False Start by Janey Chapel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m a fan of Chapel’s work and with this offering I realize I like her writing more than I like the actual plot. The story here is predictable though well told, and almost boring with its mundane and expected actions. There’s nothing unique or different to the story but Chapel’s clean, inviting prose makes it enjoyable to read anyway. She has a way of writing that invokes clear, impressionable imagery while being smoking hot every single time. It wasn’t until I hit the end of the novella that I realized the characters are woefully under developed, there’s no closure, and no real purpose to the story. Yet despite these issues the crispness of her writing makes me want to read it again for the easy flow, wrenching emotions, and hot sensuality.
The basic plot is one that’s been done to near death by anyone familiar with this genre for even a few minutes. The hot jock athlete from a small town is secretly gay and involved in a clandestine relationship with the only openly gay student. After said open gay student, in this case called Whit, wants the jock to be open too, the predictable argument and breakup occurs with the jock, called Tucker, running away; in both a literal and figurative sense. Cut to ten years later with a convinent college reunion and the two pick up where they left off with the jock now ready for an open relationship, kind of.
My biggest problem with the story is that it’s lacks any real strength or purpose. Neither protagonist is very well developed, despite the story being told in alternating first person. You never really get a good feel for the men, what they’re like, what they want out of life, what their history has been in the time apart. We’re told more about Tucker’s life but still very little. Would these two even be compatible in a relationship? Has Whit ever been in love or has he been waiting for Tucker to magically show up 10 years later? We’re told Tucker and Whit have such wild chemistry that their younger relationship was filled with sex rather than meaningful conversation, a trend that seems to follow their now adult relationship. Perhaps the one conversation prior to the sex shows they’re capable of more in depth talks but it’s still a hope or guess at best.
Counteracting the issues in the story is the strong, clean, and crisp writing. As I said before Chapel has a strong voice and a minimalistic prose that makes the words and scenes flow incredibly easy. There’s no superfluous, lengthy descriptions but instead emotion and decisiveness to action and dialogue. It’s easy to follow along with the characters’ narration and forget about any problems or negatives while reading. It’s only once the story ends with a non-ending that the issues are easy to identify.
Overall False Start is an enjoyable story to read but that’s due entirely to the author’s voice and writing than the actual plot/story itself. If you’re a fan of Chapel this is likely to appeal more than it would otherwise.