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REVIEW: Cheating Chance by James Buchanan

Cheating Chance by James Buchanan
Dear James.

You’ve just published the third (and last?) book, All or Nothing, in your Taking the Odds series and I thought this was a good chance for me to reread (and review) the first two as a refresher before I start Book 3.

Cheating Chance is the first book in the series. From the MLR Website:

Vice Detective, Brandon Carr, despite his tattoos and bad-boy cool, lives in the closet with no intention of ever coming out. Then he meets Nevada Gaming Agent, Nick O’Malley, at a Goth convention and his perfectly constructed world starts to crack. Nick’s passions for him, a restored hearse and rope bondage might drown Brandon’s will. With the odds stacked against them they try to move from simply sex to something more. Sparks fly as the pair probes a world of cheating, murder, drugs and money laundering. The investigation repeatedly derails their relationship, finally forcing Brandon to choose between staying in the closet and saving Nick’s life.

Brandon, a tattooed cop, meets Nicky, a goth computer geek, at a goth convention in San Diego. They have one amazing evening together and, when they leave, hook up over the internet. Brandon lives and works in Riverside, outside of LA, and Nicky is a Gaming Control Agent in Las Vegas. Their relationship is long-distance, very tentative, and extremely fraught. Brandon is very much still in the closet. It took him till he was in his early 20s to admit he was gay and by that point he was already a cop. He’s only ever wanted to be a cop and gay cops just don’t do so well, so he’s deeply closeted, to the point that when he and Nicky go away together, far from their hometowns, he’s still pissed that Nicky booked them only one room, even though there’s two beds in it. Nicky, OTOH, is very out and upset that Brandon’s pushing him back into the closet and extremely pissed and hurt when Brandon ignores him at parties to flirt with the cute girls as a cover.

I love how integral their work is to who these men are. Brandon is a cop, couldn’t imagine being anything other than a cop. It’s who he is on a fundamental level almost more than the fact that he’s gay. He’s a cop first, gay second. Nick is a Gaming Control Agent, and you’ve obviously done your research here. The details of what the Gaming Control Board is and does are expertly woven into the book. Sometimes the descriptions got a little too technical for me, but mostly that was when I was reading in a distracting environment. When I wasn’t being pulled five different ways, your descriptions were interesting, worthwhile, and very necessary to the plot and to understanding Nicky.

The suspense/mystery plot is very well-done. You have such a gift for making the actual minutiae of police work look utterly realistic and therefore hideously boring (to me) and yet still so obviously compelling (to the characters). I get why Brandon is a cop and totally get why I’m not. You can make the details of EPROMs for slot machines and computer code and witness interviews sound thrilling and I’ve read enough suspense/mysteries to know that that’s not easy, because usually they just bore me silly. And the ending is edge-of-your-seat reading that pits Brandon’s need to stay closeted with his feelings for Nicky.

And I love these characters. I love them enough that my one BIG problem with this book is that Brandon is such a fucking jerk about Nick outing him to a Vegas detective who was threatening Nick with obstruction charges during the murder investigation in the book if Nick didn’t come clean about their exact relationship. And I love them enough to be furious that Nick was sometimes a doormat when it comes to Brandon’s demands. But I also love how they FIGHT and then are pissy and then make-up but not all the way, then get over it. They’re act just like real people who aren’t perfect but are desperately trying to make something work.

Warnings for readers:
1. There’s a date rape scene that does a great job of dealing with the emotions and the fall-out of the rape and also with the ambiguities of how to deal with it.
2. There’s also incredibly hot bondage (not the same scene).
3. But, oh lord, the copy editing sucks. There’s mis-fired chapter breaks and a complete lack of any sort of recognizable rules when it comes to commas. Copy editors are your friends, MLR Press. Please remember that.

Grade: a nice solid B

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook (no nook version) | BN | Borders | Sony

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.

18 Comments

  1. Cara Wallace
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:27:34

    I have to confess that I find a lack of copy editing really, really distracting. Publishers do their authors, and themselves, a real disservice when they don’t invest in making sure books are visually clean and free of grammatical and punctuation errors. Despite that, this sounds like a really good story. Thanks for the review!

  2. RJones
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:28:37

    Question, is the date rape scene a something that happens, or is it between the two main characters?

