Monday, December 5, 2016

Clickbait by E.J. Russell

After the disastrous ending of his first serious relationship, Gideon Wallace cultivated a protective — but fabulously shiny — outer shell to shield himself from Heartbreak 2.0. Besides, romance is so not a priority for him right now. All his web design prospects have inexplicably evaporated, and to save his fledgling business, he’s been compelled to take a hands-on hardware project — as in, his hands on screwdrivers, soldering irons, and needle-nosed pliers. God. Failure could actually be an option.

Journeyman electrician Alex Henning is ready to leave Gideon twisting in the wind after their run-ins both on and off the construction site. Except, like a fool, he takes pity on the guy and offers to help. Never mind that between coping with his dad’s dementia and clocking all the overtime he can finagle, he has zero room in his life for more complications.

Apparently, an office build-out can lay the foundation for a new relationship. Who knew? But before Alex can trust Gideon with the truth about his fragile family, he has to believe that Gideon’s capable of caring about more than appearances. And Gideon must learn that when it comes to the heart, it’s content — not presentation — that matters.

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Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

It took me a little while to get into this story, probably because I found Gideon annoying to begin with and a little shallow. He is highly intelligent and judgmental, but meeting Alex starts to broaden his world. That is because Alex is a blue collar worker, an electrician, and he doesn't fit Gideon's stereotype of what a blue collar worker is.

Alex I loved right from the start, but I'm a sucker for a tradie. Alex is hard working, loyal, fun, intelligent, and very sexy. He is also committed to taking care of his family and looking after his dad, Ned, who has a degenerative brain condition. Ned's illness and how Alex and his family cope with it is a key part of the storyline. It was hard to see this family struggle to cope alone and a little heartbreaking.

Alex and Gideon have an up and down romance and it doesn't rush, so it gave me time for me to fall in love with Gideon and with our heroes as a couple. In the end, I was thrilled for them. I liked Clickbait very, very much.

E.J. Russell is a new-to-me author, and I was hooked from the start of the novel, but my interests waned from the 30% point onward.

I'm going to be upfront about my malfunction with the story. If a reader has a difficult time connecting to one of the narrators, it's nearly impossible to enjoy the story – no matter what.

Alex was an amazing character – caring, compassionate, loving, patient, hard-working, and family-orientated. Alex and his sister, Lindsey, were adopted by a couple. Alex was abandoned and Lindsey was born to a drug-addicted woman. Their adoptive parents were amazing people – a nurse and an electrician, but the father is now suffering with dementia, which is an affliction that affects their entire family.

Alex feels the need to be the man of the family now, by supporting them financially and emotionally, while not living his life. But he's always had a thing for his sister's gay roommate, Gideon.

Gideon. Gideon was what caused my discomfort. While I'm sure the author wanted him to come off as a sassy, sarcastic, snarky, spunky princess of a man, that isn't the impression I received while reading. Gideon was one of the most vapid characters I've ever read. Outward impressions were most important. Pretentious. Clothing with labels. What degree and what university you graduated from. How much money you earn. One look at a guy, he'd want him because of the man's pedigree, knowing nothing of this person (which I found insulting for the one he was lusting after, like he was simply put on this earth to entertain Gideon). While Gideon had a bad experience, that doesn't erase the personality flaws that are inherent and not affected by experiences. Gideon judged everyone, yet had no ability to self-reflect. Yes, he eventually evolved, but it was uncomfortable to read. I didn't find him a cute brat. I didn't find it humorous. Gideon needed to act as mature as his IQ, degree, and profession ought to have guaranteed. He reminded me of an irrational, hormonal, prepubescent preteen using big words who thought himself cute while throwing a tantrum.

So, with the premise, where Alex is an amazing character, I felt Gideon was beneath him. Three dates for help with the job. That made Alex look desperate, when any man should've been lucky to have him. So it made me think less of Alex to stoop this low. If someone is too blind to see you clearly, then they are the ones not worth being seen. Lowering yourself is not empowering. Just because Gideon thought so highly of himself, doesn't mean his view is accurate.

While Gideon does show growth, I had a hard time enjoying the read. As far as Lindsey playing the victim, making it seem as if Gideon didn't pay enough attention as a friend and roommate – I am on Gideon's side with this. It was Lindsey's job to confide in her friends. They are not mind-readers, and these people need to behave like grown adults, not emotionally stunted children. If my friends assumed I should 'just figure it out' they would no longer be my friends – that's called emotional extortion/manipulation. That's what men and women alike stereotype women as being, which is insulting to this woman (me). In this, even Alex annoyed me. I read this portion as such, "If you know my sister so well, you should 'just know' something is wrong, because she's not home all the time. You should stalk her and figure it out, because she's going through some stuff." That isn't angsty – it's ridiculous. Lindsey needed to grow up, or ditch the friends she was pigeonholing as being uncaring for not being mind-readers who stalk then pressure her to fess up.

In a nutshell, the characters rubbed me wrong. While I loved Alex, his parents, and his friend (Landon), the rest of the cast left me frustrated and annoyed as I read the story, making it impossible to enjoy it.

What I did enjoy: it was low on heat, with a strong foundation surrounding family, and evolving character building throughout the novel.

Recommended to MM readers who finds a male character acting catty as endearing. This is a case of the writing style and characterization not being to my tastes, causing me to become frustrated and moody as I read. So take this review with a grain of salt, as the book rubbed me the wrong way. Since I'm usually in the minority, there's an excellent chance this will entertain the majority.

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant. Several years ago, she realized Darling Sons A and B would be heading off to college soon and she’d no longer need to spend half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class.

What to do with all that free time?

A lucky encounter with Jim Butcher’s craft blog posts caused her to revisit her childhood dream of writing fiction, and now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

Her daily commute consists of walking from one side of her office to the other, from left-brain day job to right-brain writer’s cave, where she’s learned to type with a dog attached to her hip and a cat draped across her wrists.

E.J. is married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, C.H. also loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).

E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Clickbait by E.J. Russell to read and review.

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