Greg Barton has worked at the renaissance faire for years, but it’s Greg’s last season so he’s determined to live it up. Lucky for Greg, Boone, the hot traveling armorer, remembers Greg from previous years and returns his interest. The two reconnect and Greg finds himself tumbling into Boone’s bed, dangerously close to losing his heart.
Only, there’s something not quite right with Boone. From the way Greg kept dreaming about Boone in the off-season to Boone’s overprotective friends, Greg’s light-hearted romance quickly gets heavy. When Greg wakes up to an unexpected sight beside him, his entire world is up-ended. Magic is real and his new lover has more secrets than Greg ever imagined. But Greg has a few secrets of his own, and he has to decide if he wants to be a part of Boone’s world. If Greg has a touch of magic himself… Well, that world just got a whole lot more complicated and dangerous for both of them.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pretty Pleasures is the start of a new series, Youthful Gods, by J. Rocci. I’ve read a few steam punk short stories from the author so I chose the book because I wanted more of the author’s writing. I definitely got what I wanted since Pretty Pleasures is over 300 pages of good story. The writing is clean, crisp, light, and makes the length fly by incredibly fast. Unfortunately the novel could have been edited down and numerous repetitive scenes deleted to make room for the missing world building. The writing, characters, and interesting plot are enough to satisfy though and definitely intrigue for the next book while not wholly successful.
The story starts out at a renaissance faire. Greg’s been working there for years and is close to graduating college. He assumes that with graduation comes a regular job that leaves no time for the faire. Greg’s decided that he’s going to make a pass at sexy leather armorer Boone once and for all. The two have good chemistry and get together rather easily. They work at the faire on weekends while Greg goes to school and works a second job during the week. The two find time to get together for hot sex, meals, and companionship in between. This sets the pattern for over half the book. There is little tension, no drama, just the daily routine of working, having sex, building a relationship, nightmares, visions, and day to day life.
These scenes are a double edged sword. There is a nice progression to the relationship. It’s extremely easy but the two gradually spend more and more time together. The erotica is hot, well written, and just plain fun to read. There are great descriptions of the faire, the people working, and a good understanding of the personalities and atmosphere both during the faire and after hours. At the same time, these scenes are highly repetitive and often without purpose. They don’t advance the plot, up to about the 200 pg point there is very little plot. These scenes seem to just lengthen the novel while repeatedly establishing the relationship between Greg and Boone. Many, many of these scenes could have been edited out and not affected the pace, tone, or plot at all.
These scenes aren’t bad though and in fact offer some good descriptions, a lot of fun characters, and hints of foretelling while firmly establishing Greg’s nightmares. It’s just that there didn’t have to be close to 200 pgs of this to make the point. At this time the novel shifts into the paranormal when a secret about Boone is discovered. The magic Boone possess makes him a target and by extension, Greg. Now the story shifts to the magic world but unfortunately this part feels too rushed. There is very little world building and even less context to the magic introduced. There are concepts and hierarchy thrown around in dialogue that has no connection and the reader has no way of understanding what the information means to the story or the magic world.
There is an action plot which is interesting yet baffling since it doesn’t really make much sense. Characters talk and act in ways that seem arbitrary without the necessary world building and background to understand. There are great descriptions, really interesting concepts, and a plot that you want to read but overall the beginning is too long and the magic section too fast to really accomplish the goal. The characters are decently developed but some have huge holes in their motivations and actions since Greg focuses on sex and companionship with Boone. As the narrator the story is very biased to Greg’s understanding and thus the reader is left as clueless and misguided as Greg. In some ways I didn’t mind since the story is interesting to read and I liked the use of magic. It’s not an unusual, unique, different, or particularly clever idea for the magic but it works.
Hopefully any future books will offer more of the world building and definitely more context to the magic. The descriptive quality is clearly there as the ren faire comes alive in so many scenes that the lack of detail for the fantasy world is quite startling and starkly obvious. Hopefully the characters will develop more and can move beyond their flat outlines into three dimensional people because the potential is there. I’m looking forward to see where this series goes.