piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
this was a very welcome relief from a string of truly execrable crap i've been reading lately.

larger than usual because it's probably my favourite mm cover of the year so far. catt ford did it (catt can write AND do good covers; impressive).

blurb: Conrad Muller's heart is the center of a web of friendships, fights, and love lost and found in a close-knit group of gay men in Orange County, California. Six months ago, Conrad died, and his organs were donated for transplant. A month later, Conrad's lover, Christian, receives a letter from the recipient of Conrad's donated heart.

Christian can't stop thinking about the letter, and he's not the only one affected by loss. Conrad's best friend Eban is also brokenhearted, and he's struggling with his lover Damien, who has always resented living in Conrad's shadow. Though Conrad is gone, his friends and his lover will have to cope with their grief to move on and find new love.

that blurb is a bit dry when compared with the actual book, *little snrk*.

there's a huge cast of characters, and they're all connected. i love that sort of setup, though i love it most in a multi-story universe where we get to come back again and again to concentrate on different people -- alas i don't think this will be such universe. there's conrad who died but who is still a character in his own right, about whom we find out more things as the story goes on. there's christian who was his lover for 10 years, eban who was conrad's best friend from highschool on and who also became christian's best friend (yes, i totally thought the story would go there; what better comfort after that shared grief.) there's damien, eban's ex with whom eban is still in love, and luke who hits on christian in a coffee shop several months after conrad's death. aaron is eban's partner (they're cops), and darius is another cop who happens to be luke's best friend. marcus is christian's eccentric boss, and jack is his co-worker. did i forget anyone important?

the story reeled me in right away, and i read all 300+ pages in one sitting. it has meaty, complex primary characters; they have flaws, but hey, that's human -- and there's nobody here beyond redemption. it made me cry a little (anything where somebody's partner dies does that because it reminds me, and even fictional grief is too palpable. still. i guess it will never stop being that way.). secondhand heart is very realistic about the grief of its characters; i think it would be hard to read it and not feel for them. it is well written and edited (another welcome relief from the string of crap).

but. (you knew there was a but, because i always write more about the buts than the happy buttsex). around page 150 i got overwhelmed by the unceasing drama, and i got more and more annoyed with the protagonists because none of them were ever honest with each other (except for luke), or gave each other a break (except for luke), and even when they realised they were doing something wrong, they proceeded to fuck things up instead of attempting to repair the damage (except for luke). i know that's realistic because i know enough people in real life who screw everything up royally again and again, even though they KNOW it's wrong and stupid, but they're ruled by fear and insecurity. heartrending grief can also make you do some really destructive things that push everyone away; ghods, yes. it was pretty obvious right away who christian's new flame luke was, but that didn't bother me, though it elevated the stress level some because i was waiting and waiting and waiting when the axe would drop. but when it did, it was even worse than i had expected, maybe because in that situation i think i would have reacted very differently from how christian reacts -- G donated zir organs, and while i never found out who has them (and didn't want to find out), i was glad zie wanted that done, and it helped a bit to remember that even in zir death, zie was a good, caring person and wanted to help somebody else live. so yeah, not unrealistic, but i got tired out by getting sucked into the emotional turmoil again and again, and started to try and distance myself. though i am not sure how much of the exhaustion is due to my depression; this might not be the same for somebody else. fortunately things did get better another 100 pages later.

my polyamorous side is always exasperated by tragic love triangles, especially when there is every sign that these people could work it out if they just got off the monogamy train and let go of this boneheaded notion that one can only love one person romantically at a time, in the face of plentiful evidence to the contrary. sure, some people are wired that way, but i believe the majority is not, and clearly conrad and christian and eban were not. they were such good friends that i am damn sure they could have made a go of it. it pisses me off that so many people had to get hurt so badly because people refused to think outside the box. they're gay, you'd think that gives them a hint that there is an outside of society's boxes. yeah, i know it doesn't work that way. it should. *stomps feet*. i am not blaming the author, but i am always extra happy when i come across a book where the love triangle is resolved by all three getting together, *sigh*.

i could have done without the sudden supernatural flavouring towards the end because that throws me out of a contemporary story, and eban could have easily found out in another way. and almost at the very end, the story jumped the shark for a bit, which was 100% too much drama at that late a point; i was in resolution mode and did not want to get scared stiff again. some of the resolutions for secondary characters are too fast too pat, but i can see the damned if you do and damned if you don't in a romance. luke is not fleshed out enough for my taste; which makes me wonder whether christian really sees him, or loves him as a copy of conrad. luke is also a bit too good, but his always sensible actions are a welcome relief from other people's hurtful ones.

i've seen some other people complain about gratuitous sex, but i didn't see anything wrong with it. there was more than there usually is in a book with this much emotional punch, but it is part of eban's problem. ok, so they're all motivated a bit much by their cocks, but again, that's not unrealistic.

the amount of drama would have been less overwhelming if this had been two books. that would have also allowed me to learn more about the characters used for some of the happy resolutions. as it stands i thought they came a bit out of the blue and their devotion made little sense. there's a bit much "fate" invoked at the end for my non-religious tastes, but no biggie. however, what bothers me most is that there is still a secret, and that a character lies to keep it at the very end. that flies in the face of who this character is IMO, and what the moral here should be: that it's better to be honest even if it's risky, because what people don't know WILL hurt them. the reader is told that christian knows the secret -- but the character in question doesn't know that. for some reason this is a big deal for me, and actually a letdown leaving a sad taste.

like its characters, the book is flawed; like its characters the flaws are not fatal. anything that can keep me thinking about it this much is a definite cut above the sea of genre mediocrity, and i will remember it. and buy more books by blackwell.

unfortunately just as i have discovered this author, i found out that she's retired from writing. damn.


piranha: red origami crane (Default)
renaissance poisson

July 2015

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