Queer Rep: cis gay
[Note: I received Advanced Reader Copies of these works in exchange for an honest review]
Mark Noland is trapped in an enemy holding cell after a mission goes awry. Alongside him is an elite Stella officer by the name of Gavnson, who makes no effort to contain his distaste for Noland or his escape plan. Fortunately or unfortunately, Gavnson’s beautiful body almost makes up for his nasty attitude.
Together they work toward escape, secrets pour out, and a bond is formed.
Oops, Caught and Bank Run are both novellas, running around the 20k word mark. I read both of them together, as is my preference for shorter pieces. I was attracted to the sci-fi nature of the shorts, and Oops, Caught sported a synopsis that felt promising.
Not all books keep their promises.
The plot is simple, and that is fine. I’m a reader who can happily bound along with a simple plot if the characters and the world do their share to keep me engaged. Reading is about entertainment, after all—not every piece has to be groundbreaking. It just has to be fun.
Oops, Caught started out fun. Noland’s voice is very much his own, and you get a sense of the character right away. He’s amusing, which is at odds with the very staunch and stoic Gavnson. Unfortunately, the writing does Noland a disservice. In general the prose is repetitive and over-explanatory. There was a lot of “tell, don’t show” throughout both novellas, and it drove me a bit mad. Spoon-feeding readers is a peeve of mine, and if these pieces had been re-written with something as simple as “show don’t tell” as the author’s mantra, they would have wound up leagues better.
There was also too much dialogue attribution. Dialogue tags followed almost every single quotation; it made the pacing feel off-beat and awkward. On top of the clunkiness, this constant repetition made the prose bland and tiresome. I actually started to wonder if the author was trying to reach a word count goal.
It was fine. There was nothing special about it, which is also fine… but I think the whole could have been explored more. I realize these were shorter fictions, but if the author could take the time to over explain every interaction between the main characters, she very well could have put those words to use worldbuilding instead.
For example: she refers to one of the main characters as a Stella officer and some other race… sort of. You see, Gavnson is described just as a human would be described, and Noland’s narration does absolutely nothing to draw a difference between the two species. I actually had myself believing that I misunderstood that he was a different race—perhaps he just hailed from a different planet or something—until the very end of the first book when she finally mentions that his race has a lower body temperature.
Other than that, no differences are ever explicitly examined. I assume they’re just Human: Cold Version.
I don’t know what to say. I was interested in both characters at the beginning, but by the end I couldn’t bring myself to care.
The long and short of it really comes down to these pieces being generally boring. You might find yourself asking “But Ashton, if you weren’t into the first book, then why did you even bother with the second?”
I received free ARCs of the books in exchange for an honest review. The pieces were short, so it didn’t amount to much time spent, and honestly… I thought Bank Run had a chance. Oops, Caught didn’t ‘catch’ me, but I thought the character duo could become something. I didn’t want to rule out an entire author’s writing just because of one piece.
Unfortunately, Bank Run did not deliver. In fact, I found it even more of a slog. There was less tension, and the romance… well, there really isn’t any. The two main characters are together, but romantic suspense was entirely null, there is little to no frisson or passion, and Gavnson loses a lot of his steel after the first installment. His stoic personality wilts under his insecurities, which is fine as a plot element, but I barely felt I was reading about the same character. All the intrigue that gave the reader any semblance of curiosity in Oops, Caught was erased in Bank Run, so you’re left with a barely sci-fi, hardly romance, not very interesting narrative.
I wanted to like these pieces. They seemed quite up my alley, from the sci-fi all the way down to the enemies-to-lovers and gray morality of Noland. But none of these elements hold up—in fact they’re almost entirely eviscerated in the second book—and the repetitive spoon-feeding and simplistic narrative structure make the set difficult to wade through.
Then again, I’m sure these novellas are right for someone. I’m a picky reader with my own set of preferences and peeves. If you’re someone who might enjoy the components I mentioned and don’t tend to take notice of clunky storytelling or writing style, you just might like it.
Note: I am an Amazon Associate and I am using affiliate links. These do not affect you or my reviews.
From Ninestar Press: