Author: Nash Summers
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 09/09/2015
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Contemporary, M/M Romance
Scott Halleck and Julian Reeves are polar opposites in almost every way. Scott, a modern arts curator at a museum in Chicago, relishes the finer things in life. Julian is a strange photographer whose hair color changes as frequently as his mood. As far as Scott can see, Julian is an erratic know-it-all who lives his life one day to the next. To Julian, Scott is an uptight, too-coiffed perfectionist.
As the two men continue to run into each other, their dislike grows, but beneath that animosity, a fire is beginning to spark. Scott is baffled when he realizes he is falling for Julian, a man who burns hotter than a wildfire. Scott will have to decide, for the first time in his life, if he’ll let the flames take over.
I struggled with this book. Brandilyn gave it to me with a purpose, because one of the main characters is a museum curator.
So, there’s that.
In the end, I enjoyed it. I cared. That’s worth something. A lot, actually.
The strength of this book is in the intensity of what Nash Summers is trying to do. Julian Reeves and Scott Halleck are, as the blurb advertises, polar opposites. Bad boy and Good boy. But that’s old hat; what Ms. Summers does that’s refreshing is to make them not inversions of each other, but mirror images from opposite sides of the looking glass. Both of them are really Bad boys.
Julian has allowed himself to go off the rails for so long that he is just a few heartbeats shy of self-immolation. He is so completely steeped in his own sense of guilt and worthlessness that he is like a time bomb. He replaces drug abuse with masochism to ease his pain. His dyed hair and ratty emo clothes and tattoos are the outward expression of this very broken young man’s damaged heart.
Scott, on the other hand, has gone to the opposite extreme. In order to quash the Bad boy in himself, he has turned himself into a tasteful beige cipher of a man. He has abnegated his ego to the expectations of others. He does what others do, he likes what others like, and he lives a life entirely devoted to being acceptable and “perfect” according to someone else’s idea of perfection. He has the perfect job, perfect manners, and the perfect boyfriend. Except that he feels nothing and has lost his soul every bit as fully as Julian has. He doesn’t look broken, but he’s as bad as Julian.
Another thing I almost loved was the moment in the book where Scott’s Big Romantic Gesture backfires. Here, where in a normal m/m book, the violins would swell, Julian just explodes and storms off. I love the guts it took to do that. On the other hand, I found the ultimate resolution vague and somehow flat. I liked the words Ms. Summers used, but I didn’t completely buy it.
A larger problem with the book is the very uneven writing, which at times made me wonder if Ms. Summers was a native English speaker. True, there are some moments of lovely clarity:
“Men like us don’t get the things in life we really want. We take what we think we deserve.”
And other moments of confusing babble:
“It’s fairly difficult to find modern contemporary art that’s popular, will draw in a crowd of people from around the city as well as long distance, and an artist who isn’t specifically looking to show in art galleries.”
I don’t care that every aspect of museums and curators is misunderstood (only curators really know how it works, and we’re a tiny minority in the reading population). What matters more is that Scott’s self-reduction is handled with such obviousness that it comes off as more boring than profound. Conversely, Julian’s self-destructiveness often seems annoying and self-indulgent – bratty rather than tragic.
It is hard to like either one of these guys, and I really wanted to.
There were just enough moments of emotional clarity to keep me hooked:
“…in a sea of darkness and feeling nothing for so long, I’d finally given up on dousing the flame that Julian lit inside me. I was walking into that fire and letting it consume me.”
But these are countered Ms. Summers trying to be edgy, but only succeeding half the time, while the verbal histrionics in other places were just clumsy:
“I left myself no spare time to linger on the past and think of the huge mistake I’d made with Ryan or about how I didn’t feel that desperate sense of loss at all.”
A good idea, awkwardly handled.
I liked that Scott’s and Julian’s family were both present and cared. But Scott’s parents, who I presumed were the reason for his bottled-up personality, suddenly became his emotional liberators. That’s wonderful, but it came a little out of left field. Julian’s sister and her boyfriend are much better handled, and play a solid role in all the dramatics. As friends of Scott’s, they form a logical and emotionally cogent link between the two damaged young men.
So, all in all, I gave Nash Summers’ “Lovers and Fighters” 3.5 stars. I think the extra half star—a good rating for me—is because I appreciated what she was trying to do, even if she didn’t always pull it off.
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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