Suzanne Brockmann Presents, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-9863284-1-1
Contemporary Romance, 2016
I can only wonder what that cover is all about. It is channeling “Aunt Sophia’s Start-up Digital Press’s First Ever Self-Made Book Cover from 1999” realness, but if we are going for nostalgia value, I’m still mystified by how that close-up of a fellow in poor lighting is supposed to entice me into buying this. Then again, what enticed me was Suzanne Brockmann putting her name on the cover – she is now starting her own imprint of man-on-man stories, and coincidentally enough, the launch title is Creating Clark, co-written by her son as well as her husband. A part me wonders whether there is any overlap between fans of her books and fans of stories featuring men and kikis, but that’s all academic curiosity. The story, yes?
We’re in SoCal, and we meet Clark Benson, who runs a coffee shop. He’s the nerd. His friend Hunter Westbrook is the hot jock – or actor, in this case – who has been around the block so often that there must be at least sixteen streets named after him by now, and the quintessential nerd-jock pairing comes when Hunter decides to give Clark a make-over so that Clark can hook up with a cute guy. I know, a hook up that actually involves conversation and awkward glances instead of swiping to the left or right – what a quaint, antiquated notion!
There’s nothing really new or outstanding here, but that’s okay, we can’t expect every story to be starting revolutions left and right. But here’s what that makes me grit my teeth: the authors seem to think it is necessary to describe every single detail of every single thought and action, to the point that the story feels “on” all the time, and I need to put it aside often to remember to exhale. For such an “on” story, it won’t be so bad if it piles on good wit or action scenes to keep me entertained, but the characters are dull. Clark is a stereotypical Clark Kent type – nerd on the outside, but abs of steel underneath that shirt – who stammers, demures, and generally acts just like expected. Secondary characters are all cheerleaders who also fulfill every tick on the diversity checklist – minus the token ugly, of course, because love only happens to gorgeous people. The only character with a distinct flaw is Hunter, who is on the shallow side, but don’t worry, Clark will shag that flaw out of him, so that everyone lives in happy diversity utopia forever.
Creating Clark reminds me of one of those typical TLA Releasing romantic comedies, in which the acting is always wooden and the script is made of cringe, but everyone watches anyway hoping to see the pretty boys get naked and go all soft porn on everyone. This is a book, however, so without the visual elements of pasty white rear ends clumsily fake-humping against one another, there is nothing to distract me from the fact that it’s quite the dud.