Author: Penny Hudson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Aspiring author Jasper decides it’s a good idea to treat a major publisher’s gala like his private pitch event, but the only attention he attracts is from sexy bestselling author Isaac Wright. Isaac is far more interested in his pretty face than his manuscript, but Jasper kisses up to him anyway. The attraction is mutual, until Jasper reads one of Isaac’s books—a political thriller—and hates it. He decides he can’t date someone if he detests their work—a pretentious attitude partially influenced by his snotty critique group—so he decides to turn his attention to his closet obsession: Figaro Powers, a romance writer. Although Jasper will never admit to reading romance, knowing Figaro was at the gala as well and Jasper missed seeing him, makes the obsession even bigger.
Isaac doesn’t give up on Jasper, though and offers to help him edit his manuscript. A pregnant sister and a stuck-up ex-boyfriend thwart their efforts, but it’s only when Miles, Jasper’s housemate, forces the issue that Jasper confesses to Isaac that he hates his book, and breaks Isaac’s heart. Despite this, Isaac sticks up for Jasper, and Jasper needs to reconsider whether the kind of books you read and write really says everything about the kind of person you are.
Warning: Possible Spoilers
I’m rather torn about this book because I think with some tweaking it could’ve been so much better. The plot isn’t one seen often and could’ve been unique, instead the whole thing fell flat.
Just by reading the blurb you would assume that the majority of the story is about aspiring author Jasper and his relationship with bestselling author Isaac Wright. But that isn’t the case. Instead the subplots take over and are the main focus for more than half the book.
The first quarter goes fairly quickly with Jasper, who works as a water-waiter for an EDJ, hoping to meet his favorite romance author, Figaro Powers. Instead, he meets Isaac Wright, an author of political thrillers. There’s an attraction and some flirtation and Isaac offers to read Jasper’s unpublished work.
Jasper is excited about it all until he reads Isaac’s books—and hates them. Apparently, he can’t date someone if he dislikes their work. After some time Jasper tells Isaac they can’t have a relationship and explains why. Despite being disappointed, Isaac still offers to help Jasper polish his book.
Sounds good, right? Not really.
Several pages are dedicated to Jasper’s job that don’t connect to the romance of the story. His boss is far from the most ethical person and runs an illegal wine bottling operation. In fact, sixteen (!) pages are about Jasper spending a day cleaning, rebottling and labeling bottles for his boss’s scheme.
Jasper also has an overbearing mother and a teenage sister who gets pregnant. He tries to avoid the drama there and has no intention of going home but then his sister shows up on his doorstep and becomes part of his life.
Other people in Jasper’s life are an arrogant, douchebag ex-boyfriend/friend with benefits and a self-taught sex therapist roommate. While, I understand creating supporting characters is difficult because just about everything is cliché, it seems as if the author threw a dart at personality types. Rude ex-boyfriend—Check! Slutty roomie without personal boundaries—Check!
All of these issues I could’ve overlooked, even the distinct lack of interaction between the two supposed main characters, if it weren’t for the writing style which is for more telling than showing. Pages of exposition without dialogue didn’t help to flesh out any of the characters and as a result they all seemed rather flat. I never once got a strong feel for who these guys were. That’s acceptable for supporting characters, but not for the MCs.
The telling is distinctly obvious in certain lines. Examples: A character lets “out a low, appalled whistle…” and when Jasper writes a short essay and “drenched it in emotions, then rinsed it in tears.” There are ways the emotions could’ve been shown instead of outright stating it. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and dialogue are often more successful.
There are several failed attempts at humor and they seemed to come out of nowhere. For the most part the characters are rather bland so when they do spout something pithy it just doesn’t fit.
“Because it’s unethical to dish out advice on how to be a better lover while you’re balls deep in someone.”
Miles shrugged. “You say potato; I say… experience is the best teacher.”
Or when Jasper is explaining why he can’t date Isaac.
“It would be like dating an artist and thinking all his paintings look like cat vomit, or sexing up a guitarist but thinking his music sounds more like the Vienna chorus of flatulent nuns!”
It just doesn’t work when Jasper doesn’t have much of a personality. The rare circumstances of eloquence just fell flat.
Okay, now down my two biggest issues with the story.
There’s a crime subplot tacked on, I guess to add tension. Jasper faces possible jail time when he is and his co-workers are arrested for participating in his boss’s wine fraud scheme. There’s the stereotypical gung-ho FBI agent who threatens to send Jasper away for years for participating in money laundering for the Russian mob.
During the arrest and interrogation, Jasper faints not once but twice. I don’t have much medical information to back this up, but I do believe fainting because of stress is rather rare. So for it to happen two times in close succession seems totally unrealistic and made Jasper look extremely weak.
He’s afraid to testify because of possible retaliation from the mafia, but he’s just as scared of jail time. Jasper spends weeks stressing and worrying about what to do. He even tries to call the FBI agent in charge, but can’t get hold of her. He does contact a local detective who gives him an analogy about a beaten puppy hiding in the corner, which, of course, makes no sense to Jasper.
To be honest, the entire wine fraud investigation annoyed me greatly. It was thrown in to create tension, but it just didn’t work. It lead nowhere and didn’t add to the relationship that was supposed to be the center of the story.
My second big complaint about this story is the title itself.
Jasper is intent on figuring out who Figaro Powers is. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was Isaac, but it took the entire book for Jasper. My criticism isn’t that it took so long for Jasper but how he reacts when he learns the truth.
All of a sudden, Jasper is fine with dating Isaac. He learns Isaac writes books he likes so things are different. He claims that it’s not just because Isaac is Figaro, that it’s because he grew up. But that isn’t shown—at all. I didn’t see any evidence that Jasper had matured in the slightest.
Standing up to his ex at a book club meeting is supposed to show his maturity but it seems more like a momentary case of getting his balls back rather than a true change in his psychology.
Both the plot and the characters had potential. I kept hoping for something to happen but the various sub-plots took over to the extent that at times I wondered if I’d opened the wrong book on my Kindle.
A stronger focus on Jasper and Isaac and their romance would’ve gone a long way in solving the issues. Instead, the reader is treated to a few scenes here and there, then they get together, have sex and The End.
Truly a lot of missed opportunities here. The author is talented, no doubt about it. I didn’t find any grammar or punctuation errors and I’ve certainly read far worse books.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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