  3. Joan/SarahF
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:35:14

    @RJones: It happens to Nick with another character, NOT Brandon. Definitely not Brandon. But it’s center-stage when it happens, not off-stage, if that’s an issue for you.

  4. Pamela L
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:38:31

    No, the date rape scene isn’t between the main characters. Trust me, there’s another character who’s a real jerk. As for the Vegas detective, I like him.

    I’ve read all three books in the series, and while I agree w/the copy editing here, I will say Taking the Odds series is one I plan to buy the print books to even though I have the e-books. Yeah, I like it that much.

    Joan/SarahF: If you’re the one who reviewed Personal Demons, then I blame you for getting me hooked on James Buchanan’s work. :-)

    And I see you already beat me to the question. Drat. :-(

  5. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Cheating Chance by James Buchanan | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    May 18, 2010 @ 15:10:17

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Frantz, Larissa Benoliel and Felicia Smith, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: REVIEW: Cheating Chance by James Buchanan http://bit.ly/9ElFhC [...]

  6. orannia
    May 18, 2010 @ 16:12:01

    I’ve had a number of people who’ve recommended this series to me, and it’s on my TBR list but…after that review…well, I know what I’ll be reading this weekend!

    They're act just like real people who aren't perfect but are desperately trying to make something work.

    I love characters like that, who feel real.

    Thank you Sarah!

  7. RJones
    May 18, 2010 @ 17:45:28

    Thanks! I’ve had the worst luck lately with small press erotic roms I get partway through and have a “wtfh?” moment and don’t finish.

  8. Patti
    May 18, 2010 @ 17:48:19

    Your last paragraph pretty much summed it up for me – I loved these characters and their story. This was my first James Buchanan book and I plan to read the second book very soon.

  9. James Buchanan
    May 18, 2010 @ 19:19:43

    Thank you.

  10. Mo
    May 18, 2010 @ 19:50:52

    I love this series. Seeing the growth of Nicky & Brandon’s relationship through these 3 books has been enthralling. I will read anything James Buchanan writes.

  11. Joan/SarahF
    May 18, 2010 @ 20:12:13

    @Pamela L: Yes, I reviewed Personal Demons (not my favorite of James’ books, but good) and Hard Fall (my favorite). I’ve also read The Good Thief and loved it.

  12. Joan/SarahF
    May 18, 2010 @ 20:13:18

    @Pamela L: Oh, and? no apologies here. My goal is to hook all DA’s readers on the authors I consider my crack. James is high on that list. :)

  13. Kaetrin
    May 18, 2010 @ 21:02:11

    Sarah you are hell on my TBR pile!!! I haven’t read any James Buchanan yet but I’ll be putting this one on my list.

    (Off topic question for you – are you planning a review of Double Blind by Heidi Cullinan?)

  14. Joan/SarahF
    May 18, 2010 @ 21:04:07

    @Kaetrin: Heh. No apologies again. :)

    Yes, I am. It’s in my very VERY long list of things to do and books to review. It’s SO different from SPECIAL DELIVERY, I very much want to review it. But right now I’m working through Buchanan’s ALL OR NOTHING, and I gotta get that done by next week.

  15. Pamela L
    May 18, 2010 @ 21:07:01

    @Joan/SarahF:
    Haven’t read Hard Fall yet, and yes, The Good Thief was excellent.

    Right now, I’d be hard-pressed to say which is my favorite.

    This kind of crack I can handle. :)

  16. REVIEW: Inland Empire by Jame Buchanan | Dear Author
    May 20, 2010 @ 13:01:10

    [...] Chance is the first book in the series. My review here. Inland Empire moves Brandon and Nicky to Riverside and Brandon’s job, instead of Nevada and [...]

  17. REVIEW: All or Nothing by James Buchanan | Dear Author
    May 27, 2010 @ 13:01:15

    [...] met Brandon and Nick before, in Cheating Chance (CC), where they get together, and in Inland Empire (IE), where they try to figure out how to make [...]

  18. Dear Author Recommends for June | Dear Author
    May 28, 2010 @ 18:38:05

    [...] Cheating Chance by James Buchanan. Recommended by Joan/Dr. Sarah F. [...]

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