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Z.A. Maxfield

REVIEW:  Drawn together by Z.A.Maxfield

REVIEW: Drawn together by Z.A.Maxfield

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Genre: LGBT Multicultural Erotic Contemporary

Rory might just be a simple southern boy from St. Antoine’s Parish Louisiana, but he knows what he wants. He’s been in love with the girl of his dreams, reclusive and mysterious artist Ran Yamane, since junior high school. And now he has the chance to meet her. He’s going to chuck everything and travel 1,500 miles to Anime Expo in Long Beach to tell her, and no one and nothing is going to stand in his way.
Ran Yamane is not a girl, but he gets that a lot. People come to him with teddy bears and chocolates and disappointment by the truckload. He’s trusted fans in the past and been tragically wrong. So when he meets Rory he’s understandably wary, but resigned. What he’s not prepared for is his magnetic attraction to the young man, Rory’s apparent willingness to overlook his gender, and the fact that their lives are both thrown into chaos when his number one fan (and psycho stalker) shows up to get revenge.

Review:

Dear Z.A.Maxfield,

I read this book of yours shortly after it was released in 2009 after almost losing faith that I would be able to find a m/m book which had some semblance of a story in it. When I started reading m/m year or so before, I first read three very good books and then a lot of very bad books. Your book helped a lot to convince me not to abandon m/m, but I have not reread it in years and wanted to see if the good memories I had would stand up to a reread. Well, they did and they did not.

As the blurb states, Rory and Yamane meet because Rory decides to temporarily forget everything else and go on a crazy adventure to meet the famous comic artist whose works he loves. He also thinks he has a crush on this woman.

“Why did you really come here?” Yamane asked. “I want the unvarnished truth.”
“To find someone I thought…” Rory remained silent for a minute. “Someone I thought I loved.”
“Give me your arm, please.” Yamane uncapped his marker.
“Why?” Rory did as he was told.
“Blind faith should be rewarded and outright stupidity should be eradicated. I haven’t decided which we have here, yet” He wrote something on the interior of Rory’s forearm”

Rory is due for a surprise – Yamane is not a woman, and Rory is due for a double surprise because he is attracted to Yamane. After a hilarious meeting and briefly getting to know each other, Rory is due for a triple surprise – a psycho stalker is after Yamane and they end up running across the country to get away from her.

First and foremost I think that if you want to increase your chances of enjoying this book, you need to keep in mind that it plays with a lot of things from yaoi/manga. I think the cover by P.L. Nunn puts you in the right mood. No, Yamane and Rory are not the exact representation of uke/seme because the writer made them more complicated characters with at least some real world characteristics, but there was *a lot* of uke and seme in each of them in my opinion. Rory may initially start out as a devoted, starry- eyed fan, but we see very clear that he is a “compulsive hero”, a “knight in shining armor” who would do anything to protect Yamane. Rory is also big and strong. Rory has been on rescue missions, does volunteering, helps kids in need, etc. I still loved him, his perfections notwithstanding. Rory is the one who is supposedly straight -but gets to discover his inner Gay For You in this story. It was not the worst variation of GFY (again, remember how often it happens in yaoi), at least Rory struggled for a few days, and he mentions that he had some repressed memories of having feelings for other men. For the purposes of this story I was able to swallow it.

Yamane often needs to be rescued during the story, he is much smaller than Rory, he wears his hair in a long braid (but gets upset when he is being compared to a woman), and he is half Japanese. And of course him being a manga/comic artist himself signifies an extra connection with yaoi storytelling. I liked ,though, that Yamane does not *always* need rescuing and when he is in real danger he is calm, cool, and collected, “but when he is imagining that something may scare him, he overreacts big time.” (This is a close paraphrase I believe, but it could be a quote which I could not find so I put quotes just in case). I appreciated the author tried to make Yamane more than your typical uke, but as I said before, there was enough of uke in him for me to keep saying to myself – remember this is heavily yaoi influenced and try not to roll eyes too often.

