Rating: 2 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Pharmaceutical sales representative Dwyer Von Strohm is the latest casualty of a shrinking economy. After 13 years of dedicated service, Dwyer is let go from his job. Dwyer quickly learns that his “friends” in Chicago’s Boystown are far from real friends and quickly drop him once he is out of work. Eventually, Dwyer decides to take his parents up on their offer for him to move home to Glasburg, Illinois, and rents out his brownstone in an attempt to conserve his severance money. Returning home reunites Dwyer with John Fitzgerald, Dwyer’s first love who betrayed Dwyer the night of their high school prom, causing Dwyer to break up with him and leave Glasburg. At the same time, “The Other Person” has set his/her sights on Dwyer and will do anything to prevent his happiness. A job-offer similar to the one he held before could spell the end for Dwyer and John, again. Can John and Dwyer reclaim their lost love and avoid “The Other’s” plans for revenge?
Nathaniel Schmidt, Dwyer’s friend, met Dustin Hurst in college while they were at a gay bar. Nathaniel and Dustin hooked up and the men discovered true love. Dustin is now a professor and Nathaniel owns the The Local Harvest Grocery Store in Glasburg and after many years together and much personal success, they decide to try and adopt a baby. Nathaniel has severe compulsive tendencies and Dustin is extremely introverted and was emotionally repressed by his parents while growing up. Nathaniel and Dustin want to adopt, but can the fact that they are gay and Nathaniel has serious neurotic tendencies prevent them from achieving their dream?
As a young man attending UCLA, Mark Glaser visited the local gay bar for a drink and he let his drinking get out of hand. Mark got picked up by an older man and was sexually assaulted, leaving him HIV positive. Mark returned home, and after coming out to his family, was disowned. Depressed and in need of a break, Mark took a vacation and while in Puerto Vallarta, met Erik Wolters and they fell in love. Mark was quickly accepted by Erik’s family and the men finished their schooling and move to Glasburg, Mark’s hometown. Mark, who is open about his health issues, starts getting crank calls and threats regarding his HIV status and neither man can figure out who may hold a grudge strong enough for Mark to be targeted by a stalker and have his life threatened.
Lance Perry and David Smith met at Gale College in a shared philosophy class where they fell in love at first sight. David is an artist and art teacher and is invited to show his work at the Civic Art Centre, which will include pastoral scenes done in watercolor as well as some erotic nude drawings of him and Lance. Madelyn, the president of the school board wants to use his “pornographic” art as political fodder in her upcoming reelection campaign and as a reason to get Mark terminated from his teaching position. She has always had a problem with David, even back in high school where she ostracized him and made his life miserable for being artistic and different. Will Madelyn’s grudge cause Mark’s art be censored and put his job at risk?
How do I start discussing Rekindling of Love? First and foremost, it was a challenge. The first few pages caught my attention immediately and I was excited to see what would happen. The cover art by Reese Dante is beautiful and the premise seemed sound until I started to really get into the book. From the beginning I was confused, until I realized that the plot was something akin to a soap opera with multiple plot lines featuring many characters and situations. Once I caught on to the style, I found the story easier to read, but the actual book was a far cry from the publisher’s blurb:
Dwyer Von Strohm thought his life was perfect. He had a great job as a pharmaceutical sales representative; he lived in Chicago’s premiere gay community, drove an expensive car, and had an unlimited number of hot gay men to pursue. Dwyer thought his was living the life he had always dreamed. Then one day he becomes a causality of a poor economy. In a very short time, Dwyer loses his job, loses his status in the gay community and is reduced to living a lonely existence.
Dwyer’s situation forces him to move back home and live with his parents in the small town of Glasburg Illinois. Dwyer had left Glasburg many years ago because the love of his life, John Fitzgerald, had broken his heart. Dwyer reunites with gay friends from high school who are facing their own life challenges.
Soon Dwyer and John’s paths collide and it is evident both men still have strong feelings for each other. Will Dwyer find it in his heart to forgive John or will he let the demons from their past prevent them from rekindling the love they once shared?
Each of the other plotlines featuring Mark and Erik, Nathaniel and Dustin, and Lance and David had sufficient substance and could have been independent of The Rekindling of Love. Sadly, even these sub-plots were lacking in emotion and realism. Like a fairy tale, it was love at first sight time and time again, and there were no obstacles that could not easily be overcome, just too perfect. Had The Rekindling of Love been just about Dwyer and John, with cameos by their six good friends, the readability and plot would have been greatly improved. Dwyer shows some marginal growth as a character while John’s character remained constant, and although he deeply regrets his prom night betrayal of Dwyer, his character does not really grow throughout the story.
We are introduced to “The Other” in the prologue and this person is referenced throughout the book, but the sub-plot was kept vague in order to build tension. However, it only ended up being confusing and irritating. When we are made privy to the identity of “The Other” and his/her motivation, we are introduced to yet another two-dimensional character that exemplifies the typical villain with only revenge on their mind. I found the prologue only made sense after having read some of the book as we don’t have the context yet and cannot even figure out when the prologue takes place. In fact, I had to read it twice and was still confused.
Since I have been pretty critical of the story so far, I must give credit where credit is due. Mark and Erik’s dinner party thrown at the last minute in an attempt to get Dwyer and John back together was by far the most natural and funny writing in the book.
The writing was, by and large, hard to follow with choppy sentences and so many unnecessary descriptors that I found myself constantly saying “who cares.” Worse than that was that every character was described in a similar bio format. Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY got the full bio, including what I would call the tertiary characters, who were overly described. Another point of contention for me was how Knight used telling, instead of showing, and had a lot repetition. The characters tended to be two dimensional, for example, John’s parents’ acceptance of his homosexuality were the polar opposite of the villainous “Other” and Madelyn and it felt like there was no real emotion, like we are watching automatons from a distance.
From a formatting standpoint, Knight used italics for flashbacks, but not consistently; a flashback featuring Dustin and Nathaniel’s bar hookup starts in italics and changes to normal font, and then italics were used for some present day interactions, causing additional confusion. I also found it challenging to keep track of the myriad of characters I was introduced to and the POV kept flipping with no rhyme or reason. There were a number of other editing issues, such as when Eric became Erik, a beta reader note forgotten in the text (that I happened to agree with but that was not addressed), and the fact that there was no unifying theme in the book to pull the four vignettes together.
The Rekindling of Love had lots of promise. The characters needed depth and emotion, the main plot line defined, the sub plots simplified, and the conspiracy finessed. If the story had followed the blurb, this could have been a good book. Instead it read more like a soap opera, full of stilted dialogue and two dimensional characters and an unsatisfying cliffhanging ending.