Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: The Broken Road Cafe #1 & #2 by T.A. Webb

The Broken Road Cafe (The Broken Road Cafe #1)The Broken Road Café (Broken Road Café #1)By T. A. Webb
 42,730 words
Review based on copy owned.

What happens when you get everything you've worked for, only to discover it's not what you really want?
Dan O'Leary worked night and day to finish law school, join a top firm and make partner, all before the age of 35. He's found a man who swept him off his feet. And his best friend of twenty years has his back.
Then, one awful day it all comes crashing down around his ears.
Making a fresh start, Dan meets the people of Blue Ridge, Georgia, including Chief of Police Nick Oliver, and, perhaps, finds a new home. But danger from his old life follows him and puts not only his life, but that of his new friends, at risk.

Brothers in Arms (The Broken Road Cafe #2)Brothers in Arms (Broken Road Café #2) 
By T. A. Webb
48,810 words 
Review based on copy owned.

Betrayed on every front, Dan O’Leary cashed in all his chips and moved from the big city life of Atlanta to small town Blue Ridge, Georgia. While licking his wounds, he never meant to start a new relationship, especially with closeted Chief of Police Nick Oliver. 
But now all Dan’s hot buttons are being pushed. One of his employees is being terrorized by seemingly upstanding townspeople. Then worst of all, he’d promised himself he’d never be anyone’s dirty little secret, and when Nick’s fear of being outed causes him to hurt Dan, Dan knows there’re problems in paradise. 
With trouble on all sides—a homophobic football coach, an ex lover, and his former best friend—it takes a shot in the dark before he realizes the real danger. It’s time for Dan to figure out who he can trust and close ranks with his brothers in arms. 

Review by: Ray
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

These two novellas—and make no mistake about it, anything less than 60,000 words is a novella—should have been combined into one novel, and are a bit overpriced at $4.99 each.  The first book left far too many loose ends untied, a fact that more than one reviewer pointed out.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a good story, even a compelling story, but it could have been so very much better if the writing wasn’t quite so sloppy and the editing so poor.  Of which, more later.

The story centers around Dan O’Leary, who at thirty-five has been made partner in a prominent Atlanta law firm, and has it all, or so he thought.  Then, in the course of forty-eight hours, his life begins to come unglued.  The managing partner of his law firm, a man he despises, assigns him the task of defending a new client, a drug dealer.  This, despite the fact that Dan has never, ever done any criminal defense work—that’s not the kind of law in which he specializes.  So, Dan, being Dan, storms out of a partner’s meeting and takes the day off.

He gets in his 1968 Mustang convertible, and notes the fact that he likes the lack of automatic features, as he puts the top down, and goes home.  Once in his loft, he finds his lover of one year naked in a sandwich between his best friend of twenty years’ standing, and the best friend’s partner, and his day goes downhill from there.

The next morning, he confronts his partners in the law firm, gives them until the end of the day to respond, and leaves.

Our hero decides that a total lifestyle change is in order, so he decides to purchase a restaurant, something he’d never dreamed of doing.  His search leads him to a Café in Blue Ridge, Georgia, situated about an hour and a half from Atlanta, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Before he even gets into town to meet with the local Realtor, he’s stopped for speeding by the Chief of Police, a tall, muscular, and well-equipped man named Nick Oliver, and the sparks begin to fly immediately.

By the end of the second volume, all of the mysteries and loose ends have been laid to rest, including, but not limited to the reason Dan was singled out by the partners to represent the drug dealer, and we have dealt with a homophobic and abusive high school football coach, and a host of other, lesser issues and Dan is happily settled down to life in small town Georgia with his new boyfriend, and is happily running his new restaurant: the Broken Road Café.

To go into any more detail would involve too many spoilers, so suffice it to say there is a nice HEA ending.

However, the books have problems.  Problem one is continuity.  In the first book, he says that his loft is in downtown Atlanta.  As someone with more than a passing acquaintance with Atlanta, I was pretty sure that should have been midtown Atlanta, and he confirms that in the second book.

Then there’s the Mustang.  In book one he likes the lack of automation in a vintage vehicle, but in book two he proudly uses its built-in Bluetooth technology. Time out.  Bluetooth didn’t exist in 1968, so if he’s had the car retrofitted with the latest gadgets, he needs to let the readers know about it.  Which, of course, conflicts with his statement in book one.

Then we come to the careless editing.  I found email and e-mail on the same page, for example.  Wal-mart should always be stated under their trademarked name of Walmart, and so forth.  The editor doesn’t seem to understand that there are times when an “s” after a word simply means plural, not possessive.

Last, but not least, are the non-standard dialogue tags.  Ask any editor who knows anything about writing dialogue, and they will tell you that the only verbs you’ll ever need are “said” and “asked.”  And some authors seldom resort to using “asked.”  The word “said” is interpreted by the brain of the reader as punctuation, and the reader takes no notice.  Any other dialogue tag, such as choked out; growled; whispered; drawled out; laughed; moaned; barked; breathed; coughed; mumbled; volunteered; and last, but not least, giggled (all of which are used in the first book), tends to knock the reader out of the story, and that’s never a good thing.  The very best advice any editor can give is a writer is this: non-standard dialogue tags should be the rare exception, not the rule.  You can’t “giggle” a sentence, nor can you “breathe,” “laugh,” or “growl” one.  Those are physically impossible acts.

There is absolutely no reason to resort to such devices.  Doing so is the hallmark of either an inexperienced writer or a lazy one.  If an author has an aversion to using the verb “said,” there are plenty of ways to work around it, all of which take a little work.

Usually, when the first dialogue tag I encounter in a book I’m reading is something as ridiculous as “choked out,” I close the book and move on to another book.  In this case, a friend had recommended I read it, so I persevered.

This author and his editor need to earn to make better use of Merriam-Webster, as the books contain far too many instances of words which should either be one word or two or which should, or shouldn’t be hyphenated.

The books are filled with colorful secondary characters, such as Patsy, the Realtor, hotel owner, and Mayor of Blue Ridge; Charity, Dan’s long-time secretary, girl Friday, and confidant, and others too numerous to mention.

The sex scenes between Dan and Nick are a) a little too frequent and b) a little too violent for my taste; but that being said, I realize that many readers like that sort of thing….

Still, the two books taken as a whole represent a very good story, which could have been a great story with a little polish and a lot of editing.  Hence three stars instead of five.

The books are available on Smashwords, Amazon and other sites.

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