REVIEW: Disasterology 101 by Taylor V.Donovan
Kevin Morrison had it all. A house he worked hard for, a loving wife, and three beautiful children. But it wasn’t until his marriage ended that he realized what the void he’d felt almost all his life meant. Coming out as a gay man at thirty-six is not an easy feat, but he is determined to be true to his heart. Meeting a man who shares his values, and is good with his children would be a bonus, but when the guy arrives in a uniquely wrapped package, and has very specific handling instructions, Kevin needs to decide if he’s up for that kind of love.
Obsessed with order and symmetry, and a paralyzing fear of germs, Cedric Haughton-Disley has lived with isolation and loneliness as long as he can remember. Desperate to be normal, he makes some much-needed changes in his life. If he can commit to his treatment, he might very well be able to procure some quality of life… even if that’s all he can get, as finding love and having a relationship are only possible in Cedric’s wildest dreams. But when a chance encounter leaves Cedric wishing for more, he decides to take a leap of faith, and pursue the guy he wants.
Together the two men make an unlikely match. Cedric needs organization, and Kevin represents chaos. In order to stay together they both need to compromise, but will they be able to deal with Cedric’s issues and the potential disaster, or let it break them apart?
Dear Ms. Donovan,
I was smitten with your book, plain and simple. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out whether the story was that good or it was just that it hit all my buttons, and I finally decided to leave it for your potential readers to decide. One thing I know for sure – the only trope that could make me like the story even if its merits are not as good is “from enemies to lovers” and the guys in this one never been enemies, so I am hoping that what happened was that I fell in love with a really good romance.
Let me count the reasons I was so impressed with this book. Cedric is not the first character I have “met” in m/m romances who has OCD. Cedric however is the first character (not saying that they do not exist just that I have not read about them) who actively tries to take charge and get some semblance of normalcy in his life *before* a potential love interest comes into his life. I thought his symptoms were very well researched (based on my brief research only), I thought his battles and setbacks were extremely well done. I also have to say that while this is not the first romance where the character who has a mental illness goes into therapy, I really liked how therapy was integrated in the book. It is not intrusive on the love story, and it does not take a lot of page space, but one can never doubt that it is important for Cedric and Kevin.
Of course I can never judge from personal experience as to how effectively Cedric’s illness is portrayed, but from the view of the outsider I really liked it. I liked that while the love makes him feel better as a person and I am sure influences his general mood and helps his strength, the other improvement he experiences comes from medication. And I loved that the writer did not shy away from portraying some side effects of the medication (such as that it decreases sexual performance), built the very naturally moving conflict based on that and still made it so unbelievably romantic for me.
His building romance with Kevin just made me swoon – that’s the best way to describe it. Yes, there are fantasy elements there, but I just went along, especially since it was so easy for me to believe in it. They were in lust almost right away, but it was lust not love, so I had no problem with that. It made perfect sense for me why Cedric was looking for somebody more than a casual hook up, he was already making some improvement in therapy and his doctor even encouraged that. In some stories that I read about damaged guys, I often catch myself thinking that these two need to have a whole lot more therapy before they even think about the relationship. Granted, Kevin coming out at 36 after a long marriage takes a bit more suspension of disbelief to buy, but I can buy a gay man suppressing who he was for that long, especially because Kevin did not come out as “gay for Cedric”, he just came out as gay. I also stumbled a bit over Kevin being so impressed with Cedric (which was fine since he did not know anybody else), but nobody would measure up after one encounter? This was a small niggle for me though.
I also liked how this story handled more dominant and more submissive roles in the building relationship. I typed this sentence and cringed, because in a story which does not have BDSM themes this often translates to me as – “I am the alpha hear me roar and you are somebody who always needs saving and cannot do anything for yourself till I come to take care of you”. This book went into more interesting direction. A couple of chapters before the end of the book Cedric muses about what roles they were taking in their relationship so far (note that they had been dating for just a month at that point, so it is not as if the roles were fixed in stone).
