Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-384-3
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Samantha Kane goes back to the town of Mercury, where there is a pretty good amount of tolerance and peace cakes for everyone. Brian Curland, a very wealthy man who has been around the block way too many times, is in town to oversee the setting up of a new data center for his business. He’s the man who goes after what he wants, but right now, he’s not entirely sure what he wants. Sure, he was pretty happy living the fast life with his buddies, but perhaps he may be missing out on something more, although what that is, he’s still wondering.
And then his rented car breaks down, and he meets the resident do-gooder and look-better fellow Evan Michaels. Now that is someone Brian wants. The thing is, Evan may be known to the natives to be gay, but he is also the minister of the local Unitarian church. And Evan believes that he should keep his private life on the down low because it is one thing for people to know that he’s gay; seeing him with another guy may actually challenge the limits of their acceptance.
Therefore, for once in his life, Brian finds himself being someone’s DL, and he doesn’t know how to fully react to that. Then again, this is just a fling. They come from different worlds, and he doesn’t see Evan fitting in in his more jaded and cynical world. Will these two work out something good, or it is bye-bye everyone’s going solo at the end of the day? Of course there’s no bye-bye, duh, this is a romance story after all.
Samantha Kane’s Cherry Bomb is a pretty entertaining read, although I find her characters’ conversations to be on the stilted side. Characters sometimes monologue rather than to speak naturally, and these moments feel artificial. Still, Brian is adorable when he’s out of his elements (when it comes to matters of the heart) and I feel that his presence carries the story. Evan is a rather flat sort compared to Brian.
Actually my biggest disappointment with this story is tied up to Evan. He’s a minister. And yet he hesitates about being himself in front of his congregation. Why? Well, here’s the thing – Cherry Bomb shies away from the matter of spirituality and religion, so Evan’s baggage never feels fully developed. By shying away from directly addressing Unitarianism beyond a superficial level, I don’t get a good idea of why Evan is still reluctant to embrace his sexuality openly despite belonging to one of the most liberal Christian theological movements in town. And to anyone unfamiliar with Evan’s church, that guy may come off as a pseudo-minister type who talks vaguely about everyone getting peace cakes at the love buffet. It’s a shame, if you ask me. This story is a great opportunity to explore spirituality and religion from the point of view of someone who is both gay and spiritual, but the author seems content with delivering yet another conventional romance.
Also, Evan’s issues feel like molehills made out to be mountains after a while because, for all his fears and worries, it’s pretty clear that he won’t be tarred and drummed out of town as a result of some PDA with Brian. I feel that the author has deliberately taken some steps to give her characters an easier time, and these steps come off more like contrivances than organic developments of the story.
At its core, Cherry Bomb is a pretty decent love story. Just don’t let the presence of spiritual elements lead you into thinking that this is something more. It’s not, it’s just another typical tale of romantic sodomy at the end of the day.