Love the Sinner by Avril Ashton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
In my quest to experience new authors, Avril Ashton is my pick from Ellora’s Cave. While there are numerous good reasons why EC is not a publisher I go to when choosing books (esp m/m books) this particular choice wasn’t horrific. As that’s not a ringing endorsement, I found the writing to be standard if unimaginative, the characters to be stereotypical and predictable, the story littered with clichés, and a plot that didn’t always make much sense. Yet I found the book ok and finished it without having to force myself. I like the concept of the characters and the plot more than the actual execution. I know there are 2 more books in the series that tempt me because I like the potential of the characters and the situations. I’m just not entirely sure the writing can execute them.
In the opener of the series straight cop Gabe interviews notorious gang leader Angelo about the death of his sister. Supposedly sparks fly immediately and the two are instantly in love and obsession. This is a tough sell and the story doesn’t really try to get the readers to buy it. Once the two men are in love, the rest of the story is about the push and pull of opposing dynamics. The set up is that as a cop, Gabe must set aside his beliefs to be with Angelo. While Angelo the gangster is more than what he appears.
I like the concept of the story and although it’s nothing original, I am fine to read such a story. Unfortunately the plot doesn’t really do anything with the idea. Gabe isn’t an active cop for the entirety of the story so there’s very little, if any, real conflict there. Angelo is working the entire time with secret goals – the gangster with a good heart and morals. I would have liked it a lot more if Gabe had to accept the reality of a gangster with no golden ulterior motives. That would have been more conflict and genuine drama. Instead Gabe pulls a fit at random intervals and breaks up with Angelo for no real reason. He creates some big scene so the story can prolong the happy ending but the two immediately get back together after Gabe pouts for a short while how much it hurts but it’s the right thing to do.
The problem with this is that the behavior never made any sense. Gabe would be 100% supportive then out of the blue flip out and leave. Angelo always justified the behavior but I found these rationales to be weak and usually untrue. The two men could have a passionate dynamic and while they have quite a lot of graphic sex, I never found these scenes to be that hot or romantic. I couldn’t buy into the instant, life-changing love the two felt; partly because the two characters are one dimensional and often predictable. They never lived up to the potential within the stereotypes, similar to the plot also lacking any additional depth beyond the basics.
There are numerous secondary characters that suffer the same problem. They could be interesting but they stay very safe and easy without any added work or help. I’d say that’s the biggest overall problem with the story itself. For example the story is set in Brooklyn but I had no sense of the city and it could have been set anywhere in the US. The urban background is missing entirely and is replaced with a bland, non descript, unimportant feeling of random houses the characters shift in and out of.
All of these problems mean the story is not that great, however, it’s not horrible. I found it easy to read and the writing is pretty standard. I kept wanting the plot to go somewhere new and interesting, although when it finally did (the ending) it made absolutely no sense and actually created so many questions. I liked the secondary characters that star in the sequels but I have little confidence the plot and characterizations are any better. So I’m on the fence. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as something to buy but I didn’t mind reading it on a slow night.