Published by Bold Strokes Books on 12/14/15
Genres: Fiction, Romance
At twenty-three, Jamus Cork’s plans are simple—graduate college, stay in New York City, and write. But those plans change when his parents are suddenly killed and he finds himself the guardian of his little brother, Nick. Jamus ends up back in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up, with a crying toddler on his knee and the challenge of building a new life for himself and the boy. Jamus somehow finds a way to navigate the ups and downs of single parenting, but over a decade of raising Nick, Jamus never truly overcomes his struggles with loneliness and the guilt he feels as the sole survivor of the crash that killed his parents. That changes when he meets bookishly handsome Sean Malloy. There’s a spark between the two men, but both must face down their own private demons to find love in the Irish enclave of South Boston.
When I first came across this title for promo, the unassuming cover and title really had me curious. I’m constantly looking for new authors of queer romance, but finding decent work has been…difficult. So, I poked around a little and discovered that Brothers had been nominated for “best romance” by a LGBT literary group. Okay, so maybe there’s something here, I thought and decided to give it a go.
My initial reaction is: this book is not a romance. Yes there are undertones of a romantic connection between two of the characters but the majority of the story (as in 90% of it) has nothing to do with that part of their relationship. I’d say the romance is a supporting character to the larger story: the dynamic of brotherhood.
Presented to the reader in a third person narration, Brothers tells the story brothers Jamus and Nick, and Sean and Kevin. I can’t say that I had a connection to any of these characters. I’ve never faced the struggles they endure, such as raising a child as a young adult following the death of my parents and dealing with the guilt and self doubt that accompanies it. Nor have I experienced PTSD or had to come to terms with a sexuality that my family and community would not accept. Despite my lack of connection, I had a furious curiosity about these characters and how they would overcome such adversities.
Unfortunately, I’m still left a bit curious and it stems from something I value so much as a reader – character development. Who are these people?? I never actually felt anything from them. And not because I couldn’t see their fear or self doubt but it never went further than that. There were no complexities or development of these traits beyond the superficial. I wanted more from them. I mean, fuck the fact that the romance was near nonexistent, which is pretty disappointing considering that it’s categorized as such, whatever. But when I can’t connect to a character despite having nothing in common with them, or when significant conflicts essential to the storyline are not brought full circle, it just doesn’t work for me.
Technically speaking, it’s written well. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, yadda yadda. It’s all there and it’s all good, yet the story held a lack of focus. The shifting between the narratives of each chapter felt clumsy. Just as I was getting to the nitty gritty of a situation or started to feel a character gaining self confidence or begin to explore and address their inner turmoil, the chapter would end and the focus would shift to someone else and I felt a little bewildered each time. Oy, such a miss.
This book has so much potential but it just never got out of its own way for me. If technical skill was all I was reviewing, you’d probably want to read this book and I’d probably recommend it to you. But, I’m not, and I can’t, so I won’t. Bummer.