Cartography for Beginners

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Title: Cartography for Beginners
Author: Jenna Jones
Publisher: Torquere Press
Buy Link: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (394 pages / 105700 words)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by jeayci

Review Summary: A wonderful friends-to-lovers tale with older characters, one I loved despite (what else?) a lack of good editing.

Blurb: At the age of fifty-one, Leo Bellamy from Chiaroscuro and Something Beautiful has to do what he never expected: start over. Leo has been mourning the end of his long-time relationship for over a year. It takes the death of a close friend to convince Leo that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life being bitter. It’s time to move on and find a love that will last. Leo accepts his friend Stuart Huntsman’s invitation to visit him in London, where Leo’s friends hope he will find a holiday romance that will kick start that “moving on” business.

Meantime, Stuart has been tentatively rebuilding his relationship with his estranged children. For twenty years Stuart thought his children were better off with him, and it’s a shock to learn they don’t feel the same way. Stuart doesn’t think he’s good for anyone — and certainly not for Leo, even if he and Leo call each other daily and Stuart is always a welcome guest in Leo’s home.

There’s no road map to true love and it’s easy to get lost along the way. But with patience and understanding, Stuart and Leo may find their way to each other.

City by the Bay #3

Review: I loved this story, maybe even more than the first one, though it’s been too long since I read the first two for that to be an easy comparison. This can stand alone as a wonderful friends-to-lovers story of finding love in your fifties, if you’d rather start with it than Chiaroscuro. But I enjoyed the first two books and recommend them as well, and having read them added depth to the story told in this book.

Not that this book lacks depth, with its underlying theme of loss and starting over and finding greater happiness while still suffering some regrets, because “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Not only the main characters, but some of the secondary characters too. These enhanced rather than distracted from the primary story, as they were related in the context of a main character recognizing similarities to their own lives and learning from the effects of others’ choices.

Leo was very believable as the heart-broken man who at first wants only to get his old life and love back. I felt like smacking him a few times, but that was part of the realism, watching him take two steps forward and then one back. Leo is a really, really good man, one whom I dearly wanted to see find true happiness. There are many wonderful quotes sprinkled throughout this book, but one of my favorites gives a great sense of Leo’s character:

“You know what my favorite thing is about England?”
“What?”
“That all the exit signs say Way Out. It’s not a cold exit sign, telling us to get on our way. It’s being set free.”

I didn’t like Stuart much when I first met him in Chiaroscuro, but he’s one of those people who improves upon further acquaintance. I loved seeing his redemption in this book, and found it painful to see him vilified by other characters, even as their actions were understandable. I thought Stuart’s reasons for being single made sense, but I started to get nervous that after so much time spent convincing me he was incapable of a forever sort of commitment, how believable could a HEA be? Fortunately, his character growth and development enabled me to believe in it, and to really root for his happiness.

However, this book was not without some significant flaws, which kept it from being a 5-star book. None that disturbed me as much as Micah intending to take BART at 3am in Something Beautiful. That’s guaranteed to seriously piss off anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, as it’s a major issue that BART stops running at midnight. Of all the factual errors in all the books I’ve ever read, that still stands out as one of the more egregious (no, I’m not bitter. Not at all. Really). But in this one there were confusing typos like Micah sighed, took out his wallet and gave Micah a five.

More importantly, I was disoriented by the mention of Leo’s seemingly many former lovers. He and Adam got together when Leo was twenty-one. Adam cheated regularly, but the impression I got in Something Beautiful was that Leo was faithful. I suppose Leo could have had a wild and crazy youth and racked up his share of lovers in just a few years, but the wording seemed to suggest that these past lovers were accrued over decades. So either I was wrong about his faithfulness, or he and Adam played with others over the years. While either of those is plausible, neither fits my impression from Something Beautiful. I even went back and read over those parts, to see if I’d misremembered or misinterpreted. Nope, still have the same impression. So I have no idea what to make of that.

I was also confused by Ben’s characterization. I remember loving him in the first two books, but in this one I barely recognized him. I certainly didn’t like him much. So either he’s changed a lot, or I have. And I thought Adam was a bit of a caricature of an awful ex, something that startled me after he and Leo had spent twenty-eight years together. I suppose there are people who suddenly turn out to be so awful after so long, but I had to work at convincing myself it was believable. Stuart swimming in the Thames also surprised me, but if there is anywhere nice enough to be able to do so, he could certainly afford to live there.

So while I didn’t have any single issue as big as taking BART at 3am (!!!), there were several little issues that niggled at me throughout the story. Even so, it was engaging and engrossing enough for me to mostly ignore them. When I love the characters, when I get engaged in a story, I’ll forgive, overlook, or ignore many things. This story is a great example of that. It’s great as it is, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really, really wish it had gotten good editing.

Despite the niggles, I loved this and recommend it whether you’ve read the earlier books or not. The series could end here, but there was obvious potential for a secondary character to get his own story, one I’d love to read. And I’d love to see at least one more book simply because I love the characters and want to spend more time with them.

11 thoughts on “Cartography for Beginners

  1. Sirius

    Hmmm, I have read the first two years ago – remember liking then but do not remember plot at all. If this one could be read as stand alone I will definitely consider. Heh now I know BART operation hours if I ever get to Bay Area :). Thanks and thanks for the review.

    1. jeayci Post author

      This one could definitely stand alone. And what do you mean IF you ever get to the Bay Area? :razz: I thought it was a question of when… :forit:

    1. jeayci Post author

      I think this one could absolutely stand alone. Reading the others first would, I think, deepen your appreciation for this one. But it’s not necessary to read those first in order to enjoy this one. :smile:

  2. Ladyage

    I’m glad to see this book reviewed here – I really liked it as well (though my favourite in the series is probably “Something Beautiful”). The mistakes in editing were irritating (off the top of my head: paying in euros in England, “defiantly” instead of “definitely”), but even with them I think this book is in my top five this year.
    I would also be glad to see another book with the same characters :-)

    1. jeayci Post author

      Funny, Something Beautiful is absolutely my least favorite in the series (and not just because of the BART gaffe!). But those differences are what makes it all so fun, eh? :grin:

      I noticed the editing issues you mentioned, too, but I didn’t want to harp on them too much. Especially since I managed to love the book so much anyway. I’m glad it worked for you, too! :smile:

  3. Wave

    This sounds like a wonderful series and you did a great job on the review Jess. Thank you for this or I would have overlooked this book. I’ll hold you to your promise (almost) to review the other books in the series. :grin:

    BTW I never realized that BART signed off at midnight. For any large city it’s almost unheard of to close off public transit before 2.00 A.M. :(

    1. jeayci Post author

      Thanks, Wave, it is a great series! I hope you enjoy it too. :smile: I will review the others too, one of these days. Reading this one increased my desire to reread them, so maybe it’ll even be soon. :smile:

      And yeah, it’s outrageous that BART stops running at midnight. :wallbash: :curse: As you said, it’s almost unheard of for public transit to close before 2am. But you really don’t wanna get me started on that rant! :lol:

      1. jeayci Post author

        I guess it makes me feel a little better to know that we’re not the only ones who are so backward. But I’m also sorry to hear that the idiocy isn’t limited to a single location. :grin:

    2. Karla

      Philadelphia shuts down the subway train systems at midnight, along with the commuter trains.They do run some buses in parts of the city all night, but most of the system is down by midnight.

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