Reviewing Chase the Ace by Clare London is proving to be a difficult task for me, primarily because I find myself at a loss as to what this story was really all about. At first I hedged around the idea that it was a novel of self-discovery—finding out more about oneself by visiting the past, in this case old friends with whom the main character had spent a short but life changing time with several years before. But that idea fizzled the longer I read this novella. In fact, I was unsure about what this book really wanted to say—if there was any real message here. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that says a story just can’t be a simple one about finding love when one is not really looking for it—but I am not so sure that was the key to this book either. In the end, I was a bit lost. The story was just okay, the two characters were still very much a mystery to me. I felt no closer to understanding their motivations or desires than I did at page one and the side cast of friends were more disturbing than anything else. The entire group seemed a little sad, lost, and the story felt half finished.
Chase the Ace is apparently a card game, one played by Daniel and his gang of four who spent the summer as sixteen-year-olds together at a local sports club. While there, Daniel got close to his friends, Gerry, Mark, and Alec, and now, as he is nearing his 30th birthday, he decides he wants to reconnect to see how they all are doing. After using social media—something Daniel has little experience with, and discovering another mate who has kept in contact with Gerry, Daniel sets up a meeting to see if he can get Gerry’s address and start his journey to find his former friends. The plot twists here when we are privy to the fact that it’s actually a brother rather than the boy Daniel knew that meets up with him in a local pub. Once that strange detail is shared, Nick offers to ferry Daniel to the first destination, which happens to be Gerry’s workplace. At this point the story seemed to hit its stride and the attraction both Daniel and Nick felt for one another stepped up a notch as the two decide to explore their feelings with the thought of a no strings attached caveat.
However, with each additional visit, Daniel discovers that his friend’s lives were not what he had imagined and the real reason behind the trip is brought out. There was an experience that left a lasting impression on the younger Daniel and he is desperate to find out more about it. When the story reveals exactly how that situation came about and who was responsible, the whole reason for Daniel’s trip down memory lane takes a decided turn. This is where the story lost me completely. I just couldn’t figure out, much like the character of Daniel himself, what his real motive was for going on this trip. He was fresh out of a long relationship that had turned boring and predictable, he was not sure that a “happy ever after” scenario with another man was ever in the cards for him, and he was fairly jaded about pursuing another relationship that would leave him unsatisfied. So why go on this trip? To find the man involved in the incident and start something with him? To just have closure over a very important event in his life?
I was flummoxed. Even worse, I was uncertain what stake Nick had in all this. He seemed to be alternately flirting with a bit of a love for control, ala soft core BDSM during their sex, and then completely besotted with Daniel and craving the white picket fence happy ending Daniel was so certain could not be real. So was Nick a closet Dom or not? The more I read, the less I understood of either man’s motivation. If indeed this was just the first novel to set up further stories about the rest of the gang as the title suggests, then it failed to really spark my interest in the others. If this was an exploration into realizing one’s self and coming to terms with a mid life crisis—that didn’t seem to evolve either. So I was left with a so-so story that had no real message and left me just befuddled.
I apologize if this review is somewhat confusing, but this is exactly where I left off with this novella. In the end, Chase the Ace was an average story that seemed to have lost its way and left this reader a bit confused. I like this author and have read many fine stories by her, so I am chalking this one up to a loss and will watch for other books by her in the future.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.