Thursday, July 21, 2016

Heartache and Hope by C.L. Etta

After heartache comes hope…

At eighteen, Kevin Monroe has learned that mothers don’t always love their sons, Dad’s fists can break your bones, and a closet gets mighty crowded with two. After the boy next door breaks his trust and heart, Kevin departs Albuquerque, NM, determined to live his life out and proud as the man he is meant to be. With Diamondback tickets in his pocket, Kevin leaves his heartache behind to pursue his long-time hope of entertaining as a drag queen.

Fear has ruled Raphael Delgado since he first realized he’s gay. Fear of discovery, fear that he can’t support his disabled mama, and fear he has lost Kevin forever. Against a backdrop of familial love and obligation, Raphael struggles to find the courage to accept his sexuality, while hoping to leave the fragile confines of his closeted life.

While watching a Diamondback game on television, Raphael spots Kevin kissing a man in the crowd. His first reaction is fear for Kevin’s safety and then fear that Kevin will never come home.

Can love be restored long distance? Will love’s key be strong enough to unlock Raphael’s closet door? And who is the red-haired beauty wrapped in Kevin’s arms?

Reader Advisory: This book contains some flashbacks to physical assault, and homophobic slurs.

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Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
Pride  Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3 Stars.
5 for the bones of the story.
2 for the writing & execution.

I always feel awkward and uncomfortable writing the first review, especially when it's a critical one. But I must be completely honest. I apologize in advance, as I see this is the author's first book, or perhaps it's a pseudonym for an established author. I wish the author good luck, truly. I was once in a similar position, and I had to take my medicine, even if it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I became a better writer for it. Every day I have to have reality-checks.

The writing style and execution caused me great difficulty while reading. The plot had major promise, and it would have been thought-provoking if it had been executed properly, with the correct flow of information, and the author had self-edited.

What I mean by self-edited: to throw a billion horrific events at your characters is emotional extortion, which doesn't work unless you form a connection between reader and character. Every bad thing that could happen to someone was used as a plot device. But after a few, it just became muted background noise as I became desensitized to it all. Not one, but two, elderly disabled parents. One would have been more than enough to elicit a response in the reader.

Self-edit, to stop yourself from adding more to a story than necessary, as it bogs the flow down, buries the characterization, and leaves the reader feeling extorted into feeling something because bad things happen to good people, but those emotions weren't earned by the author. Extorted. I can't hand out a 5-star favorable review simply on the content of the story.

Several times over the course of the book, I was close to DNFing, but I continued on because of the story itself, overlooking the writing. I sound harsh, but I feel the author has great promise, but the content of this book was outside of the author's abilities at this date. Amazing bones to the story.

Many of my qualms were taken care of later in the book – written away instead of shown in the beginning. I had a difficult time as the 18-year-old character used phrasing and spoke as someone over 40, like calling a 21-year-old, someone three years OLDER, 'kid'. Many of the conversations were long, like preachy speeches, written in a language of someone far older than their age, in a voice that wasn't authentic to the characterization.

My next issue was the generational divide between father and son, and mother and son. Both parents were suffering from ailments of the elderly, yet their children were teenagers (early 20s). While Kevin's was explained later on, how his father was old enough to be his grandfather, it would have been impossible for Mama D. to have birthed her son if she was as old as she was written to be. It was more like Raphael was taking care of a set of grandparents, but even then older grandparents, or perhaps great-grandparents. As a generation is 20 years. Most 20-year-old’s parents are in their 40s, and their grandparents in their 60s-70s.

Next up was how an 18-year-old, who was abandoned by his low-rent mother and his abusive father, never worked a day in his life and lived off a neighbor's family, had a college fund big enough to live off of in a major city in the US – for a YEAR – where the rent would be astronomical. The debt-to-living ratio would have been more than a mortgage in the suburbs, or buying a house outright in a rural area. Not just rent, but utilities and expenses. The beginning was written as if they were poor, and Kevin was abandoned after being beaten. When Kevin brought up the college fund as a way to write away his ability to live on his own, I almost quit the book. Later on, in the middle of the book, this was written away. But I couldn't buy that someone well-off lived next door to a destitute family (Raphael was written to being destitute, which is why he needed the money from Kevin's father.)

Kevin annoyed me greatly. The entitled attitude the guy had. He reminded me of the guy you friend-zone who feels entitled enough to get angry *at you* when you don't want them back. Kevin left his family, treated Raphael like crap, leaving him to take care of the people who had footed the bill and raised him, all because Raphael wouldn't give in and give him what he wanted. His 'body' as he already had his heart. Everything Kevin did was to punish Raphael. Eighteen or not, that was gross. Beyond disgusting. Then he treated Robin with the same level of entitlement. Again, gross.

The drag queen bit. The first time it was brought up in the story, it was on a page where it didn't belong, and that was the first time I contemplated DNFing the story. Not over the drag queen issue, but an 11-year-old wouldn't even know about drag queens, nor would he speak to Raphael in the manner he did when he came out. Again, the 11-year-old sounded as rational as a 50-year-old. That bit of information didn't flow into the story, but was more dropped like a bomb out of nowhere.

The back in forth of the past to the present to the past to the present didn't flow well in the story itself. Some of the past segments didn't add anything to the overall story, while others did. Reworked, this could have added value, but with the way it was written, it was a distraction and a detraction from the story.

There were just too many plot threads woven in an already filled to the brim storyline. Even BDSM was brought into play at one point. Abuse. Gay bashing. Homeless. Prostitution. Abandonment. Abusive stepfather and flighty stripper mother. In love with your 'foster' brother. A disabled elderly parent, needing constant care-giving after a stroke. A disabled elderly parent suffering from Alzheimer's, who also happens to be a son beating bigot, who beats on his care-giver. Being poor yet having unlimited resources. Erectile dysfunction. Maybe Asexual. Horrible pasts by every character. Will-they-won't-they, who will choose who romance.

Things like above should have been pointed out by beta readers or a competent editor. Instead of using a Band-Aid to write away the confusion later on in the story, it ought to have been handled immediately when it cropped up in the beginning, to erase the need for readers to DNF the book because of the unrealistic nature in a book set in a realistic environment.

I wish the author luck, as I feel their storytelling has great promise. But I don't recommend this title because of all the inconsistencies and structural issues. If the novel was rewritten, with an editor who has a firm hand when it comes to content, I would change my stance.

With a shriek heard from sea to shining sea when her first book, Heartache and Hope, was accepted for publication, C.L. began her journey into the world of storytelling. Having raised a husband and three children, C L. spends her free time reading and enjoying her life. After acquiring a wealth of experience in consumer and mortgage finance, software support, and nursing, C.L. is ready to nurture her creative muse.

A self-described romance novel junky who considers tequila a food group, C.L. began hearing voices and was alarmed until she realized there was a cast of characters banging around in her head, demanding their stories be told. Not wanting to let them down, she keeps her laptop nearby and her thesaurus handy.

Connect with C.L.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Heartache and Hope (Beyond Heartache #1) by C.L. Etta to read and review.

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