A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Interesting historical novella, but I was left wanting more.
It’s the height of the Depression, and people are desperate for a distraction from their lives. Film director Church Chetwood wants to help them forget—and he manages it with his documentaries and travelogues. But when the saber-tooth tiger he captured escapes, Manhattan’s grave situation only worsens. Now Church is facing ten years up the river.
Black Tuesday left John Smith a homeless sixteen-year-old orphan, and in the past four years he’s survived as best he could. When his path crosses Church’s, Johnny’s looking for a meal, nothing more. Surely after all he’s done, no one could love him—especially not Church, who insists he isn’t “like that.” But Church does have a plan to get away. Maybe if Johnny’s lucky, Church will let him tag along.
I keep picking up the books by this writer because I enjoy a lot of things that she does, but I keep hoping that one day one of her books will hit a perfect spot for me. Unfortunately this was not the case with this one.
I loved the atmosphere in this story — it felt believable to the times of the Great Depression. Church Chetwood felt to me as one of those larger than life travelers from Hollywood movies, who want to do good things, but sometimes forget to take care about practicalities first. John was a person who suffered a lot because of the Depression but still managed to retain a lot of his vulnerability and strength. I liked them together, I really did. I appreciated so much that in this story the writer seemed to not employ the repetitive narration that she used in her “Spy and Spook” series, and because of this I thought that it made the story flow so much better.
So why the three stars rating? First and foremost it was just too short, *way* too short if you ask me for all the information and stories crammed into these pages. Church treats us to so many fun tales from his earlier years that I just wanted to see at least some of them playing out. Also, I thought he and John had a nice chemistry, but it was one of the most Insta!Loves ever and I did not care for the speed of their falling for each other in this one.
I know what I am going to say may seem contradictory to the previous sentence I wrote, but I have to say it anyway. I also felt that their nice chemistry was constantly sabotaged by Church calling John “kid” *all the time*. It seemed that their age difference is about 24 years — John is almost 21 and he at some point estimates Church’s age as 45. I am not by and large a fan of humongous age differences, but it has worked for me several times in the past (one of my most beloved new releases this year had a 30 year age difference between the couple, but the writer made it such a non-issue for me that it really did not matter). It has worked for me when the writer convinced me. One guy calling another a kid, unless it is in a teasing way, can unconvince me of any potential the couple has very fast. If I would have heard “kid” one more time in this one, it would have left a bitter taste in my mouth. I almost started thinking of them as father and son, which is not my thing at all.