Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story
Little did Phillip Drake know that his life would change forever one night at a frat party. Drunk and using less than good judgement, Phillip somehow ends up having sex with a stripper, Monica Cleveland, and the unexpected result is son Tyrell.
A horrible car accident leaves Monica’s dead and Tyrell in the hospital for a week. Deciding he needs help, Phillip ends his self-imposed exile from his family and returns home to his parents’ house so that he and 18-month-old Tyrell can recover.
Once home, Phillip runs into his former lover, James, and Phillip finds that the sparks have definitely not diminished in his three-year absence. However, Phillip has too much going on, with Monica’s death and her parents suing for custody of Tyrell, and he must pick his battles.
Homophobic and racist, Monica’s parents won’t relent, convinced that Phillip’s homosexual “condition” and the fact that he is white is not in the best interests of their mixed-race grandson. Phillip knows that skin color is not relevant to a happy child, but will the courts feel the same?
I would like to start by saying that I have no idea where the title A Package Deal came from. There were ways that the story could have gone where that would have made sense, but I just did not get it. I will give props to Steele for the racism angle in the story, as it is not often that the African American character is the one portrayed as racist, and to think in this day and age that a judge would consider race relevant to raising a child left me, well, speechless.
I found Phillip to be a bit extreme, manic at times, and James was too forgiving, especially after a three-year absence. Their shared history went a long way to how they fell into bed, but I found it disturbing that there was no mention of safe sex. This is not a committed monogamous relationship, regardless of how it appears to be headed.
I never got a good idea of Phillip or James’ motivation, nor any depth to their characters. I can forgive two-dimensional secondary characters in a short story, but the main characters need to be better developed. I also found that the concept of becoming best friends with the stripper who fathered your child, as well as Phillip avoiding family for three years, seemed weird.
A Package Deal did not do it for me, which is too bad because there was so much potential with the basic plot. The cool elements, like the lovers reunited and the custody battle, were unfortunately not addressed in a way that gave me enough of a feel for the characters or situations.