Tag Archives: 1.25 stars

Horizons

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Title: Horizons
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher URL: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
Genre: Contemporary, Sports theme, GLBT (M/M)
Length: Novel
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

Guest Reviewer: Kassa

THE BLURB:

Twenty-three-year-old Clark Stevens, a popular wide receiver with a potential NFL contract, has a few problems. He’s got a jealous girlfriend, a narrow-minded and controlling father, an attention problem, and an unexpected and powerful attraction to the trauma doctor—the male trauma doctor—who treats him for a broken bone.

Dr. Jody Williams is getting some really mixed signals. He can’t ignore how much he wants Clark, because it’s obvious Clark feels the same way. For the out and proud doctor, the solution seems very simple. For Clark, it’s not! His world is not gay-friendly, and the obstacles he’s faced have led him to deny his sexuality for years.

It’s the Super Bowl of disasters, no matter how you look at it. In the end, Clark has to decide if he’s going to stick with the only life he’s ever known or take a chance on a new one with Jody.

THE REVIEW:

In this melodramatic and over the top sports romance, angst and tears are as much a part of the men’s relationship as the rampant hot sex. From the polarizing personalities to the incredulous happy ending, this story unfortunately fails to deliver an interesting or well-crafted story or romance. Characterization ran from clichés to immense emotional angst without proper context or meaning leaving the amateurish prose better suited to fan fiction. This type of story might appeal to those who enjoy an excessively angst driven story with a romanticized ending unbelievable even in the fantasy of romance stories. For those fans of the genre that prefer well written, well developed characters and storylines, you’re better suited to giving this story a wide berth.

The plot has several major holes in its construction leaving the story arc loose and unstructured. For starters, one of the main characters – Clark – is twenty-three and a junior at Cal University. He has ADD but his struggles with school were largely overlooked by professors and teachers due to his football talent. So how he is 23 (almost 24) and just beginning his third year in college without being held back or taking time off is a mystery and never explained. Furthermore the story begins in the fall a few months before Thanksgiving when Clark first breaks his arm and the football season is already over. Since college football seasons typically don’t end until close to December, why Clark’s season was already over in September/October is never explained. Presumably it was not due to the broken arm since several references are made to the season already being over at this point. These types of holes were rampant in the story as if the attention to detail wasn’t important.

Additionally the characters were very stereotypical and came across as unrealistic caricatures even amongst the admittedly romance fantasy story. There was the homophobic football obsessed family that would stop at nothing, including violence, to ensure Clark was a football star. Yet this same family denigrated Clark at every opportunity. The cliché gay friend in Lil who is flamboyantly gay and although a fun and flirty character, he came across as the author’s idea of a typical gay man rather than an important character as Jody’s close friend. And finally the obsessive stalker turned pseudo-girlfriend of convenience. None of these characters had any depth or purpose but the most superficial to progress the story.

Neither were Clark or Jody very consistent as characters. Jody is supposedly an out and proud, intelligent doctor with incredible sensitivity, strength, and self-awareness. Jody seemed to change whenever Clark was around, going from a capable and rational man to a crying, insecure, weak willed man that was willing to hide his sexuality for a lover who was afraid of coming out. While clearly the decision to be an openly gay football player is not an easy choice to make, Clark more so refused to accept he was gay and Jody allowed himself to be affected by this homophobic fear so much so it sends the unflappable doctor into crying hysterics at one point. Jody furthermore made numerous out of character comments describing himself as “a jealous queen” or “an insecure fag” and “a drama queen.” None of these comments were consistent with Jody’s
character, who is described by Clark as “not even looking gay.”

Which brings me to the problems with Clark, of which there were several. He is an emotional wreck wrapped up in 6’4″ of gorgeous hunk. While outwardly very masculine with a lightening quick temper and anger problems, Clark repressed all his gay desires and longings for such a long time that he was afraid to act on them even when faced with a man he desired. He seems to swing from extremes in emotion and spends well over half the book crying. Clark starts the first scene of the book crying over his injured arm and never seems to stop, despite his rough and tough upbringing, long experience in a hardened sport like football and his own repression of his homosexual desires, Clark still cries over everything and even admits that his reaction to strong emotion is to cry. Well he always feels strong emotion so he cries in just about every scene. He cries over his fears, his emotions, his anger, his desires, and his own failures. As much as this angst and melodrama may be understandable given the confusion Clark is going through, the exaggerated and overuse of drama and tears ran thin well before the story was over.

Even when Clark finally gives into his desire for Jody after sobbing hysterically again, he still continues to rebel against owning his feelings. He’s convinced that certain acts of sex will make him gay and thus after one blowjob acknowledges his orientation with the following statement:

I swallowed like a pro, never missing a beat, and I realized that it was now official. I was definitely gay.

However, he refuses to actually allow Jody to penetrate him until a much later scene where he proves his love by offering Jody the ultimate gift he has and ruminates to himself:

What a joke! Not only was I a pansy but I loved being a bottom, much to Jody’s surprise. My entire family would roll over in a collective faint if they knew how really gay I was.

This type of prose and phrasing was rampant within the book, which read not so much as homophobic but the author’s idea of how gay men related to each other and their own sexuality. This ignorance was at times painful to read and I fatigued on the poor writing well before the unduly unrealistic ending. I realize in romance stories there is a suspension of disbelief, however there is no amount of disbelief able to be suspended to follow the author’s dramatic big misunderstanding and exceedingly perfect happy ending. This easily would have been a DNF if I had that option but I did read the entire story thoroughly for this review, only to come to the over the top ending.

From the poor writing, inconsistent characters, ill-conceived plot, and rampant homophobic commentary, this book was a miss on all fronts for me. Just my opinion as always.