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REVIEW:  Thrown by Colette Auclair

REVIEW: Thrown by Colette Auclair

thrown

Dear Ms. Auclair,

Your book was a Golden Heart finalist at the 2012 RITAs so I felt taking a chance on a new author was less risky than it might otherwise have been. For the most part, I enjoyed Thrown. Although there were some things I disliked,  I’m not sorry I took the plunge. I think you have a lot of natural writing talent and I’m looking forward to where it might take you in the future.

Amanda Vogel is a professional horse trainer and showjumper. Her dream is to represent her country in the equestrian event at the Olympics. However, after seeing her best friend die in a jumping accident, she developed PTSD and was unable to compete. This led to her losing business and she eventually had to sell even her beloved horse, Edelweiss. To get away from her troubles and to make some money, she takes a summer job teaching the young daughters of a Hollywood movie star to ride at his Aspen Creek retreat.  Grady Brunswick is a 35 year old widower, completely out of touch with his daughters, Solstice (11) and Wave (8), and basically clueless when it comes to parenting. He is also a gorgeous action movie star and has women throwing themselves at him everywhere he goes.

Amanda doesn’t make a great first impression – she breaks Grady’s Emmy.  And the children make an equally poor impression on Amanda.  They are spoiled undisciplined brats; they run amok and take no prisoners.

There is an unspoken attraction between Amanda and Grady from the beginning but the romance has a fairly slow build.  I liked this aspect of the story quite a bit.

Amanda begins teaching the girls and, through the discipline she applies with horses (which work quite well on young girls it turns out), Wave and Solstice improve their behaviour and become adorable plot moppets.  The turnaround was fairly quick and I’m not sure I entirely bought the ease with which Grady effectively took direction from Amanda on child rearing.

Celebrity chef and Grady’s best buddy, Harris Stembridge, is the sassy gay friend and fits neatly into the stereotype. There were hints of a life outside helping Amanda and Grady’s relationship along but I would have like to have seen his character a bit more developed.

“…If I could package the chemistry between you two and sell it, I’d be Bill Gates. With better clothes. And a more resonant voice.”

The writing style was engaging – some of the turns of phrase painted amusing word pictures which I enjoyed.

Her mind, which had possibly just shaken hands with the first molecules of vodka, unhelpfully provided a movie of Grady Brunswick showering.

Some of it was a bit on the cheesy side, but I don’t mind a bit of cheese occasionally.  It is something which is very subjective so other readers may like it more, or less than I.

“You have champagne?”
“My bedroom is a happy place. Champagne’s a happy drink. Want some?”

In retrospect, I thought the book was too long.  At 384 pages, it is a substantial debut.  Numerous conflicts were introduced into the story – some of which didn’t go anywhere and others of which felt, to me, like authorial manipulation designed to keep the characters apart.  I think it would have worked better if there were less conflicts but more development of the ones which stayed.   While I liked the addition of Luke the farrier – a handsome man who Amanda dates briefly in the book (mainly in order to subvert her attraction to Grady), I was disappointed that he had to be made into a patronising 1950s type jerk to get him out of the picture.  One of the conflicts very late in the book had me a little exasperated – it seemed to come out of nowhere and made little sense to me.

More intimate scenes wait until very late in the book, with one barrier after another hindering the consummation of Amanda’s and Grady’s attraction. There was one scene which may have scarred me for life. I thought it went without saying. But apparently I was wrong.  There is nothing sexy about a snuggie, even when it is being worn by a handsome movie star.  Snuggies leach the sexy in my opinion and I could have used not having the mental picture of Amanda and Grady in snuggies getting “friendly”.

I was not one of those little girls who was into horses and that didn’t t really change when I grew up – I think those who are more into horses will enjoy the book a bit better than I did.  That said, I wasn’t bored or uninterested in the horse information – I thought it was sprinkled throughout the story in manageable bites which I mostly understood (and those few bits I didn’t get didn’t detract from my reading experience).  It was clear to me you know of what you speak in this area and your love of horses and showjumping is evident.   Little things like what sort of flooring is best for a horse barn gave flavour to the setting.

The epilogue was perhaps a little saccharine for my taste, but overall, I found Thrown to be an engaging read.  If the book were shorter, the plot tighter and some aspects of the story a bit better developed, I would have put the novel higher in the B range but as it was, I’m going with a B-.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW: Trifecta by Kate Sherwood

REVIEW: Trifecta by Kate Sherwood

Dear Ms. Sherwood.

I didn’t really expect to like this book. I love menage stories, especially m/m/m menage. So I read the book because of that, not because I was blown away by the excerpt. I thought the excerpt was too thinky, didn’t have enough dialogue, and the characters looked a bit flat. But I’m VERY glad to have been very wrong about that. I really enjoyed this story, I’m very glad I read it, and I’m very happy to recommend it to DA’s readership.


Mark is a pilot, only recently out of the closet and out of a marriage. He’s living with and in love with Alistair, the man he finally came out of the closet for. But Mark and Alistair have an open relationship: they’re free to fuck around when so moved, especially when Mark’s out of town on one of his long flights. But Mark is grounded at the moment with an ear infection and it’s Alistair who’s out of town at a conference. So Mark picks up Tyler at the local club, has amazing sex with him at the condo…and Alistair walks in.