“Money. Cedric had it in abundance, and Kevin didn’t. Although their status was never verbalized, the truth was Kevin behaved like a boyfriend. He may be considerate of Cedric’s needs and let him top sexually, but there was no doubt Kevin was the big, strapping, dominant half in their relationship, taking charge in every aspect. He believed in being the breadwinner, and providing for his partner. He pulled chairs, and opened doors for Cedric. He held his hand when they went on their walks around the neighborhood, and marked his territory by placing his hand on the small of Cedric’s back.Archaic as the concept may be, he much preferred taking a more submissive role. He wasn’t a fart who could not taking care of himself, but Kevin’s breathtaking masculinity made Cedric feel safe and protected. He was perfectly fine with the caveman’s act, but he’d be damned if he would let it break it apart.”
I wonder how the reader who has not read the book would imagine Kevin after reading this quote. No, it is not as if I failed to see the signs through the book that Kevin is a big guy who likes to take care of Cedric. Nevertheless, I was almost shocked when Cedric was musing that he preferred “submissive role”, because if that’s what submissive role meant for him, I would love to see more characters like him. Cedric had been fighting his condition, trying to win some sort of easier life for himself way before he met Kevin and continued to fight it every single day. Maybe fight is the wrong word? Trying to live as normal life as possible? What is normal anyway? I never had any doubts about his strength of character and he continued to remain just as strong as he was when Kevin came along. That’s what I do not always see in so many stories – the moment the alpha male comes around, it is as if the other character’s strength and will power goes somewhere and never comes back.
And as you can see based on the last sentence of the quote Cedric’s thoughts are at time they are having problems, and almost at the verge of break up. And as far as I am concerned Cedric gets a huge credit for making sure the actual break up does not happen. I loved the characterization and this development – almost break up, but they managed to not make it happen. And notice how dominant/submissive does not translate into being that in bed? And why should it be necessarily, especially since the story is not about BDSM?I also never found Kevin to be overbearing, but instead a rather nice guy, who wanted to do everything he could to help his boyfriend. Of course he had his issues and his pride and money was a concern, but I never wanted to shake him and tell him to snap out of it.
Oh and I have to note as an aside that Kevin’s ex-wife was likeable. That was so very refreshing and when she committed a misstep she apologized. Have I mentioned how very pleased I was to meet such a rarity? Of course when people divorce often there are often plenty of hurt feelings to go around, but surely there are situations where two people manage to stay friendly for the sake of kids. And while they may not be in love anymore, they do not hate each other either, kids or no kids. According to most m/m stories I have read (not all but definitely most) where ex-wives are present such thing never happens. I know I sound a little sarcastic, but I truly was impressed by Jenny. She was mostly a supporting character and may have used more fleshing out (as most of the supporting characters actually), but I liked her.
I loved this book and can recommend it.
That’s a great review, and the book sounds interesting, but it’s $8.99 on Amazon.. To me that’s a lot to spend (even on an established author, & I don’t consider Taylor in that category).
I’m interested to know, and hope someone at DA can enlighten me how prices are set.. Do authors get a cut of each sale, or are paid up front?
Hi Sandra thanks for commenting. I do not know how the authors get paid, but I do know that this publisher is one of the most expensive in m/m world unfortunately. I only buy very few authors from them.
@Sandra – every publishing agreement is different but generally authors get some percentage of the retail price. Some epublishers have crazy high prices which don’t really make sense to me and I tend to stay away from trying out those books because of a higher price point so I understand where you are coming from.
OTOH, at that price point I’m toying with just ponying up for the print copy, which I prefer reading anyhow.
Hapax, I totally understand. I would have bought this book for myself had I not have a reviewing copy, but off the top of my head the only other writer’s works I bought from them recently was fourth book in Kaje Harper’s series. I much prefer Samhain prices. Having said that I bought the ebooks (gay fiction and other genres) from mainstream publishers which cost ten bucks and sometimes a bit more so there is no consistency with me :). I am usually more annoyed with paying three bucks for tiny short stories than ten bucks for a novel – so again no consistency with me :). The only thing I know is that I do find MLR expensive.
That price is a little high for my preference, but I’m giving the sampler a try because it sounds like a very good read–and I’d be comfortable with paying more for quality if I like the beginning.
I’ve found that I’ll stick with higher-priced publishers if they consistently make it worthwhile–if their stable of authors/editorial vision clicks for me, I’d rather have one great book than 3 meh ones. Plus, publishers with “frequent flyer” programs make it possible to read a virtual stack of their less expensive books then get a freebie on one that costs more (Riptide Publishing, for example). I could be convinced to spend $9-ish every now and then.
