Gambling Men: The Novel by Amy Lane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m a fan of Amy Lane’s work and this is a good example of her writing and I enjoyed it. However, having said that, I think the story is very safe for the author and entirely expected. So much so that while I could appreciate certain technical aspects of the book and writing, overall I found the story repetitive and ho-hum. Part of this could be from my fatigue with my favorite authors, who seem to put out the same book over and over with minor differences, so I’ll try to separate my personal issues from the merits of the writing. For Lane fans I think most will enjoy this but die hard fans will have read this basic story many times over.
The concept is simplistic – best friends who have had secret feelings for each other for eight years finally get together. Now they just need to navigate through emotional fears and vulnerabilities to find their happy ever after one poker game at a time.
To start with, Lane is a good writer. She has a crisp, clean style of writing that is very enjoyable to read. Her turns of phrase are entertaining and the characters have depth. They have strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other and work together to form a cohesive, strong couple. Gambling Men is no departure from that and in fact stays well within that comfort zone. The more aggressive male in the relationship, Jace, has a deep seated fear of abandonment and goes back and forth from being comfortable in his relationship to being afraid. Quinton is the easier going on, the follower both in bed and out, whom shows some real emotional strength to combat Jace’s fears. It’s a nice combination that works pretty well.
That said I found the couple almost too recognizable. They felt like a typical couple without any real interest. The repeated poker games and analogy to poker is life wore on me very early on. Likewise although Lane writes some truly excellent sex scenes, I easily fatigued on the number of them here. I most enjoyed the few scenes between sex where the real communication happened. The narrative felt too repetitive of Jace growly about his fears, poker game or gym scene, sex scene, then rinse and repeat over and over.
The book does a good job of capturing romance and the heady intensity between the men but overall I found most of these scene too overwrought and melodramatic. It’s sweet and definitely romantic to read about two people who find their soul mates in each other and declare that love but by the time the “wedding vow” scene came I was done with their melodramatic and overblown declarations. It felt silly rather than moving and idealistic.
Gambling Men is a decent to good book as far as Lane’s great writing and solid characters are concerned. I didn’t find it all that interesting personally due to the problems I described but I’m not sure other readers will have the same experience. I think it’s an easy book for Lane, very much within her backlist comfort zone, but that’s not a criticism. I think this will likely work for fans and those new to the author.