Times Square Kiss by Kevin Voglino
What if a single kiss can determine lifelong enchantment, then imagine going on that adventure with possibilities leading to truelove?
Every day can be a kissing event. Race Palmer, the over sexual philanderer learns what it truly takes to find true love. His partner Christian Mir, a hopeless romantic searches for an iconic kiss based on Victor Jorgenson’s 1945 photograph of a sailor and woman embracing in Times Square. Does true love exist for him? He searches for that one kiss for an answer.
I was originally attracted to this book by the cover. As with most, I’m familiar with the classic picture and I loved the twist on that idea. Then when reading the blurb, I thought it was a great idea to have a hopeless romantic and a randy cheater re-enact that kiss leading to true love. Well at the heart of the story, that is what happens but there is so much more to the story and a rather wide cast of characters involved in both Race and Christian’s search for love. The blurb is deceptive and although the ending is very predictable when reading the story, it’s a surprise journey. At times this is both good and bad as the author tries too hard and makes the story a chore to read a points, but for the most part it’s absorbing and entertaining. It’s something completely different and with much tighter editing could be wonderful.
The book opens with Christian and Race, an established couple of a few years, at the London airport. Christian is leaving first on their vacation around America and Race will follow in a few days. Christian is worried about leaving Race and if their relationship will survive, wanting one last kiss from his boyfriend. Race is too busy texting a random hookup he’s arranging to meet. So you get the idea right from the start that Race is an insensitive ass who’s cheating on his boyfriend and Christian is a weak man who can’t bring himself to really see Race for who he is. From that scene Christian is injured in a plane accident when he discovers seated next to him is yet another man from the plethora Race have slept with.
Race rushes to Christian’s side when he learns of the injury but Christian’s homophobic parents interfere and tell Race that Christian died of his injuries. This one lie is the basis for the entire story and Race’s journey to honor Christian while discovering his own needs and consequences of his actions. Christian hurries after Race to tell him the truth and along the way both men encounter a large cast of characters, helping each other and changing lives along the way. The culmination of this rather long and complicated travel from Race, Christian, and their cast of merry men is at the New York Times Kissing Event.
Although I rarely summarize a story, I felt it was important in this case because the story is somewhat complicated and convoluted with subplots and side plots and excursions all over the place. The summary is what the story is about at the core, stripped of the sideshow antics. If the author had focused more on that and the characters of Race and Christian, I think this would have been a really wonderful story that is humorous, touching, and romantic. It still has those elements but they are hidden underneath the over the top actions and massive cast of characters who jump in and out of scenes with alarming randomness. Some of the supporting people have no real connection to the story or the men involved, definitely not strong enough to continue to focus on them, so their loud and garish antics distract and ultimately hurt the book.
The large group involved starts in an Amish group with young lovers David and Gaston, and Gaston’s father Samuel. Samuel plays entirely too large a role and the especially mind boggling scene of Samuel and Christian with the buggy, molded bust, and corvette (which leads to later actions) didn’t need to be there. David and Gaston’s storyline is touching, sweet and for the most part fits rather well in paralleling Race and Christian’s own troubled path. There is not much seen to David and Gaston’s personality changes with each city he travels to, so it’s difficult to get a handle on his character but the overall relationship between the two is romantic.
Additional characters of Christian’s parents and drag queens Jimmy James and GG are distracting and would be better off cut from the story entirely after the parents set up the lie about Christian’s death. Although the scenes with Jimmy James and GG are funny and over the top, they lack a cohesion to the overall story making them partly unappealing. They fill the pages with ridiculous and humorous antics, giving hints of personality to each man, but these scenes drag on for entirely too long for the lack of weight they lend the story. Christian’s parents later involvement was too coincidental and lacked real depth or importance. They, too, were distracting and unnecessary.
There are so many elements and action sequences to this story. It’s not that they don’t progress the story because they do, but they are lengthy and often ridiculous. These long interludes in the story include the prolonged interaction with Jimmy James, GG, Samuel, Tao, and the corvette boys. This entire setup from the bus to Ohio to the club to the kidnapping is utterly ridiculous, time wasting and meant to lengthen the story. It’s easy to see why the author included it in moving the story along for all the main players but there are many, many other ways to achieved the end goal instead of adding this lengthy and uninteresting group of scenes. Unfortunately the added effect was meant to be hilarious and entertaining, yet dragged on for almost 70 pages, which lost the comic effect entirely.
For all the faults in the book, Race is truly a great character. The book has a lot of distractions but without a doubt Race is the star. In part, Race is using his grief to exaggerate his feelings but at the core he really did love Christian but was unable to acknowledge that love. He had no idea what it meant to be in love with another person and instead fell back on his typical behavior. There are several touching scenes where Race remembers small details about Christian that expose his feelings. These are often so genuine and authentic that there is no artifact or playacting for Race; he really did love Christian even if he didn’t treat their relationship right. Race’s journey to honor Christian and the sacrifices he makes, both large and small, show his progression as a person. When focused on Race, especially in the later part of the book, the story shines and was worth reading.
There was a lot of humor in the writing and phrasing, some intended and others not. The story should have been edited to the point that the extraneous scenes could be taken out and made a second book if needed. Due to this, the book was at times difficult to read as some scenes carried on too long and others went too fast. The story could be engrossing and easy to read in portions and it can be difficult and unappealing in others. Overall, the first third and last third are wonderful and the middle is a bit hit and miss. If you can get into the story it’s worth reading.
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