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Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW:  Killing time by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Killing time by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

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Max and Kaelan, best friends and business partners for five years, are powerful casters with a tendency to get themselves into and out of all kinds of trouble. Pretty much the only thing they’ve been able to avoid is getting romantically involved – until now. Their sexual attraction hits them like a runaway fireball and they can’t keep their hands off each other.

While their sexual attraction burns out of control, they’ve attracted the attention of a dark caster named Jannes who’s planning a spell so potent that it could end the world. To keep them off balance, he’s targeting Max and Kaelan through those they love, and there’s no one they love more than each other.

With friends and family to protect and their only allies a group of casters who find it easier to fight than cooperate, the odds are stacked against them. So can Max and Kaelan keep it together and stop Jannes before he ends the world, or is the best they can do just killing time?

Dear Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow,

I enjoy your writing a lot. I think your books are well written, but I will not deny that part of the attraction for me is that every single story that I have read by both of you has the antagonistic chemistry between the leads. I am not saying that you keep writing the same story over and over, quite the contrary, I thought that in every book you manage to keep the antagonism and change “from enemies (or kind of sort of enemies) to lovers” believable and different.

Having said that, even such a goner for this trope as I am, I was eager to see if you could do a different type of chemistry and this book certainly is different. As the blurb tells us, what we have here are friends and partners who may be attracted to each other, but who fight this attraction till they cannot fight it anymore. Unfortunately, the way it was done kind of irritated me almost from the beginning.

Max and Kaelan meet in the prologue of the book – when Kaelan saves Max from a tough spot during a dark magic casting which he accidentally (or so he thinks) gets to witness. So far so good – I was looking forward to see where the urban fantasy setting would take me, because I love when a story deals with magic, any kind of magic.

In the first chapter, however, we learn that five years had passed and during that time Max and Kaelan have become best friends and partners in their magical business. They are trying to help people in many different magical ways, such as saving them from their own stupidity if they can (like a young idiot who summons a demon to bring her fiancé back to her). Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they are not, but they certainly try hard. Max is very good with shields and Kaelan is good with creating portals. They try to learn from each other, they know each other strengths and weaknesses; sometimes one walks in on the other having sex with the occasional guy here and there. In other words they are really close. They are so close that if Kaelan has nightmares, he has no problems with sleeping in the same bed as Max and having Max comfort him, and Max is fine with this too.

If one asks me what is wrong with this picture, with two friends being so close, I would say normally nothing. The only problem I had is that these guys are really really attracted to each other in a romantic way. I was not quite sure when they realized that they were attracted to each other as more than friends, but it certainly happened some time during the five years, somewhere between the prologue and Chapter One. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when it happened. Instead the source for tension is that both of them are trying to squash the attraction and not to act on it. Why? Apparently it will make them more vulnerable/uncomfortable/ and it will stop them from being friends.

And I keep thinking no. It feels like an artificial construct created by the authors in order to make the guys put their romantic attraction on hold till the story really takes off. I want to be very clear – I am not saying that I would love to see them being attracted and act on it the first time they met (or second, or third, really). I understand that the writers tried to do something better than Insta!Love, but in this specific set-up it did not work for me. I felt that they acted like romance novel heroes instead of real people, because apparently as the events of our story unfold, while they still think a little about weird obstacles which they create in their minds in order not to act on their attraction, they surely do act on their attraction and time- wise in the story it happens pretty fast. The story doesn’t contain gratuitous sex scenes, I thought whatever was there moved the story and their relationship forward, but I was rolling my eyes and thinking, why are you so convinced that you cannot be friends and partners if you also want to have sex with each other and maybe have a relationship too?

But I digress – I’m spending a lot of time explaining what irritated me and why I lowered the grade as much as I did, but in spite of these criticisms I really enjoyed Kaelan and Max as a couple and the urban fantasy plot of the story. I thought that when they allowed themselves to be together, they had great chemistry. I thought that because they became such good friends, their romantic attachment actually had more chance to stand the test of time, not less. I even thought that there was some character development taking place for both of them.

