Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-305-2
Contemporary Romance, 2007
Finding Home, a collaborative effort by Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee, features the hero who is only seventeen years old. To be honest, I don’t see what the big deal it is with seventeen year old boys. I can easily imagine how an older woman could fall in lust with a seventeen year old boy, but love? A long term relationship with a mere boy? I can’t see how interesting a seventeen-year old kid could be in terms of long-term coupling.
Our heroine Megan wants to do a feature on homeless kids on the street in order to prove herself as a Very Important Journalist and get herself promoted from copy editor repairing/polishing other journalist’s works to a journalist herself. This is how she encounters a seventeen-year old hustler named Mouth. She meets him for interviews and he eventually gets other street kids to open up to her as well. When he’s beaten by thugs and she decides to take him in. What do you know, there is an attraction between them. Megan is torn as a result. What is a woman to do?
“Carry out the affair in secret, duh!” you say? Why, you dishonorable person, you.
I’m sure you can think of several reasons why Megan shouldn’t sleep with Mouth. Such a relationship will have an impact on her career as well as her relationship with her friends and family members, not to mention her bond with law enforcers in her local neighborhood, right? However, all that is barely touched on in Finding Home, instead turning it into a “I’m not good enough for you” blues. Therefore, I wonder the authors choose to make Mouth seventeen. Is it for realism? The key relationship however isn’t that real so Mouth could easily be twenty without compromising the storyline too much. Also, I am rather amused that of all the street kids in this story, Mouth is actually the “cleanest” in that he only offers oral and hand services to his male clients and he’s only in business for a year. Of all the depictions of the harsh and starkly cruel lives led by street kids in this story, there are still some obvious contrivances on the authors’ part to make sure that Mouth isn’t that sordidly entrenched in his job in order to qualify him as Prince Charming material.
I know, I’m probably being too hard on the story. Still, Mouth does stand out very clearly as a character with some rather unlikely contrivances in a story that otherwise tries to be as real as possible even if this means driving away some genteel readers. Mouth is also responsible and he is almost rather unrealistically untouched by his experiences on the street unlike his buddies. Therefore, there is some overcompensating going on here. Mouth rarely acts seventeen, even if I take into account how his experiences can age him beyond his years. He seems more like a Prince Charming pretending to be a street hustler – the concessions the authors make to turn Mouth into a romance hero character end up working against the story.
Because Mouth doesn’t feel real and the authors present a relationship of the two main characters with very little of the external conflicts that would intrude should this relationship takes place in real life, Finding Home ends up a story that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Oh, the characters are likable, the story is fine, and this book, under ordinary circumstances, would easily get my two thumbs up. However, the book also seems uncertain on whether it wants to be a tale rooted in reality or flying high in the clouds and tries to be both. As a result, this is a curious story that goes back and forth from Hallmark feel-good fantasy to angsty and brutally real life-on-the-streets kind of story. Finding Home needs to find itself first.