I like Samantha Kane’s writing so when this m/m book came out I couldn’t wait to read it. One of the defining aspects of Kane’s books is how hot and sexy they are. Unfortunately Cherry Pie feels like a complete departure from any previous writing and comes across a little cold and unfeeling. There’s a noticeable lack of chemistry between the two men while money seems to solve most problems. I’m not entirely sure why these two men got together and just couldn’t really believe they were that compatible. This is an ok book but a disappointing one when compared to some of Kane’s more exceptional stories.
The story begins with Connor returning to his hometown after six years away. He camps out in front of his old family house until the new owner, John, lets him look around. Touched by Conn’s nostalgia and obvious need of help, John offers to let Conn live in the house if he helps with the restoration. This of course sets the two on a path to sticky emotional needs and casual sex that is anything but easy.
The plot is pretty generic and relies on the strength of the two men to capture readers’ attention. John is predictably a very wealthy man who can revitalize a town just because he wants to so the thin side plot of the town is unimportant. It lets the wonderful secondary characters have some much needed page space and adds to the Southern charm of the story but other than that it’s anemic and forgettable at best. Thus the story depends on Connor and John and their relationship being the focus.
This is where the problems emerge. On their own John and especially Conn are pretty interesting characters. John is struggling after the death of his partner and trying to change the course of his life. While he loved his partner, their relationship was flawed and imperfect and ultimately John wants something different in his life. The flip side to that is John is inconsistent, first not willing to sully his partner’s memory but later saying instead he doesn’t want the same thing. It’s not a gradual change and realization but more of a light switch change. Likewise I just couldn’t see a man like John with Connor. They never feel natural and easy together, but instead antagonistic and angry.
Connor is the far better character with his past as an ex-con and drug user. His reasons are understandable and he comes across as the more complex and interesting of the two. His characterization feels more fluid as he grows and changes, easily more natural than John’s awkward forced changes. Unfortunately there is just very little chemistry between Conn and John and even the sex scenes feel remote and cold. Supposedly John fights his feelings and doesn’t want to admit he’s in a relationship (which parallels how John’s ex treated that partnership) but really I just couldn’t see why either men would want the other.
The story should be good as it has all the right elements, good complicated men, a wonderfully vivid and Southern setting, great secondary characters with a lot of humor and charm, a lovely pace and feel to the prose but ultimately the sum of the parts just doesn’t work. One reason is the chemistry between the men but beyond that this is one of those vague feelings where for some indefinable reason, it just doesn’t work.