The next day, of course, Alistair, a vet, meets Tyler at his practice. Tyler is in with a horse with a broken pelvis. One thing leads to another, Tyler buys the horse to avoid it getting euthanized, and then spends a lot of time at the practice. Eventually Alistair and Tyler start an affair, without Mark knowing, Mark and Alistair fight, Mark and Tyler have another night together…and it all gets a little confusing.

The fascinating thing about this book is that the tension keeps switching, but it all seems organic. It is a confusing book when summarized in three sentences, but that confusion doesn’t extend to the reading experience. It’s a menage in which Mark and Alistair are having relationship issues, Mark is trying to rebuild his life after having left his wife of 15 years because he finally came out, and Alistair and Tyler are slowly falling in love. There’s a lot happening, but the book is neither episodic nor overwhelming. It all kind of fits together.

Tyler is a bit of an enigma. He lies very well, he’s got some issues in his past, he’s only 23 (to Mark and Alistair’s 30-something), he’s aimless and ambitionless, but he falls for Alistair and Mark. The reader’s sympathy (or at least mine) is very much with Tyler, because he’s a nice, sweet guy, but I think he would frustrate me in real life. There’s an economic and educational imbalance between him and the other two men that isn’t dealt with at the start of the relationship but that I could see becoming a problem *during* the relationship and that’s not dealt with because, well, the book’s about the start of the relationship. Tyler’s emotional investment in the other two men, while he think they think he’s just a piece of ass, is a little heartbreaking and makes the story totally worth it. Especially since part of what *they* have to realize and fix is that they ARE treating him like a piece of ass:

"Mark?" The voice was uncertain, but Mark recognized it right away. His mind spun into overdrive. What was Tyler doing here?
"Tyler?" There was a pause. Mark could almost feel the man choosing between truth and lie. Mark couldn’t wait for the decision. "Are you here for Alistair?"

He had no idea how Tyler could have found the place, but he must have let something drop in conversation, or maybe Tyler had seen something with the clinic’s name on it when he had been at the apartment. Something, somehow. Tyler was here, so it was a little late to worry about how.

They were almost next to each other now. The barn door had shut out the bright light, making Mark able to see Tyler’s beautiful, conflicted face. "I need him, Tyler. You and me-’that was one thing. Please don’t get in the way of me and Alistair." Mark knew he was begging. If it was anyone else, he might have been ashamed. But this was Tyler. As inexplicable as it was that the man was here, in Alistair’s barn, Mark still trusted him. Still trusted his intent wasn’t vindictive, no matter how damning the circumstances might seem.

"I don’t-’I’m n-not-" Tyler stuttered to a halt.

Mark couldn’t begin to understand how Tyler had tracked Alistair down, or what he hoped to accomplish by being here. It seemed absurd to imagine Tyler would think he could tear Mark and Alistair apart; Mark wasn’t sure of the details of the night before, but he was sure they hadn’t talked much, hadn’t said anything that would make Tyler think Mark’s relationship was fragile. Well, nothing other than the fact that Mark had spent the night cuddled with Tyler instead of with Alistair. Mark couldn’t make himself believe Tyler meant to do him harm. There’d been no hint of anything possessive, nothing about Tyler’s behavior to suggest he was likely to become a stalker, or someone who had trouble with boundaries. Still, the evidence was clear; Tyler was in Alistair’s barn.

"I love him, Tyler." It was all Mark had. The only argument he could advance.

Tyler looked startled, then nodded. "Yeah. Okay. That’s important. I shouldn’t get in the way of that." He smiled at Mark, and the expression was such a pure mix of sad and sweet that Mark almost wanted to cry. "You guys-’you take care of each other, okay?"

I know things work like this in real life sometimes, but things are all solved a little too quickly and a little too easily. Mark’s ex-wife is being a complete bitch, especially when it comes to their daughters…and then she’s not. For good reason, and with the help of Tyler, but still, it felt like it was time to wrap the book up, so the problem needed to get solved. Mark and Alistair have a terrible fight, where they say some awful things to each other…and then they’re fine, united in their search for Tyler after he leaves both of them. And again, when two rational men get together and actually act rationally, rather than like fainting, hysterical 18 year old girls, that’s what happens, but…well, it seemed too perfect.

But that didn’t stop me from investing in the ending. The tension of will-they-or-won’t-they find Tyler at the end of the story was great and the reconciliation was well-done. Despite Mark and Alistair being very alike (in fact, this is why they have an open relationship — they’re both tops), they are still very different characters and it didn’t feel like they were interchangeable when Tyler was interacting with them separately. I loved how the jobs and life situations for all three of the men were an integral part of the story, rather than something they did off-screen. They felt like real people. And while the writing might not have been sparkling — there was a lot of exposition, almost info-dumping amounts of it, and it WAS a very thinky book, to the point of redundancy now and then — it was certainly up to the job of making me care about these men.

Grade: B

Best regards,

-Joan/Sarah F.

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