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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,
-Sarah

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

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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.

15 Comments

  1. Melissa
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 16:04:01

    I first heard “family” used in this coded way a few years ago. I’ve been told this usage is derived from the popularity of the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge as a gay anthem, but I have wondered if I was being teased about the etymology…

    ReplyReply

  2. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 16:43:15

    @Melissa: I get the vague feeling that it’s an older term than 1979. I’ve been assured by people who know that it’s an entirely legitimate term. I’d just never heard it before. :)

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  3. Jane
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 17:29:41

    @Sarah Frantz That cover is incredible. INCREDIBLE.

    ReplyReply

  4. Merrian
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 17:45:37

    I read this and feel pretty much as you do.

    ReplyReply

  5. LG
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 18:26:29

    Is any part of the book from the 3-year-old boy’s perspective? Because that’s what the cover (and title) says to me.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jayne
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 18:27:47

    @Jane: But shouldn’t it be “Daddy, Daddy & Us” instead?

    ReplyReply

  7. Dani
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 18:55:52

    That’s too bad, I really like Sean a lot. I’ve been piling up TBRs and two of them are his. And yeah, that cover is … wrong – on so many levels. Erf.

    About the “family: thing. It might be a term that’s specifically in the west? I used it all through the 90s and so did my friends. Considering I spent every night in gay bars, I can say that, yeah, it was very widely used. It was code. You would ask “Are you family?” And depending on their answer you could fob off as being a legit question. “Oh, I just thought you might be related…” Different times those.

    Wow, it just reminds me so much of when my friends would hold hands surreptitiously at parties and how sometimes I would sit between them so they could do that behind my back and no one would see.

    Nostalgia, you haz founded meh.

    Dang. Now I might have to read that book just for that line. Heh.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jane
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 19:02:11

    @Jayne Dunno, but can you imagine what the Harlequin version would be? Two beefy guys cradling a scary looking toddler? Might be worse.

    ReplyReply

  9. willaful
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 19:34:14

    I so agree about the cover. I was really wigged out when I saw it at AR and thought what, they’re selling children’s books now?

    ReplyReply

  10. jayhjay
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 22:11:18

    Yes, kids in stories are bad enough to me, but a cover that focuses on the children so much is just squicky. Too close a connection between the kids and the sex for me.

    ReplyReply

  11. Penny Wilder
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 22:12:42

    @Sarah Frantz: The cover is unbelievable!

    @Jane: HQ cover- HA! The mental picture was priceless.

    ReplyReply

  12. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 09:00:33

    @LG: No, none of it. He’s really just a plot moppet, a perfectly-behaved plot moppet at that. The title and cover make NO sense.

    @Jane: OMG, that image made my morning! :) Thank you. Really, the initial plot totally is a HQN baby book. Just needed some follow-through.

    ReplyReply

  13. De
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 15:49:54

    Last weekend I was reading some Kim Dare, and then switched over to, I think, the first Hammer book. The difference between the two was amazing.

    Kim Dare can make more of an emotional connection in 4 pages of kinky sex than Sean Michael can in a full length book. By the time I got to the end of that Hammer book, I didn’t care any more about those guys than I did one page one. I just never connected.

    It’s been a couple of years or more since I’d read a Sean Michael story, but my memory of them is that the stories were ok and the editing was fine, but I just didn’t care. There was no emotional connection. And honestly, I’ve avoided Torquere’s offerings for about as long because I was reacting to most of their books that way.

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  14. anon
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:16:24

    Family: Where I come from we use the term because many of us were rejected by blood relatives, or don’t connect well with them, and we’ve formed our own circle of family.

    ReplyReply

  15. anon
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:28:09

    From Urban Dictionary…Family…
    “Gay. Often used to describe/point out another homosexual person without being obvious.
    Justin, check out that hot guy over there! He must be family.”

    ReplyReply

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