by Carol Lynne, contemporary (2007)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-41990-946-7
I don't know if I'm desensitized to the more lovely aspects of Carol Lynne's writing or that somehow both the author and her editor have pulled up their collective socks, but Finnegan's Promise is free of really embarrassing moments of bad writing. This story, however, is pretty bad in the sense that it is so sappy and sentimental that it will cause sugar shock if I am not careful.
Calder "Fin" Finnegan, a professional football player who is in the closet where the media, his colleagues, and his fans are concerned, returns to Boston to run his father's pub while the man makes a trip to Ireland. His father runs a popular Irish-themed pub called - what else? - Finnegan's. The hot bartender Dominic "Mick" Sullivan catches Calder's attention. Mick sings, looks hot, and like Fin, asks people to call him something other than his actual name. What's not to love? Fin's father Sean however is dying of cancer and he asks Mick not to let Fin know of this. Poor Mick now keeps a secret that Fin won't take lightly to should it ever be revealed. What will happen now?
Like pretty much every other gay romance stories out there, this one doesn't have any relationship build-up. Fin and Mick like what they see in each other and it's time to whip out those Irish tin whistles in order to party. I can forgive this lack of relationship build-up in a short story but since this is a novel-length story, I don't know what Ms Lynne's excuse is. Yeah, yeah, I can hear some people say, "But her excuse is that she's Carol Lynne, duh!". But to be fair to this author, she's showing some improvement from book to book: this book is far better written than Ben's Wildflower, what with its down-to-earth plot and the author's attempts to create passably realistic characters and to give these characters some semblance of depths. Therefore, it's probably not fair in this instance to judge the author by how much of a circus sideshow she could be.
On the bright side, there are still some unintentionally funny moments, like this one:
Mickís body vibrated so hard on Finís lap that his
own cock gave up the fight and erupted inside his pajama bottoms. Mick collapsed against Finís chest and Fin wrapped his arms around him.
I can't help suspecting that "vibrated" is probably not the word Ms Lynne should be using in the above dramatic scene unless Mick is actually some kind of mechanical blow-up doll came to life Pinocchio-style. I find myself riveted by some of the impossible mechanics of the love scenes here, such as Mick's amazing ability to deep-throat Fin and swallow with gagging. Fin must be a really small guy.
The rest of the story is akin to a typical Jules Jones type of story in the sense that Mick and Fin subsequently have such a happy great time muah-muah'ing each other like two happy Ken dolls acting out a thirteen-year old girl's perfect slash fantasy of happily ever after that I seriously begin to fear for my blood sugar levels. The thing about Sean's cancer allows Ms Lynne to turn on the waterworks and the sappy "I love you, Da! Da!" moments in a cringe-inducing manner. While Ms Lynne tries to portray Fin's issues with his father in a pretty realistic manner at first - and in a way succeeds in doing so - she subsequently shoves the son and the father into a reconciliation that will be too embarrassing even for Hallmark.
Finnegan's Promise is Carol Lynne stepping up things by several notches so that she can play with the big gals in the gay romance scene without embarrassing herself. That is good. However, Finnegan's Promise is at the same time too much like a typical very average gay romance right down to its rather clichéd flaws (lack of suspense or conflict in the relationship, lack of credible relationship build-up, reads too much like amateur fanfiction, et cetera). Which is to say, I find this one on the boring side but if you like the current crop of gay romances out there by every other slash fiction writer given a publishing contract, you probably may enjoy this one. It follows the formula faithfully, has the same kind of characters, and even shares the same flaws (or strengths, depending on how you like these stories) that nearly every other gay romance out there is plagued with. Just be careful of the sickeningly sentimental moments if you have a low tolerance for such scenes.
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