I thought the Big Bad Evil whom Kaelan and Max found themselves against was scary, and his motivations made sense to me. He was evil through and through, but he did not feel like a caricature, maybe because of his origins. I thought that the reason for his actions had a nice twist (not too big, but I did not see it) and I enjoyed how it was done. The magic system and how it worked in the world the writers created was very well explained, even if sometimes it was a bit overwritten (but it was not a huge problem for me – I enjoy different set ups for magic to work in different worlds). The only things which for me were too much explanation- wise were the excerpts from different imaginary magical literature which were put in front of every chapter. Sometimes they illuminated something important in the chapter in a nice way, but sometimes I was annoyed because the excerpt was trying to explain a magical definition, or spell, which was happening in the chapter already. I felt that it was too much “tell” sometimes, especially if the chapter went on to show me how the thing worked. I do sympathize with the need to explain the complicated magical stuff, but as I said sometimes it was a bit much even for me.
I also thought that at times the book was really funny.

“The creature must have thought they were dentists, because it opened wide, and the resulting blast of fetid breath came close to making Kaelan puke his guts out right there.
“I never knew halitosis was a lethal weapon,” Max said. “God, that is rank. And if you like the gel that much, buy some of your own.”
“Where is the fun in that?”
“We’re discussing this later,” Max said.
“If we have a later.”
The sea monster – Kaelan was referring to it as Nessie in his head since Max had labeled it female – decided now was a good time to try to eat them again. The shield had it back but compressed under the attack, bringing Max down to his knees next to Kaelan.”

Grade: B-

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REVIEW: Accidentally in Love by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Accidentally in Love by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

Dear Ms. Davitt and Ms. Snow,

Joan/SarahF has favorably reviewed some of your previous books here at DA, but I had somehow overlooked them. When I came across the excerpt for Accidentally in Love, though, I was hooked. I’m a fan of opposites-attract romances, the writing in the excerpt was strong, and I was curious to see how the characters would develop: Could you make Cal into a believable romantic hero? And was Tom a fake ugly duckling or a real one? You delivered the substantive goods in both cases, and in ways that sometimes surprised me.

Accidentally in Love by Jane DavittCalvin Reece is a successful professional photographer who travels frequently for work and shares a house which functions more as a landing pad than a home. Cal is handsome, decent, and emotionally shallow. He has no trouble hooking up for passing one-night stands and that’s pretty much all he wants in his relationships. Tom Holden, on the other hand, is shy, introverted, and almost pathologically afraid of making emotional connections with people. He has a successful website design and consulting business, he lives in a house he acquired from his parents, and he avoids social occasions as much as possible. Tom and Cal meet at a dinner party thrown by common friends. Cal notices Tom because he dresses so badly (coordinating shades of mustard!) and Tom notices Cal because he’s handsome, charismatic, and self-assured. Cal barely notices Tom at the party and hooks up with a more appropriately gorgeous and outgoing man, so Tom mentally writes him off. But Cal needs a new place to stay and Tom needs a new roommate, so they reluctantly join forces and get to know each other. As the story progresses, Cal and Tom slowly become friends and then more than friends, and in the process, they both mature and confront their own weaknesses and insecurities.

In a book like this one, where nothing much happens in terms of plot, success is going to hinge almost entirely on the individual characters and the development of the relationship, and you definitely deliver on those two fronts. Cal moves in and is cheerfully oblivious, Tom is uptight and nervous about having him around. A series of events lead each to learn more about the other, and they move from awkward acquaintances to friends to two people who know each other well and are attracted. When they finally recognize and articulate their feelings for each other, the scenes are well done and rewarding for the reader, because by that point I felt that I knew a lot about who Cal and Tom were and why they were falling in love.

At first it seems unlikely that Cal and Tom will even be able to communicate, much less become friends:

“You’d tell me if I was doing something that bugged you, right?” Cal asked. Tom seemed so diffident at times, and Cal could imagine him being taken advantage of. He knew he could be a little overwhelming at times, and he didn’t want Tom to feel pressured into agreement on anything, no matter how trivial.