I partially succeeded – I found their developing relationship to be a nice fairy tale and was able to suspend disbelief and buy it. However on this reread I could not stop wanting to smack something with this book repeatedly when I was reading the suspense parts of the story. The men are running from a crazy stalker of Yamane (of course she is a woman) who hurt him in the past, and the actions of this stalker just made very little sense to me. Amelia is crazy; there is no other word for her. When I read the book for the first time I was not bothered by it because at that point I had not read so many other m/m books with over the top female villains, so I had not yet developed strong allergy to them. I kept saying magic word “yaoi” when I was doing a reread and I was happy that Amelia’s portrayal did not make me angry. There were also normal women in the story; no matter how small their parts were, so I don’t have a reason to complain that Amelia could be viewed as the representation of all women in the story.

What really made no sense to me was Amelia’s diabolical cleverness in finding Rory and Yamane several times, because, well, it just was not well explained. I was also trying to understand why her minions paid any attention to her considering how over the top she behaved in the first place.

As an aside – the detective in the story would give our heroes advice to run, which made me want to shake this detective repeatedly and ask him whether he had any other reasons to suggest that they should run besides author needing that in order for the plot to play out. I realize that I am not being very consistent, but there is nothing I can do with it – in some instances I could suspend my disbelief and in some instances absolutely not. The final showdown should be put in the “Absolutely not” column.

Grade: C-

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REVIEW: Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield

REVIEW: Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield

Dear Ms. Maxfield:

This was a fascinating novel. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but I couldn’t put it down and enjoyed reading it.

Fitz is a musical prodigy — a pianist since he was six. But he’s been utterly sheltered his whole life. His mother marries Husband #8 and goes to England for a year, agreeing to let Fitz go to a private arts school before college. There he meets Garrett. From the excerpt, I expected Garrett to be the love interest, but turns out that on their first date, he peer pressures Fitz into take Ecstasy, attempts to date rape him in the club bathroom, and then leaves Fitz in a dumpster, where he is found by a pair of World War Two-era, European, gay ghosts. After going home with them, watching them have sex, and stealing a cassole pot when the real owners of the house come home, Fitz has to call Ari, his divorced step-brother, to come rescue him.

Confused yet?

It wasn’t as confusing when I was reading it. You have a gift for writing that makes me just dive into and float with the current of the narrative. It works in the story itself and makes me want to keep reading.

Fitz is the center of the story. He’s lonely, shy, and trying to figure out who he is and who he wants to be. He’s got his music but he doesn’t believe he has anything else. He’s experimenting with Goth while his mother’s away, and, ironically, also experimenting with trying to be normal. He doesn’t quite manage to pull off either. He’s nineteen and awkward and starved for attention, starved even for touch, and trying to find someone who values him.

Garrett is an asshole. He out for what he can get and he sees Fitz as an easy mark. He’s not a point of view character and it says more about Fitz than about Garrett when Fitz makes excuses for him.

Ari…was strange. When I was reading, I had no idea Ari was going to exist, so when Fitz called him to save him, I thought he was much older and had no idea he was the second hero. I had to flip to the end to figure out who Fitz was going to end up with before I could continue reading. Ari is at least 25, but probably 27 or so, to Fitz’s 19, which was slightly disturbing. They’d been step-brothers for a few months and, like in Clueless (“You divorce wives, not children”), they’d stayed in touch enough that Fitz’s mother asked Ari to watch out for Fitz while she was in Europe.

Fitz and Ari’s prior relationship was confusing. I couldn’t figure it out completely because the timing didn’t seem to work out. Ari had a thing for Fitz, but hadn’t really talked with him since Fitz was in eighth grade, but had been to all his concerts and performances, but Fitz didn’t know that. Fitz has a bad case of hero-worship for Ari because Ari is perfect and wonderful and older and everything he touches turns to gold (but when did they see each other?). They have to find their way to each other and watching them do it — haltingly, through the interference of Garrett and the ghosts — IS very sweet.

The ghosts are…fascinating. It was very different for me to tell the difference between them. I eventually figured it out, but they’re so much a unit, a couple, that separating their personalities when they had no emotional arc, no relationship tension, no narrative reason for being except that ghosts are cool and they were there to help Fitz figure life out, there was little reason to separate them. It’s wonderful to see a happy couple in a romance, together for ever — literally — and their story is touching. But the narrative itself has to get pretty ridiculous (drug money, kidnapping, and extortion) in order to give Serge and Julian a point for being IN the story and that was almost a shame. It would have been nice to see Fitz and Ari figure things out without needing the threat of death to get there.

So, things were confusing in the beginning and unnecessary at the end. But watching Fitz figure out what he needs and watching Ari figure out how much he wants Fitz is fun. And watching both of them fall in love because they’re perfect for each other but still be able to contemplate sex and relationships with other men was realistic and much appreciated (be warned, readers: there’s almost more sex between Fitz and Garrett than there is between Fitz and Ari. Almost).

But I love your voice and I always have. You’re able to make the characters real and I appreciate that more than anything else. In this excerpt Fitz is trying to get Ari to pay attention to him. He goes to the restaurant where Ari is celebrating a case win with two lawyer colleagues, one gay, one straight (although, really, chosing “Alex” as the name for a minor character when “Ari” is one of your heroes seems a little…odd):

“Are you kidding?” They watched as Fitz shot his second drink. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and relaxed visibly in his chair. He raked his hair out of his eyes, and Ari could almost feel its texture, how soft it would be beneath his fingers. The waiter approached Fitz, and the little monster had the nerve to shoot him a radiant smile. The waiter soaked it up like sunshine, damn him, taking a minute to chat Fitz up before moving on. Fitz very visibly checked out the man‘s ass as he left.

“Shit, Ari.” Caleb aimed a frustrated kick to Ari‘s ankle. “What more do you need?”

“Stop it, Caleb,” said Alex.

“What is wrong with you, Alex? I don‘t need another conscience.”

“You do if you don‘t have one of your own.”

Fitz shot his third tequila. Ari wanted to kill him. At least he wouldn‘t be driving. As soon as he got Fitz alone, Ari was going to raid his wallet and rid him of whatever fake ID he was using. This is how you get yourself into trouble, Flitz.

“Oh fuck me, is he coming this way?”

Ari looked up just in time to see Fitz walking toward their table. Ari braced himself.

Fitz glanced Ari‘s way and did a double take. “Hey. I know you. Weren‘t you in that boy band a billion years ago? What was it…? Gonad?”

“N0mad,” Ari ground out. “It was N0mad.”

Fitz nodded. “Right. With a zero instead of an o.”

Caleb never took his eyes off Fitz. “How hilarious. I‘m afraid I won‘t be responsible if that gets back to the office, Ari.”

“Sorry, man.” Fitz shrugged. Dark brown eyes twinkled when they met Ari‘s and oh holy hell. Fitz was looking for trouble in the worst way. He said, “You weren‘t the cute one back then, but you grew up hot.”

Then Fitz looked straight at Ari while he leaned over to cup Caleb‘s cheek—right there in the middle of the restaurant—and kissed him, hard. Caleb responded with enthusiasm, deploying hands and a pretty inquisitive tongue. Ari could tell it had gone further than either of them intended when Fitz pulled back, flushed and loopy looking. His eyelids hung at a sexy half-mast, and he smiled like a debauched angel. It had only lasted a bare few seconds, but Fitz had every eye in the place on him.

Ari snorted. Caleb wouldn‘t have pushed Fitz away. No red-blooded gay man would push Fitz away. But he could have at least put up a token struggle. As it was, he sat there with a stupid expression on his face long after Fitz backed off and sauntered past their table.

“You fucking hound dog.” Alex watched Fitz go.

Caleb smirked. “Tell me you wouldn‘t hit that.”

“I would not hit that,” Alex said amiably.

I *love* that Fitz and Caleb both enjoy the kiss so much, even though Fitz is only doing it to piss off Ari. I love that while one person can be a better fit with someone, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find other people attractive. Overall, I enjoyed Ari and Fitz and, when I finally separated them, Serge and Julian. But the narrative need for the paranormal elements seemed slim and the prior relationship between Fitz and Ari seemed underdeveloped. I couldn’t put it down, admittedly, but in retrospect, the holes and confusion almost outweigh my enjoyment in the text.

Grade: B-

Best regards,
-Sarah

Although, $7.99 for 185 pages in only one format?! Really?! What are you thinking, Loose Id?

Book Link | Loose Id | Amazon (book is not yet for sale at Amazon)