I say that even after getting burned badly recently (a totally different publisher). I have 2 more days to decide whether I can justify returning it or whether I just live and learn. If it were a print book I wouldn’t hesitate, since that would just mean some other reader gets to buy it and actually read it all the way through. With an eBook, returning it feels so odd, maybe because I’ve been trained to think of them as too cheap to bother.
Hmm, I have to admit that I’m really on the fence with this one. The blurb caught my eye but the price is more steep than what I feel comfortable paying for a new (to me) author. Based on the review, the main characters come across as flesh out individuals and their story isn’t too flufy or saccharine.
I’m always eager to read a book in which the ex-wife isn’t portrayed as a villain of sorts. I guess some authors feel the need to elevate the ‘worthiness’ of the M/M romance by depicting the female exes as really unappealing people. FTR, I’ve got to admit that I didn’t notice that trend for a long time. Once I did, however, it’s frustrating to see it. /steps off soapbox
In any case, I think I’ll add this book to my wishlist and wait. Maybe the price will drop after a while. If not, I might get it via the ARE loyalty points.
It sounds good and I’ve added it to my want list but…Cedric Haughton-Disley? Maybe in a Wodehouse novel it’d work but in a contemporary? Yes, I know there’s Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter books but it’s so over-the-top posh. The kid would’ve gotten teased to death at school.
Jane – I know, I know. A good friend of mine who is a Brit was amused and not in a good way also by his choice of phrase sometimes. BUT Cedric won her over pretty fast :), so I guess I would still suggest trying it f you are ok with a price.
I read this a little while ago and really liked it. I took a chance on the price, because I’d never read this author before and was in the mood for something totally new, but it was definitely worth it. Like Sirius said, the only other thing I’ve bought recently at this price point is the new Kaje Harper book.
Hey Sandra, I’m an author, so I’ll take a swing at it your question. Publishers set the prices, not authors themselves. HOWEVER, we choose which publishers to work with, and a part of our “homework” when we submit should probably include looking to see what price point a given publisher sells at to decide whether we’re comfortable with selling a book for that much/little.
I know my publisher, Riptide Publishing, generally prices books according to length, so shorter books cost less and longer ones cost more. Is it a perfect model? Is it the fairest price point to sell at? That’s not really for me to say as an author, but obviously I work with them, so I’ve accepted their prices.
As to how we get paid, generally in e-publishing we don’t get cash up front. We’re paid a standard royalty amount for each sale (anywhere from 25-50%, I’ve found). It depends on your contract, but either that will be % of gross (as in, the cover price of the book), so, say if a book is the nice round price of $8.00, and I had 50% royalties, then I’d get four bucks for every book.
If, however, it’s 50% of net, that usually means 50% of the book price AFTER third party sellers like Amazon or ARe takes their cut. So if Amazon takes 50% (they don’t, but I’m not good at math so I’m using easy numbers here lol), then it goes $8.00 cover price, $4.00 to Amazon, and then the remaining $4.00 is split 50/50 between the publisher and I according to my 50% of net. So in that case, I’d get $2.00 a sale.
These AREN’T exact figures, of course. Royalty rates vary depending on the contract, third party sellers take varying cuts, etc. But essentially, yes, we do get a portion of every sale. That’s up to us (or our agents) to negotiate with the publisher.
And then it gets more complicated when you consider how much you get paid also depends on how MANY sales you get. So one publisher might sell my 80k novel for that eight bucks for 50% royalties, whereas another would sell that same novel for FOUR bucks at 50% royalties. The gamble becomes, will it sell more copies at that lower price point? Enough to make up for me getting $2 a copy instead of $4 copy? I’m too green to know, but maybe some other authors can weigh in.
So in answer to your question, no, we’re pretty much never paid up front (especially in the M/M world), and the publisher is ultimately the one who decides how to price the book, when to have discounts, etc.
Hope this helps! :)
thank you for replying, and I appreciate it. You know, I probably came across as rude. I mean no one asks me how I am paid, but I am curious because eBook prices seem to be all over the place. Sometimes I will pay more for a shorter book if it’s a theme I enjoy, sometimes I will grumble and move on. For me, I look at $8.99 and see one book or potentially 9 x .99c ebooks I could buy.
Of course, I didn’t consider who the author could be, because YOU I’ve heard of :-) Taylor V. Donovan not so much, and that does change things somewhat.
Personally, I consider $8.99 spendy, but I know you have to make a living too.
You didn’t come across as rude at all. :) You sounded like a savvy consumer to me! Honestly as a reader I’m the same. I have trusted authors I’ll spend a heavy chunk of change on (Lisa Henry is on my autobuy and would be even if she were charging fifteen bucks), and others I will set aside for when I get my ARe buy-10-get-1 deal. I almost never buy .99c books because I’m stuck on the mindset of “you get what you pay for”, even though I’m sure plenty of good books are at that price point. I just can’t help thinking “It’s .99? What’s wrong with it?”, but then on the same token, I don’t necessarily look at an $8.99 book and think “Ohhhh this must be really good!” just because it’s pricy.
I think it really comes down to how you perceive the value of books, how much you WANT them, whether you can find a cheaper alternative, how much you trust the author/publisher, etc. I think the reality is actually pretty complex and unique from reader to reader, and there’s no magic formula to it. I mean, I’ve published a fair few books by now and I’m still not sure what the ideal price might be.
For example, I just bought “At Her Feet” by Rebekah Weatherspoon for Bold Strokes Books’ ridiculous cover price rather than waiting for a sale. Normally I would balk at a price like that (and I don’t buy BSB titles because of it), but I’ve really been anticipating this book and it’s about subject matter I really want to read but don’t trust many authors to get right. (I do trust Rebekah because she is a smart cookie.) So I paid the price to get it right away.
And yes, I do have to make a living, but I don’t think people should be compelled to spend more than they’re comfortable spending for me to get it. ;) If my books are too expensive for any given person, then they’re too expensive. That’s the risk I take working with a publisher that sells them for the price they’re at.
I loved this book! I was a bit hesitant about the price for about 1 sec, but I bought the book directly from the publisher because I found the premise interesting and I didn’t want to wait until it was released in other places so I could get the book cheaper. I can be really impatient sometimes, and while sometimes I regret my impatience, this time I didn’t.
@Luce: While I am also always very pleased when the book does not have an evil ex-wife (or has other normal women besides the evil one), I just want to stress that Jenny is a minor character here. As I said I liked her, but I would not advise buying the book for her alone – and portrayal of women in m/m is one of the hot buttons for me for sure. I do not know if you have read/ are planning to read the books by Jordan Castillo Price, but she is probably my favorite writer in a way she portrays women in m/m. She is also one of my top three-four favorite writers for many other reasons :), but her women as far as I am concerned consistently rock – they are not perfect, they are not saintly, they are human and they also have pretty important roles in her stories (secondary roles, but not the – blink and I missed you, if that makes sense).
@azurelucy: and Julia, it is always nice to hear from people who already read the book. I am glad you liked it.
@Sirius: I’m hearing more and more about the poor treatment of female characters in m/m (and seeing it myself here and there). Does anyone know of any blogs/etc. that discuss this in a thoughtful, in-depth way? (Please forgive me if I’ve asked this before or if it’s been discussed here… long long day at the office… am fried…)
@Carolyne: I am sure some bloggers discussed it at some point, but nothing comes to mind right away. I always try to mention it in my reviews and I had seen it in other reviews too, but no blog article comes to mind, sorry.
@Carolyne: Actually wait, I know at least one such article, but I am not sure if this blog is still online, need to check.
Carolyne, I believe Sunita has written a post about it:
And Sam Schooler:
I also did one, but with a more positive spin:
@Carolyne: This is from Sunita’s blog. Note that blog is not active, as you see part of the article discusses this issue.
@Sirius & @Heidi Belleau: Thank you for the links–very much appreciated. It’ll be interesting to see the different perspectives.
I decided to treat myself (I’m worth it ;-)) and I’m about fifty pages in and enjoying it a lot. I did boggle a bit at the use of ‘blimey’ and ‘you chaps’ and the spelling of ‘loo’ with an apostrophe in front of it and the visual of Cedric with dreadlocks and a pierced lip is…not quite what I was expecting, but the book is well-written and yes, Jenny is a gem.
Heee Jane of course you are worth it :). Yes dreadlocks and pierced lip was unexpected :), but it made wierd kind of sense to me – image of a tough guy he wanted to project to the world instead of vulnerability.
