by DA Welch, contemporary (2007)
iUniverse, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-595-67886-0

To be honest, I bought an electronic copy of DA Welch's Flashback from iUniverse as a reaction to a rather insulting review of the author's book on a blog which seems to be reviewing unfavorably the entire romance genre rather than the book itself.

The self-publishing scene can be very harsh on the romance genre because there are too many pretentious gits out there who believe that the self-publishing scene should be an exclusive bastion for postmodern future Pulitzer prize-winning works which are too brilliant to be understood by the stupid mainstream scene that only read "trash"... like romance. I feel sorry for this author because she happens to send her book to a reviewer who clearly views the romance genre with the disdain one would reserve for a dead cockroach stuck to the sole of one's new shoes.

I suppose this answers the question as to whether unfavorable reviews can be good for business, heh, at least where this book is concerned.

Since I am a romance reader, I don't have any negative reaction to the fact that this story features beautiful people having perfect sex with each other. However, I do have a negative reaction to the over-the-top subplot about religious kooks, the often purple description of the characters' physical assets, and very unpolished prose complete with conversations that feel stilted to the ears. I also can't say that I am fond of how every good person in this story is physically attractive. Perfection, especially uniform perfection, becomes dull very fast.

Nate Dunlevy is best described as a Suzanne Brockmann hero minus any interesting personality. He served in the Middle-East so he has the obligatory traumatic flashbacks or two. He is a hirsute hunk who currently plies his Navy SEAL skills for the FBI and various other acronyms in the US government via a security company that he has formed with other like-minded ex-Navy SEALs. Nate returns to his hometown Beaufort in the Low Country to visit his family. He hasn't seen them in a while and he certainly hasn't seen Eve O'Connor before. She is a reclusive artist who has become a family friend of the Dunlevy clan in Nate's absence.

Nate wants to know Eve more but she alas had a terrible experience with a violent ex-boyfriend who is everything from rapist to terrorist to religious fundamentalist. When that human version of Yosemite Sam shows up to terrorize poor Eve once more, Nate of course puffs up like a bloated puffer fish as he and buddies soon come to the rescue, pitting themselves against more cartoon characters who have come to give the cartoon ex-boyfriend some support.

Nate is written as this nice guy who has some swagger and macho tendencies that are channeled into protecting damsels-in-distress and other antics that Captain America will approve. He has his moments and he has his charms as well, but at the same time he is so underwritten that there is nothing memorable about him. Eve is an even more poorly written character. She is a nice lady who adores Nate's family. Eve is a forgettable bundle of niceness, which makes me wonder how her love life could turn out to be so spectacularly screwed up. Poor Eve comes off like a plot device rather than a coherent character because she has even less than Nate when it comes to personality.

Ms Welch could have really done some judicious self editing in this book because the story really meanders all over the place. There is no noticeable change in pacing in this book. Scenes of danger and scenes of people chatting idly in a kitchen are written in the same tone and urgency. The characters often veer off into long irrelevant discussions just as they often wander off to do things that add little to the main storyline. The author needs to tighten the story by excising all those scenes that clog up the story but do nothing to move the storyline. All those unnecessary conversations that are nothing more than exposition material should be cut down as well. I don't need to know everything about the character, just what is enough to keep the story going.

For example, all those details about Nate's experiences in the Middle-East will make some good military propaganda under any other circumstances, but they do nothing for this story since it is not taking place in the Middle-East and much of Nate's issues are not relevant to the plot. Sure, it is nice to know why Nate gets the shivery tics at night when he tries to sleep, but I don't need to know every single thing, especially when all that information dumping takes place in pages after pages of stilted conversations. The author should be moving the story forward, not dwelling incessantly on the characters' past. And it says a lot that for all the information dumping in the story, Nate and Eve are still completely forgettable. Too much telling is never good.

To add insult to the injury, Nate's issues are easily solved via a few superficial scenes with a therapist.

Ms Welch commits all the misdemeanors a debut author can be guilty of, which makes this book a very pricey showcase of the author's boo-boos even at the $6.00 price for an electronic copy. The only good thing I can say about it is that it contains some very vivid descriptions of the scenery. However, that makes me want to visit the place rather than to give this book a second read.

I'm speaking as a romance reader rather than someone who automatically dismisses this book just because it is romance when I say that this book is in dire need of a thorough rewrite and a more stringent round of editing.

Rating: 45

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