Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-307-5
Historical Romance, 2007
TA Chase’s Angel’s Evolution is a gay historical romance so melodramatic that I am half afraid that TA Chase is the reincarnation of Emily Brontë coming to punish everyone for all the watered-down wimpy Heathcliff clones that have always plagued the romance genre and especially for that awful crime against humanity that is the allowing of Cliff Richard to believe he would make a good Heathcliff in that ghastly 1997 musical. Since camp and melodrama are very subjective from person to person and my idea of well-done melodrama may be another person’s idea of overwrought hysterical tragicomedy, all I can say is that I find this story often way too overwrought for my taste. It’s not a tragicomedy, but it is nonetheless often over the top.
Also, Angel’s Evolution is a story that exists in its own vacuum. If I have to judge it by pesky criteria such as how plausible I find this premise to be, it will not make the grade that easily.
In this story the hero – the first-person narrator – is twenty-three year old Lord Williamson who falls for Lord Greyson, the Duke of Northampton. The story is simple: Lord Williamson’s father beats him every time because the father is an abusive monster, and that’s before he finds out that his son is gay. Lord Williamson falls in love with Lord Greyson and spends a lot of time worrying that Lord Greyson is out of his league. But ah, in this kind of stories, the one you believe to be straight always turn out to be, er, men that go straight for other men, to speak, so the only obstacle to a happily ever after for our boys is Lord Williamson’s family.
The story has its fair share of cringe-inducing moments of corniness, such as how I never know the main characters’ first name so Lord Greyson calls Lord Williamson “Angel” while Angel here repays the favor by calling his loverboy “Apollo” and “perfection”. Angel sees Greyson for the first time and the next thing I know, he’s also declaring that Greyson is perfect, unattainable, and the hunk of all hunks while Angel here is a “monster”. The author has Angel going into emo overdrive way too soon – Angel comes off like some teenage kid writing long morbid poetry in an unreadably purple manner filled with overwrought sentiments about being alone and miserable forever because the person he has a crush on doesn’t immediately offer the moon, the stars, and the sun to the emo kid. The two men don’t just talk, they make passionate dramatic speeches about how grand their love is, lines that evil people like me love to read aloud to our friends and family members in our most overwrought and breathless manner for cheap giggles. Angel will die when he hears that Greyson may have found some woman in the Ton to marry! Greyson announces breathlessly to Angel things like, “There is nothing wrong with taking pleasure in each other, Angel. The only wrong would be if we denied our attraction.” Everyone from the good guys and the bad guys are so dramatic here, it’s like watching overwrought prose coming to life in breathlessly flowery bursts of Merchant-Ivory technicolor.
The thing is, yikes, these two men don’t even know each other before they are passionately making grand speeches about how they are so alone, how they will die without the other, and other oh-so-emo matters. I can appreciate that the author is trying to portray Angel as the victim to his father’s abusive ways, but the problem is, Angel’s first-person narration makes him come off as too intelligent and too lucid rather than a person who has been abused. The “voice” of Angel is completely at odds with his personality as an emotionally scarred and scared young man. Angel doesn’t behave like an abused victim scared to leave his abuser – Angel comes off too much like the author’s sockpuppet instead. Am I making sense here? The author doesn’t manage to make Angel’s first-person voice fit his personality and background and therefore Angel never comes off as a convincing victim of abuse. First-person narration is not an easy thing to pull off, especially if the author can’t get the “voice” of the main character right, so perhaps this story would have been better off if it is written in third person.
As a result, the characters are over the top passionate and melodramatic like teenage brats in a concert fainting dead after they imagine that their idol gave them some kind of “I will marry you and we are meant to be together forever” look from the stage. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you that the closing sentence of this story is this.
I’ve spent my time in Hell. Now it’s time to forever embrace Heaven.
Imagine an entire story written in such an overwrought manner and you have Angel’s Evolution. I’m the person who sighs in delicious thrill when Heathcliff is bashing his head bloody against a tree while howling for the now-dead Catherine to come back to him so if I am to find this story too melodramatic and over-the-top, I honestly don’t know what else to say anymore.