@Sirius: Oh, I understood Jenny was a minor/background character. But, even if she’s not in the story that much, the fact that she’s not a villain adds a plus in the “maybe you’ll want to read this” column.
I’ll have to pass on your suggestion to read Jordan Castillo Price. Read a few of her books when I first got into M/M and absolutely hated them. At first, I thought there was something wrong with me because it felt like everyone else loved her novels and novellas. By the third try, I realized that it was OK if her stories didn’t ping me.
The reality is that there are many other M/M writers whose stuff I really dig. Besides, I’m sure that there are people who detest the works of authors I adore. :)
Hi Luce I definitely agree that Jenny was one of the assets in this book. Of course there is nothing wrong with you – I usually give the author two tries and then I will never come back to their work again ( sometimes I do when trusted friend recommends but not often). You gave three? That’s a lot IMO. I also ignore the works of many popular authors . And their works often on too of amazon bestseller lists – so I would guess a lot of people like it.
@Sirius – I’m curious: with a B+ grade and your recommendation, why isn’t this a “Dear Author” recommended book? I’m not sure this book is for me, especially at the price. But all of the other reviews I’ve seen of it have been positive as well.
Where I draw the line as to where a book annoys me in its depiction of women seems to be different from most other people who have bothered to write about it. For example, I sometimes dislike the sassy, supportive female friend or assistant even though those characters are “positive” because the character comes across as a stereotype or a collection of quirks, not a flesh and blood human being.
By the same token, I don’t always dislike women who present obstacles for the main couple, especially ex-wives. Books need conflict, and when men have been married and are just discovering an attraction to men, whether exclusive (gay) or not (bi), conflict with exes is almost a given, especially if the man in question has children. I don’t mind that, and I don’t mind it if the woman in question is unhappy, bigoted, or small-minded if that rings true (as it often will when she’s blindsided by this) and they’re given an understandable POV and reasons for reacting that way. (I’m thinking in particular of the ex-wife in Kaje Harper’s The Rebuilding Year.)
Too often, “negative effect” is equated with “villain.” Not every female character who presents an obstacle to the main couple or has doubts about them is a cardboard cutout villain; many of them have their own valid points of view. It’s the female characters without any redeeming qualities other than to get in the way that really get my back up, but they’re cut from the same cloth as the one-dimensional friend and are worse only because they’re negative stereotypes as well as badly characterized.
I don’t harbor any illusions that anyone else will agree with me, but that’s my two cents on the subject.
I think the problem with both of those archetypes is the fact that ultimately in both, women stop being well-rounded characters and start being cardboard cutouts that exist only to help or hinder the main romance. I’m one of the loudmouths who always goes off about women in m/m, and I myself have written female villains and female bigots! What it comes down to is: are these female characters rounded, or not, are they a part of a cast that includes other rounded female characters, or not? Not every character can be completely fleshed out, and sometimes you really do just need a character to get a scene moving, but when it becomes a pattern that all these stereotypical, two-dimensional potrayals (negative OR positive) are women, that’s when it becomes an issue.
Which is to say, I totally agree with you. Flat POSITIVE depictions of female characters is only marginally better than negative ones. We should all be striving to make sure all our female characters, good or bad, are as fleshed out and believable as males playing similar roles in the cast.
Hi Lawless I do not think we really disagree that much – because when I talk about evil exes I do mean people without other redeeming qualities rather than to get in the way. You are absolutely right – very often there is a conflict between the exes in real life and woman often has every right to be angry and justifiably so. But most books where I disliked the exes did not stop there – in my interpretation women often became *the cause for the conflict* instead of being a victim of unfortunate circumstances too and justifiably acting out. And as one of the few exes I liked said – I do not need your permission to be angry (to her ex husband) but it does not give me the right to act like an ass (paraphrase). So anyway – the exes I disliked and those were the majority did act as evil caricatures , their pain was not acknowledged , etc. I do not think I am confusing negative effect with villain. And also what matters to me is when the only woman in the story is a villain in that situation I hate it even when she has reasons for her behavior.
I do not know why it does not show as Recommended reads. I checked off the tag.
