It’s Not Shakespeare by Amy Lane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I know I’m likely to be the minority on this one but this Lane book just didn’t work for me (which is a first). I liked the characters as individuals but they didn’t seem to work as a couple and there are several unnecessary and rather random scenes that didn’t add to the story very much. I like Lane’s writing now as much as ever, though the repetitive use of “heifer” in almost all books is annoying, but I wish I’d skipped this one since I think Lane is capable of much better books.
The story is a pretty basic plot of boy meets boy and they figure out how to blend two very different lives, backgrounds, and cultures. James is a stogy older professor who hates the world except for his adorable dog Marlowe. James happens to meet sexy car mechanic Rafael and the two men inexplicably hit it off. Although this formula of opposites attract is often a hit, it just didn’t work well for me here as I couldn’t ever see the two men together, nor really what they saw in each other. As interesting as the two characters are on their own, the couple never made sense to me and threw me off from the beginning.
Part of this is that the book is comparing and contrasting two very different upbringings and cultures from the beginning. This opens the door for a wealth of opportunity and detail. On the one hand the book does a decent job of exploring those differences, including racism and ignorance, but overall they just fall flat for me. Perhaps the story did too good of a job showing how different the two men are because I couldn’t really see them together. James comes across as a much older man than his chronological age, due to his staid and almost stuck in the mud nature, and I never really saw him as a dynamic, attractive man. He’s interesting to be sure but doesn’t really fit as the partner of a dynamic, extremely attractive much younger man.
Beyond that the story has some awkward and unnecessary inclusions. For example there is James’ boss, Lee. The whole side story about Lee and James’ brief blowjob has no real purpose or necessity to the story. It’s not that the characters act ridiculous, though the repeated confrontations are a little silly, it’s just that it has no real purpose to the story. These confrontations don’t add depth to any of the characters, enhance the main relationship, or develop the tension at all. Instead they seem to exist to just add outside elements to a mostly internal story, which is another issue I had.
Internal tension within a relationship is pretty standard for romance novels so that isn’t bad but the argument here based on a misunderstanding didn’t make any sense to me. I don’t want to give spoilers but Rafi’s reaction seems immature, over the top, and pretty hurtful, which doesn’t make sense when James spends the whole time wondering how he can win Rafi back. Granted the story is told through James’ third person perspective but the whole “argument” feels unnecessary, silly, and without basis. There is so much potential between such opposites that I think the story could have taken another, more successful route.
Unfortunately while I really quite like James, an older man made bitter by life and experience, I just couldn’t see him with Rafael as the one that reinvigorates him. They just don’t seem to have any real thread keeping them together, nor did I understand why Rafael was actually attracted to James, so the story didn’t work for me. I absolutely adored Sophie and the dog Marlowe though and as always the writing has that smooth Lane touch to everything. It’s a solid “ok” from me but judging by the buzz I heard about this one I’m sure others will disagree.
5 thoughts on “Review: It’s Not Shakespeare”
I usually love each book by Amy Lane I read but with this one something was off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. You just explained perfectly in your review what it was – they don’t really belong together. Rafi was a lovebale character but I wanted someone else for James. Someone who he really ‘clicks’ with, but I couldn’t see Rafi as that special someone. Strange.I am reading the new Amy lane story now and in that one the pairing works much better. 🙂
Which one Anja?
I may need to take a break from Lane as I think some of the obvious quirks to her writing may be wearing thin but I do so like her writing. I agree that Rafi just didn’t work as that special someone. I just couldn’t see how they’d work together as a couple.
It’s “The winter mating rituals of fur bearing critters”. The older guy/younger guy pairing works for me in this one. I believe that the seemingly grumpy ‘older’ guy and the young cheeful sunshine belong together, because they are both not what/who they seem to be at first and go slowly with revealing layer after layer of each other’s personalities.
Interesting review. I had the same confusion as you over the conflict at the end. I just didn’t really get what Rafi was mad about (Amy actually addressed this in her comments on my review). But I didn’t have any problems believing the guys together. Maybe bc I am a big fan of the opposites attract theme so it just worked for me? I sort of liked the older, more staid guy with the hot younger stud.
I read your review after I’d written mine, and the comments from Lane. I understood that Rafi didn’t feel James was committing fast enough but you also have to remember they’d been together a matter of a few weeks. In that span of time James is supposed to be TOTALLY over ANY issues he had previously? That’s a stretch and then for Rafi to ignore him completely as an answer is immature. For all James would have known, they broke up. If the guy I was dating wouldn’t take my calls for a week and avoided me, I’d think the relationship was over if we’d only been dating a few weeks.
While I quite like opposites attract themes, I need to believe it. It’s a good premise of having an older guy with a younger guy but what’s the attraction on the younger guy’s part? Rafi said he had a white boy kink but not an older man kink. There’s no real materialistic drive and I just didn’t buy that Rafi, described as a gorgeous underwear model, would fall in love at first sight with a balding, bitter man. Perhaps, but I just didn’t believe it and the book didn’t really try to convince me either.