Tom smiled as if he could tell what Cal was thinking. “I’d tell you. I’d probably be way too blunt about it, just to warn you. But I’d tell you.”

“Good to know.” Cal privately thought that Tom’s confidence wasn’t high enough for him to be truly blunt. “Though you’re showing a lot of restraint in not telling me that I need a shower.”

“That comes under the heading of ‘personal,’” Tom said. “I don’t go there. Your business. If I don’t like the way you smell, I’ll leave the room.” He gave Cal a sidelong glance. “I’d appreciate it if you did the same for me. Stay out of my personal life, I mean. I don’t need advice, and I’m not a charity case.”

Cal let that sink in. “Okay, right. Is that… Do you get a lot of that?”

Cal progresses from being a carefree guy who can easily get what he wants, i.e., a quick, no-strings hookup, to someone who realizes he wants Tom, and since the only way he can have Tom is to be serious about him, he thinks carefully about whether he can do that. When he decides that he can and he wants to, we believe him. Tom is not only a virgin, he hasn’t had intimate relationships with anyone. He’s an only child, he had few friends growing up, and his parents don’t understand him or try to (and it’s only partly because he’s gay).  The scene in which Tom and Cal have brunch with Tom’s parents will ring painfully true to anyone who has experienced a dysfunctional family relationship.

Tom’s birthday, and Cal’s desire to give him a proper birthday celebration, provide the catalyst for them to confess their feelings to each other and act on them. It’s a long stretch of pages, and by the time I got there, I was as ready as they were to see them get together. You portray this part of the story well, without changing either man’s basic personality or character. Tom is still insecure and wary of intimacy, and Cal is still the decent guy that tries to ensure that his partner is enjoying himself.

“Stop.” Tom held up a hand, then slowly reached out and took hold of Cal’s hand, which was so reassuring Cal thought he might cry. “I don’t want you not to touch me. I really, really want you to touch me. I just—this is too fast. You can’t tell me that you want me one minute and suck me off the next. I don’t work that way.”

Cal nodded. He would have agreed to anything in that moment. “I know. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Stop that too.” Tom gave him a severe look. “No more apologizing.”

“Okay.” Cal bit his lip.

“Stop doing that too,” Tom said with a groan.

“What? Whatever it is, I will. I mean I won’t—” Cal ran out of words and gave Tom a helpless look.

“Stop looking so goddamned cute,” Tom said. “I can barely cope with you being all kinds of hot, but if you throw in adorably appealing too, I’m toast.”

“I’m going to kiss you,” Cal warned him after working that through and deciding he’d just been handed a green light. “On the mouth, hands behaving themselves, no tongue.”

“Do those rules apply to me too?” Tom said, and okay, that was blatant flirting and deserved to be rewarded in every way Tom would allow.

As the excerpt suggests, these two talk about their feelings quite a bit once they admit their attraction. But it worked for me in the context of the characterizations. Tom is a reclusive virgin and Cal has never thought about really being in love, so even the most inarticulate guys are going to have to figure some stuff out.

More problematic, however, was where you were able to take the story once they become a couple. They already live together. The scene with Tom’s parents effectively writes them out of the picture. So the only impediment to their relationship is whether Tom will believe that Cal can change and settle into a loving, monogamous relationship. There is an intense conflict on this point toward the end of the book, which is resolved fairly quickly. Overall, the last third of the book is a bit of a letdown after the strength of the first two-thirds, which is understandable but unfortunate.

One other minor complaint: while much of the writing is very good, the repetition of the main characters’ names became overwhelming after a while. Cal, Tom, Cal, Tom, Tom, Cal, and so on. I realize it’s difficult to use pronouns when you are writing m/m, but there are various ways around it and I wish you had tried out more of them.

Despite these drawbacks, I really enjoyed reading this. Both characters came alive for me on the page, standing out from the stock m/m protagonists we see all too often. I look forward to reading more of your work. Grade: B

~Sunita

Book Link | Kindle | Loose Id

So the deal with Loose Id is that you can only buy these in the retailer stores a month or two after their release. The digital ISBN is 978-1611184068