One Good Year by Rowan McBride
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I vaguely remember quite liking both this author and the previous book so I snapped this one up on that brief passing feeling. While this sequel is decent and helps recall events from the previous book, it feels too incomplete and flounders looking for a strong purpose. Initially I was really excited to read from Spade’s first person POV but soon I realized he’s just as empty and mysterious as he was in the first book. Without Ace’s charming personality to help cover any gaps in the writing and storyline, this sequel leaves a lot to be desired. The author’s winning voice and engaging manner shines through and makes the novella easy to read and get through but it easy falls short of the original and by a lot sadly.
The premise this time is that Ace and Spade have been together for a year and everything is practically perfect. They’re more in love than ever and want to get married but Ace insists that Spade develop independence, which is difficult considering Spade is an alien genetically engineered to exist only for his master’s desires and wants. Along the way Spade meets Ancel, another alien. However Ancel is flawed and able to function independently of a master and thus decides it’s his duty to ensure all the aliens are well taken care of. Ancel doesn’t like Ace’s job so conflict ensues.
While I liked revisiting these characters, the story doesn’t significantly develop or enhance these men in any way. They’re pretty much the same as they were in the first book – or my memory of them anyway. It’s been a while since I read the first book and this story definitely requires that you’ve read the other story and more so, remember it pretty well. There’s not enough reference detail to help anyone who’s picked up this one on it’s own. Additionally the characters feel very set in their ways. This isn’t a bad thing per se since they’re happy, in love, and doing well in all ways. But it leaves very little room for conflict or any tension/drama. The external attempt at drama feels heavy handed and misguided. Ancel exists solely to show how much Spade and Ace are deeply in love yet there is a lot of psychic hurt flying around. We’re not shown or even told – as this story tends to tell more than show – what exactly happens just that Ancel hurts Ace, yet they’re all friends at the end. It’s confusing and misguided.
Likewise what starts as a good idea to flip the narrators and give a more intimate view of Spade then shows the very obvious and inherent flaw in the setup – that is Spade doesn’t have an independent personality. He is genetically created to only exist as an extension of Ace’s desires and that’s what he is and does. There’s a vague thread that tries to show how Spade evolves and actually becomes a man of his own, but there’s no real weight to that idea. There’re a few weak references to Spade touching Ace or making statements/demands on his own but really Spade continues to be the image of Ace’s fantasy and Spade is blissfully happy to be so. That makes for a saccharine sweet romance but little in the way of an interesting narrator.
Overall this is a decent enough sequel to the first book but is more for fans that want an extended happy ending rather than a new chapter in the couple’s lives. The author’s distinct voice and engaging writing is what helps the novella the most and once again shines here. I’m likely to pick up whatever new offering this author has but I think I’ll sadly shut the book on this likable couple.