Eric Carillo edits textbooks for a living and writes book reviews for his blog on the side. When m/m fiction author Cade Montgomery sends him a email after Eric reviews one of his books, it is the start of a long distance online friendship that both come to treasure. As the friendship deepens into something that might be called romance, Cade and Eric start thinking about meeting in person. When a conference brings Cade to Eric’s city, each hopes their meeting will rate a five star review and the beginning of a future together.
Five Star Review is a very sweet short story that has some lovely twists and turns to it. The romance by email gives us a chance to watch the relationship grow between the two men as they go through their daily lives. Eric is a terrific character, nuanced by a surprise waiting for the reader and Cade that I didn’t expect. Well done, Lara Brukz! I didn’t see it coming and it makes Eric stand out from the crowd of similar individuals I have read about. Cade by the same token doesn’t distinguish himself as much from other blond, good looking, nice gay men in other stories. He comes across as a little bland but sweet natured. Both men are surrounded by loving families I wish we had seen more of during the story.
This is a short story and it ran into trouble during the last half of the book. Instead of concentrating on the two main characters and deepening their relationship, the author chose to concentrate on Eric’s ex who lives across the hallway. Marshall Ellerbee is a confusing character, part pathetic rich boy, part alcoholic stalker. The author makes him a viable threat and then has Eric treat him in an offhanded manner that belies their past. The last chapters deal with Marshall and his actions in an unsatisfactory and hurried fashion which culminates in an ending that still has me asking questions, the primary one being why weren’t the police called.
My review of Five Star Review ends stating that Brukz has much to offer as an author. Here she has shown that she can deliver a character we can connect with, complete with a angst filled backstory combined with a present reality that will surprise us. And she gave him and us half a great story. I look forward to seeing the potential she showed us here given full reign in future books.
Cover: Cover art by Catt Ford. Just a great cover, perfectly captures the main characters and the story elements. Beautiful.