Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 250 Pages
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Dreamspinner Press via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Loved the Story, Less the Execution
The only thing missing from forty-five-year-old English Lit professor Nathan Qells' life is a satisfying romantic relationship, but the thought of asking out a former student, even if that former student is now a thirty-two-year-old doctor who is obviously interested, makes Nate incredibly uncomfortable. His best friend Melissa, also his ex-wife and the mother of his son, thinks he's being ridiculous and encourages him to get out of his head and live a little.
Then again, Melissa is insane, and as much as he loves her, she's under the impression that love is some epic emotional journey he hasn't yet experienced. Which is, of course, ridiculous. It is.
Besides, it's not like Nate's life isn't wonderfully full with family and friends, and he thoroughly enjoys spending quality time with his neighbor's nephew, Michael. The sixteen-year-old reminds Nate of his own son, and Michael's uncle, a rather intense young man named Andreo Fiore, is often out working for the sort of people that make carrying a gun an occupational necessity.
Dreo has had custody of Michael since his mother died and Nate likes the kid so much he does what he can to watch over him, offering him a safe place to be - and often a guiding hand - when his uncle isn't around. His friendship with the boy is important to him, but Nate's been completely oblivious to how intently Dreo has been paying attention to that friendship. In fact, Nate's been completely oblivious to a lot of things when it comes to Dreo.
Like the fact that at twenty-eight, Dreo is working on getting out of the life he's living because he wants Michael safe and Nate in his bed. Hell, considering Nate hadn't even realized Dreo was gay, or that the young man had been pining for him for every one of the four years they've lived across the hall from each other, oblivious is an understatement. Now that he knows, though, Nate's insecurity and issues with their age difference may prove to be too big a stumbling block on their road to a Happily Ever After.
That is, if Dreo's old life doesn't come back to bite them both first.
This isn't my first Mary Calmes read by any means, so I had an idea of what to expect, but even forewarned, I couldn't help the frustration I felt as I was reading. I don't think it would have been possible to have loved the story any more than I did, or adore these characters more completely. Everyone from Nate and Dreo, to Michael and Melissa, and all the way down to the most briefly seen ancillary characters were so much fun to meet, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how Nate's life brushed against and intertwined with every single one of them.
I can't say enough about how much I loved Nate as the narrator and main character. Every single thing about him, from his quirks about his age, to his dedication to his son, to his relationship with Michael, appealed to me. Even how he deals with Dr. Feel-Good, his former student Sean, speaks of maturity and a man who knows who he is and is comfortable with himself. I was a huge fan of his and I rooted for him to find and hold onto that love that his ex-wife referred to.
And don't even get me started on Dreo. Loved. Him. I found his character riveting from cover to cover. He was so clear in my mind as the leather-wearing, gun-toting made man in the first half of the book that I could almost hear his voice in my ear, and then, halfway through the book, the light switch is flicked and he becomes this totally hot, completely earnest man who wants nothing more than to be the sort of man Nate could love.
I think I may have swooned in that laundry room scene, I swear.
For all that I loved them, though, and their story, Calmes' writing style is not one that agrees with me. I also tend to have a problem with romances written in first person point of view. I end up feeling short-changed by the absence of insight into both characters thoughts and feelings, though that wasn't a huge problem for me in this book.
Like other books I've read by Calmes, however, Acrobat is very dialogue-heavy and narration-light. There just isn't a wealth of internal monologue, description, or explanation anywhere in the book, and most of the information on scene, situation, and backstory has to be gleaned through conversation. Because of that, the pace of the book seems incredibly fast, with plot threads and story elements, characters and connections all popping up and disappearing in the rear view mirror before I could really settle in, dig deep, and enjoy.
That issue was glaring in the first half of the book, leaving me struggling to keep up with names and people and places and things. In the latter half, the pace slowed down a bit and the issue became less noticeable, but it never quite went away. In short, it felt like instead of reading the story, I spent most of the book having the words on the page shot at me with all the rapidity of bullets from a Tommy gun, which, while obviously apropos, wasn't ideal.
The dialogue-heavy style limits my grasp of scene, setting, depth of character and plot. And there's rather a lot of plot going on in this book. Nate has a full life, and there are a lot of little scenes with many different people. Racing over all of that, when what I really wanted to do was pause and revel and enjoy, caused that frustration I mentioned.
It's been several years since the last Calmes book I read, and I don't want to wait several more before reading another. She creates too much good stuff. If the stories weren't so damn good or the characters so damn lovable or the chemistry so damn hot or the...well... Regardless, if the story was any less awesome, my issues with the style of writing would have put me completely off the book and Calmes' body of work in general. But it is awesome.
I may not be able to say I totally loved the whole of the read, but I won't say that's anyone's fault but my own.