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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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Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

16 Comments

  1. cleo
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 13:55:03

    “I felt that they acted like romance novel heroes instead of real people”

    I haven’t read this book, but I recognize the syndrome. I’ve been eying this one – the authors are a bit hit or miss for me, but their hits really work for me. Thanks for the review.

  2. Sirius
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 21:56:08

    @cleo: Yeah I had seen this syndrome in some other books too. This one definitely did not have the worst case IMO, but the initial set up did bother me enough.

  3. Liz
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:34:36

    Nice review, Sirius! I’ve been eyeing this one too, but your mention of their other books being full of “antagonistic chemistry” (such a good description!) made me perk up. It’s one of my most favorite tropes too for all types of romance. Do you have any recommendations of their other books with enemies to lovers storylines?

  4. cs
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 03:13:56

    I rarely like anything these authors write together, but I really like a lot of Alexa Snow’s solo work. I love the best friend trope but not that “we’re so attracted let’s ignore it” one. It isn’t cute or appealing. I’ll put this on my ‘maybe’ read.

    Thanks for the review!

  5. cleo
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 06:12:41

    @Liz: Rock and a Hard Place, Truthful Change, and Square Peg all are rivals/enemies to lovers. At least two of them were reviewed on DA.

  6. Sirius
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 11:37:38

    Liz what Cleo said. I really liked “Square peg” and “Rock in the hard place”. I do not remember “Truthful change” on the top of my head so obviously if I read it it did not end up being a memorable read for me. I will check their other work tonight to remind myself and let you know.

  7. Sirius
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 11:40:04

    Cs if you disliked all their collaborations my guess would be that this book may not be for you either. I actually have not read anything solo by Alexa Snow but I have read and liked couple of solo works by Jane Davitt.

  8. cleo
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 12:54:36

    @Sirius: Truthful Change is my least favorite of the three I mentioned, and on second thought, it only sort of fits the trope. One of the heroes is an undercover cop who has to sleep with the other hero (for reasons I don’t remember). Eventually, the truth comes out (cue antagonistic chemistry) and they end up working together to take down the bad guys. IIRC. There is infidelity in this – the cop is in a relationship when he goes undercover.

  9. Liz
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 16:11:50

    Thanks for the recs, Cleo and Sirius. When I looked at all the books they’d written together “Square Pegs” and “A Rock and a Hard Place” were the ones that appealed to me most, so I’m glad you both like those. Now I have some books to buy with my ebook settlement credit. :)

  10. cs
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 17:15:34

    @sirius: Jane Davitt is the problem for me, I don’t like her stuff – but I like the the best friend trope so as I said it goes in the ‘maybe’ pile for me. I like Alexa Snow’s work especially her older work. I wish she’d write more on her own – but they obviously enjoy working together.

  11. Sirius
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 22:32:51

    @cs: Jane Davitt is certainly not a problem for me, but I should try Alexa Snow’s works too. I guess I am afraid that the same thing will happen to me as when I tried Bonnie Dee’s and Summer Devon’s solo works – I adore most of the books they wrote together, but was not too impressed with either of their solo endeavors. Although I was not disappointed with Jane Davitt’s books, so I guess I should do it.

  12. Sirius
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 22:33:53

    @Liz: I hope you like those Liz. Do you want some other “from friends to enemies” recommendations or you were asking specifically about those writers?

  13. Sirius
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 22:34:46

    @cleo: Aha. I am sure I have not read this one now when you described the plot. Not sure why, will look at it closely :).

  14. Liz
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 22:44:33

    Thanks, Sirius and I’ll definitely take some more enemies to lovers recommendations. :)

  15. Sirius
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 10:28:24

    @Liz: Sure – just a few off the top of my head. Not so recent – in case you have not read them, but these are amongst my very favorites. “Kei’s gift” by Ann Sommerville, “The only gold” by Tamara Allen. From more recent (although from what I understand it used to be free online before it was edited and published) – have you read “After midnight” by Santino Hassell? I reviewed on DA “Battle of Wills” by Sasha Miller – I had some issues, but I certainly liked the antagonistic chemistry there. Lots of books by Megan Derr have antagonistic chemistry between the guys. I can think of more :).

  16. Liz
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 03:26:27

    @Sirius, I’m relatively new to m/m, so I haven’t even made a dent in the must read m/m romances list or read much written prior to 2012, except for the two series I’ve read (Cut & Run and Adrien English). :) Thanks for the recommendations! I actually own one of the — “The Only Gold” — and I’ve heard of “After Midnight” but not the other two. I will go check them out and if you think of any others, please let me know!

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