Although Lawless maybe we do disagree – I realized you out the character from Kaje Harper’s book as the one you liked – hated her. While of course her basic reactions made sense – IMO she went over top for me and became caricature with no redeeming qualities. And I do not remember for sure but wasn’t she the only woman in the story? Besides the daughter?
That was meant to say ” list” the character not “out” the character. Sorry.
@Sirius – That illustrates what I mean. On my reading of it, the ex had every reason to be upset because now she thought her whole life with the father of her children had been a lie, something different from the drifting apart (mostly due to his lack of ambition) and her finding someone else more in tune with her aspirations that I recall as the reasons for the divorce in the first place. Add that to a fear that gayness will infect her kids, and you have a recipe for what could be considered a caricature or a believable portrait of a close-minded person with reasons to be angry and vindictive. Those emotions aren’t pretty, and they don’t lead to nice behavior, but they’re real. And if that can’t be depicted without being stereotypical, isn’t that like saying that m/m must only be populated by women who are reasonable and fight fair?
In addition to the mother and daughter, there’s also a female student who the ex runs into while she’s drugged and who the other MC tries to rescue from what looks like a suicide attempt, IIRC, but turns out to be murder. There are probably some more female students who get mentioned in more than passing.
M/M stories are often overpopulated with men (the reasoning, I think, being that gay men stick with other gay men and have one or maybe two female friends), so an individual book can wind up with few women to begin with. Readers have the right to whatever level of tolerance they have for portrayals of women that are negative, stereotyped, or caricatured (pick your terminology) according to their own lights. (In this regard, I wonder how certain masterpieces of literary fiction, including those written by women, would fare. Nobody except maybe the narrator comes out of Wuthering Heights looking good.)
On the other hand, it doesn’t do anyone any favors when it seems like every critical or not entirely positive depiction of a woman in m/m is treated as another example of its anti-woman bias. Not that I’m saying you do that in the specifics of your reviews — I know you to be a fair-minded reviewer — but some of the rhetoric of various reviews I’ve read paint with that broad a brush.
Something on which we agree is that Jordan Castillo Price — my favorite m/m writer even though she mostly writes paranormal and I mostly avoid it like the plague — is awesome. She’s an example of a writer who makes a generally successful effort to write fully-realized characters of various ethnic identities and genders.
@lawless: Right, and I agree that her emotions may be real, but I thought she went way over the top in expressing them and that made her a caricature in my eyes. I just want to be clear about my position. I have ZERO problems with evil woman in m/m fiction (or a woman who may not like protagonists for whatever justifiable reasons and then I will respect her pain, I just wished writers would respect her pain more often) – but my caviats are – such character must have motivations for her actions AND even if she has motivations for her actions, I want some other women, also interesting, but less evil if possible to be in the story.
I have to reread that story, but I do not remember any other women with large enough role to satisfy me in that one (thanks for reminding me about the student, I have to reread it, but I feel like she had a tiny role).
Anyway, that’s how I feel. IMO fiction deals in types and the only evil female character in the story to me feels like a representation of all women in reality and I resent that. There are plenty of homophobic women in the world for example – but if your woman or women are ALL homophobic, I feel like it is a lie and insult of the whole gender and as I said, I personally resent that.
Yes, I always love what JCP does with her women. Jia from “Magic mansion” is a perfect example. I truly do not feel like she was very likeable, but neither was she evil, I loved that she was ambitious and while not liking her much, I respected her a lot.
Lawless I also think that latest Psycop book illustrates perfectly what as a reader ( obviously I am just one reader and these are my wishes, nobody else’s) what I want to see in the portrayal of women in m/m story. We have a fantastic IMO female villain ( not saying her name for the fear of spoilers :))), but we also have Laura, Lisa, even Carolyne showing up briefly. And of course we have Vic and Jacob and lots of fun, but I am just talking about portrayal of females.
@lawless: I am sorry, for some reason I do not see an EDIT button. Hopefully last thought – by the same token as I cannot stand the only woman in m/m stories be an evil one, I resented/resent gay villain in m/f romances or any mainstream books. I do not care that gay villains exist in real life, I do not want the only representative of marginalized minority in your story to be an evil one. I mean, obviously it is not a hundred percent analogy, since women are not a minority but to me it still works. And of course, I am not dictating anybody what to write (for that I will have to have a lot of nerve lol), but that’s what I do not want to read.