Guest review: Brook Street series by Ava March

Today I am very happy to host Heidenkind, my Internet friend who writes her own beautiful blog Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books featuring reviews, essays about books, art, and many other interesting posts. She is an art historian, specializing in 19th-century American art and early 20th- century French art. Her favorite books are romantic and deal with themes of people who are separated from everything they find comfortable or safe in life. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? 
 

 

Let me also add she writes tremendously well so I am very happy that she accepted my invitation. Almost as happy as those two gentlemen, Laurel and Hardy, dancing above. 😉 What’s more, Heidenkind decided to review for me a genre I’ve never featured on my blog before and for many reasons. One of them was that I was simply afraid. 😉 Anyway time to let my guest speak about one scary series – m/m romances, nothing less! Enjoy!

 

 

Ava March writes historical m/m romances set in Regency England that feel emotionally authentic and have really hot sex scenes. (I do not say this lightly–even in romances I usually skip the sex scenes, because they tend to be idiotic; but March has some serious talent when it comes to writing sex that is super-hot, yet doesn’t feel gratuitous because it advances the plot.) She’s my go-to author when I’m feeling stressed out and need a story that will give me a break from reality. The Brook Street trilogy is March’s latest offering and I was really looking forward to escaping into the stories. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Brook Street novellas lived up to the excellence of some of her other works.

In Brook Street: Thief, Lord Benjamin Parsons has always wondered if he was gay. So, after hearing about a gay gambling club from his homophobic brother (how’d his brother hear about it, one wonders), he goes for a night on the town determined to hook up with a fellow and see if he enjoys it. That’s where he meets Cavin Fox, a spry young lad from Seven Dials. After 15 (or 5?) minutes doin’ the deed in a pay-by-the-hour place, Benjamin and Cavin are in love! But how in the world will an aristocrat and a thief ever get together? HOW INDEED.

There are so many cliches in this novella I rolled my eyes at least three times before finishing the first ten pages. The fall-in-love-after-a-one-night-stand story line is one I always find particularly difficult to buy into, and in this case the skeezy hook-up in a gambling hell, followed by sex in a no-tell motel, didn’t help matters. Can you imagine the stains on that mattress?? Ewwwwwwww.

Furthermore, none of the characters behave logically. Normally I love thief characters, but Cavin doesn’t steal A SINGLE THING during the entire course of this novel! That’s like having a vampire character who never shows his fangs, or a rake character that sits at home all time reading. The reason for this lack of larceny is because Benjamin gave Cavin the beautiful gift of allowing him to pop Ben’s ass cherry (see what I mean? eye roll) during their anonymous hook-up. Très romantic. Some other inconsistencies that jumped out at me: when Cavin tries to get a position for his brother in Ben’s house, instead of acting suspicious of the street urchin who’s about to be let loose on her kitchen and all the silver, the cook is all smiles and hugs. And at dinner, Cavin goes from wondering how to eat asparagus and use a fork, to criticizing how well-done the veal is and describing the sauce as “divine!” Get a lot of veal and specialty sauces in Seven Dials, do you Calvin Cavin?

I did like that Cavin and Ben treated one another as equals. Although Ben is in his mid-thirties and of a higher class and bank account than Cavin, the twenty-one year-old thief is more experienced, both sexually and otherwise, than Ben, so it evened out. But I found that difficult to reconcile with Ben’s eventual position as the sugar daddy of the relationship, and Cavin being cool with his marginalized position in Ben’s life.

Brook Street: Thief was enjoyable to read, but also (because it was?) laughably ridiculous, without the emotional touchstones I’m used to seeing inMarch’s work. I wish she’d pushed the characters farther and really thought about how they would react in their situations. As it is, Brook Street: Thieflacks a ring of truth to bring me into the story completely. I still had fun with it, though, and this is probably the best book in the series.

In Brook Street: Fortune Hunter, we find out that, coincidentally, there are MORE men living on Brook Street with a love story to tell. One of said men is Oscar, a creepy nice? friend of Benjamin’s who is the size of an Oompa Loompa. Seriously, I think my grandma might be bigger than him. When Ben’s American cousin, Julian, visits London in search of a wealthy wife, Oscar immediately invites him to stay in his ginormous mansion, where he feeds Julian the best food, gives him a beautiful room, insists on dressing him in the most gorgeous clothes, and takes him to the best parties. This sounds like the set-up of a horror story. RUN JULIAN, RUN!!!! Julian doesn’t run, however, and is soon spending time in Oscar’s ridiculously large bed. But what will Oscar say when he realizes his boy toy still intends to marry a woman?

Brook Street: Fortune Hunter was more believable than Thief, but weirdly not as much fun. I wish March had gone full throttle with this story and made Oscar an outright psycho who went all Misery on Julian’s ass. Since neither of the guys in Fortune Hunter were very likable, this would have been a perfect solution: Julian is insecure and spineless; Oscar is way too eager to please and a little stalker-y. Together they’re the Bonnie and Clyde of Regency romances! As it was, their relationship didn’t seem to develop naturally–or at all; it just happened. The characters change abruptly into upstanding citizens by the end, but it still doesn’t make sense that they’d fall in love while neither of them had any redeeming qualities. And what is with the sugar daddy set-up in these books?

The best part of Fortune Hunter was when Benjamin bit one of his friend’s head off for asking if he could borrow Ben’s cook (Cavin). Ohhh snap. Get your own cook, bitch.

The final book in the trilogy is Brook Street: Rogues, about two beasties, Linus and Rob. They’ve been SUPER SUPER close friends since they were ten, and even live next door to each other on Brook Street. Linus is gay and Rob isn’t (well, except for the times when he has sex with Linus, of course), and they’re both playa playas. Then Rob realizes he doesn’t like seeing Linus leaving parties with other men, and asks for an exclusive relationship. In response, Linus freaks the hell out and Rob has to do some detective work to figure out what his deal is.

Linus was in Fortune Hunter and came across as a total badass, but in Rogues he was kind of passive-aggressive. Instead of hashing it out with Rob, he runs to the country to avoid him; and instead of dealing with his dad’s property (which he hates), he just avoids thinking about it. But I do have to say at least Linus was interesting and had more of a backstory than most of the other characters in this series.

I’m also a sucker for young love and liked that Linus and Rob had a history and didn’t just fall into instalust or -love or whatever was going on with the previous two couples. This is definitely a story that could be expanded into a full novel if March chose to do so. Still, the pacing in Rogues was slow and there were some eye roll moments near the end. It needed a little more conflict to keep it going, or possibly more buddy moments between Linus and Rob. And I can’t believe March passed on the chance to blow something up–wtf? You had the opportunity to plausibly set something on fire and you didn’t take it?! Very disappointing.

I don’t think the Brook Street trilogy is the best example of Ava March’s writing (that, in my personal opinion, would either be Convincing Arthur or the Bound series), but it was okay. Thief was the most entertaining of the three, with Rogues coming in second, but unfortunately none of the novellas stood out as exceptional. If you’re looking for an author to break into the m/m genre with, though, I can’t recommend March highly enough.

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