

A little tip: character *conflict* + character *conflict* + relationship *conflict* + happy resolution to all the conflicts = satisfying book. For a romance to be really great, each character has to have their own emotional arc that intersects with a relationship arc. They have to learn something about themselves. They have to become better people because they’re together. They have to get over themselves to make the relationship a priority. And the relationship has to overcome something as well. For a romance to be even worth reading (rather than really great), either one of the characters or the relationship has to have some sort of conflict to overcome. There’s NO conflict in this book until the manufactured foaming-at-the-mouth ex who comes out of nowhere, inflicts random destruction, and leaves. And he’s not even captured by the police and no one seems to care.

Random inconsistencies: At one point, Jeff thinks that he’s been best friends with Beth since kindergarten,but  at another, Beth’s parents says something about them meeting when they were sixteen. That’s…quite a difference there. At one point Jeff complains about not having health insurance, but then makes no demur about being taken to the emergency room in an ambulance for a panic attack (and then there’s no discussion of how to pay for it). I don’t believe that Jeff makes the kind of money as a chef (without ANY advanced degree) that would build him such a beautiful house, but maybe I don’t understand how restaurant economics work.

All in all, fun dialogue and good characters can’t support for very long sloppy research, sloppy writing, sloppy editing, and no conflict at all. Despite the delightful characters, I think I’m done with your books. Even the stories that teach me something (see above re: Hammer Club series) don’t often have emotional conflict. I need to care about these characters, above and beyond them being delightful people.

Grade: C- (ie: reading it wasn’t a complete waste of my time because I *liked* Jeff and Donny, despite their saccharine sweetness)

Best regards,

P.S. That cover is fucking awful. That is all.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | ARe