by Alex Beecroft, contemporary (2010)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-050-5
Bless fictitious characters with angst. They are always rich enough to get away from whatever that is troubling them for a summer of passion and sun, while we mere mortals can only live vicariously. Vicarious escape is always good, but the downside to having characters who claim to be so troubled but still privileged enough to drop everything to get away from it all is that these characters end up not being that troubled in my eyes. Instead, they become whiny drama queens.
Alec St John-Goodchilde drives a vintage car to get away from everything that summer when the story opens. It is his yearly habit to enjoy the summer at an expensive yacht club on the Cornish coast. He listens to Pasadena Roof Orchestra when he's not reading Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. He has Vivaldi's Gloria in Excelsis Deo as a ringtone. His mother calls at the start of the story to ask whether he'd like her to come with him as she can't bear the idea of him sailing solo in his yacht. You know, I'm amazed that Alec doesn't have "Posh Wanker" tattooed on his forehead. Anyway, I'm sure you can guess by now - Alec is a mother's boy who loves his creature comforts, and therefore, it is only a while before the closet doors open and he presents his unplumbed rear end to the first manly jock that comes around in this book. What, you expect this guy to be a top? New to Gay Romance Tropes 101, are you?
It isn't long before Posh Spice meets Darren Stokes, a surfer-cum-gigolo who picks up rich men to finance his summer holiday for him. This time around, he decides that Alec would make a lovely Sugar Daddy. Predictably, he's the top. He seduces Alec easily enough - Alec is eager to spread like peanut butter once he's found the man that tickles his prost... uh, fancy. The sex is so good, naturally, causing these two to peak in ecstasy as their joined bodies reverberate like a skipping ABBA record. Put in some silly conflict, an unbelievable resolution, and plenty of florid and overly descriptive prose that is jarringly out of place in a contemporary romance and stir. That's Shining In The Sun in a nutshell.
Darren comes off like a whiny gasbag. Yes, he has a terrible daddy and his job pays a low wage, but since he's already ensnaring Sugar Daddies for his vacation stint, I don't see why he just doesn't go full time into escorting if he hates his job so much. Bottom line is that Darren doesn't do anything but to whine about his life when he's not slowly pulling out the screws on the hinges of Alec's closet doors, and therefore it's hard to care for him. Alec is a passive fellow, which is bad enough but the author proceeds to cripple his character with plenty of rich coddled boy stereotypes. Let me put this way: you can tell right away not only who tops and who bottoms but also how each man will react in their respective roles in the relationship because they are really that stereotypical.
It seems like the story is trying to emulate the upper class melodrama typical of a book by, say, Alan Hollinghurst, but Ms Beecroft's florid and turgid "Why use one word to describe something when I can use three paragraphs?" style, which works well in a historical romance, feels completely out of place in a contemporary romance. I may be interested enough to absorb all those words under ordinary circumstances, but in this story, Ms Beecroft is using too many words unnecessarily to prettify what is essentially a clichéd and stereotypical story of a rent boy and his client.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: