REVIEW: This is Not a Love Story: the Hacker and His Hero by AE Lawless
Ever since Gran’s death, Zander’s been using his skills as an elite computer hacker to help put criminals behind bars. Surprisingly enough, there’s also another vigilante running around his city helping folks out in the more traditional way. The press likes to pretend they’re rivals, but Zander likes to think that he and the Night Angel are working together; they want the same things at least.
When a tough case forces the two vigilantes to actually work together, Zander’s insistent fascination with the Night Angel becomes powerful attraction. It wouldn’t be a problem, except Zander’s also fooling around with his boss at the day job, Reese. They both give him something the other can’t, but both of them are also holding something he needs back from him. Zander knows he has to choose, but he just doesn’t see any way to make a good choice.
A break in the case reveals not only the master plot, but more about Zander’s true nature than he ever expected to learn. Afterwards, Zander is seeing the world in a new light and realizes he may not have to sacrifice anything he needs; he may not have to make a choice after all.
Warning SPOILER cut
Dear A.E. Lawless,
Your story started so well. I requested it because the blurb promised an m/m variation on super heroes and that’s what I seemed to be getting. Two fighters for justice (one from behind the computer screen, but still very much a fighter for justice) have found an eight year old girl who was kidnapped by her uncle, and they found her alive. Zander found where the girl was kept and independently from him Night Angel arrived and freed her. The story is narrated from Zander’s third person POV, so we are in his head all the time, and I thought Zander’s desperation to fight for justice with any means where the law is helpless was very well told on paper. I could also feel his intense fascination with Night Angel, who appeared to be a more traditional portrayal of a super hero, one who is physically fighting to bring bad guys down no matter what. Zander feels that the case is somehow not complete even though the villain is in the hands of the police, but he cannot figure out why. As soon as this case ends, however, another horrid case catches his eye and Zander makes himself involved – the poisoning of several people including kids in the local hospital. While I won’t tell you much about that case, I will tell you that he and Night Angel communicate and cooperate in real time in this one.
And then boom. The story shows Zander getting a day job as a computer person (I’m not exactly sure what specific duties his job involved) because he needs to have a cover as a regular computer guy, I guess. He and his boss Reese catch each other’s eyes and very soon (in terms of page space) they are engaged in a long sex session. I remember catching myself on thinking – wait, what? I said it before, and I will say it again. I love m/m stories where the sex scenes enhance the story and move it forward. I do not enjoy the stories where I am thinking, why the sex scene is here? Here I was reading one very long scene, the one where I could not wait for it to be over. (As an aside, I love well done BDSM books, but I do not understand why every second book today needs to attempt a BDSM relationship. Apparently Zander wants to be dominated. Okay, I understood that, but for once I could not wait for the super-heroes story to pick up the pace.)
Eventually Zander is doing some investigating and finds a lot of interesting stuff – corruption, politicians, elections and another computer hacker’s involvement. There is a danger for Night Angel and for Zander, who is helping him, and there is also a much rougher sex session between Zander and Night Angel than there was earlier between Zander and Reese. Yes, Zander wants to be dominated, just in case I did not understand it before. I am sorry, but for me this story was a great example of when sex scenes irritate me a lot, because I felt that they took place *instead* of the story rather than being a part of it. I mean, I understood that they were supposed to be an insight in Zander’s character, about how he wanted to be dominated, but honestly I understood it very fast. At some point after Zander’s sex scene with Night Angel we go almost immediately (minus his time of getting to work) to him making out with his Boss.
It was obvious from the blurb how the two storylines would eventually collide, and I was right, but the twist was in theory very fun and was a big reason why I requested the story. I was extremely disappointed by the execution – I felt that the action/adventure story lost momentum several times during the book and was not meshed well with the romantic element.
I also found the spoiler warning that I gave in the beginning irritating – I have read more violent books, but I just hate a hero being involved in that activity. It’s a matter of personal taste – I usually do not downgrade for the things which I disliked, but which I found fitting for the story, versus the things which did not work within the framework of the story. I found this scene fitting in the book, but I still feel compelled to note that I hated it.
I wanted to note that since Zander is a hacker, there were several moments in the book where his computer activity is described in details. I am very unskilled with computers so I cannot comment on whether it was adequately described, and my usual computer fact checker who is very good with them refuses to read romances. I am sure those who know more than I dome will comment if needed.
One last thing – at the end of the story it is clear that the mastermind behind the worst case is not caught, so apparently this is another first book one in a series. I would really appreciate some advance warning if I am correct, even though most books do not seem to be stand- alone these days.