Review: Finley, by Ella Frank

Blurb:

cover-ellafrank-finleyIt’s time to come home, Finn.

It’s been seven years since Daniel Finley left his hometown in Florida for the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s city life.
Since then, he’s worked hard for his position at the prestigious law firm Leighton & Associates, even when it’s caused distance and isolation from his family and friends. But that’s all about to change.

On his thirtieth birthday, he receives the one thing he never dared hope for. Something that was promised to him years earlier—a note. One simple sentence from the man he’s never been able to forget.

Six words will forever change the course of their lives.

Brantley Hayes has it all. Or so he thinks. When he first made the decision to take a job down in Florida, his family thought he was crazy. But, after years of living in the quiet beach town, he finally feels a sense of community. He’s surrounded himself with friends who are like family, has a job he loves, and owns a spectacular beachfront property that is his sanctuary.

Yet he still feels unfulfilled, as if a piece of the puzzle is missing, and he knows exactly which piece it is. On an impulse, he follows through with a promise he made years earlier. A promise to call home the one he sent away.

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

After years of separation, the former lovers are reunited, but Brantley wasn’t expecting to encounter the high walls now guarding Daniel’s heart.
Daniel may not be the same person he was when he left, but he knows that the first step to healing is the note in his hand.


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Edition read:
March 22, 2016
Ella Frank, LLC
Contemporary, M/M, GLBT+
275 e-book pages
3rd person
Sunset Cove, book 1
May 20-22, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️.5

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Review:

I’ve had a blast reading Ella Frank’s books over the years. I gobbled up the Exquisite series and fell easily under the spell of the Temptation series. Those stories were all fun, sweet, sexy and perfect little escapes at the time I read them.

Now, after reading Finley, the reality might just be that my tastes have changed, and the elusive “more” I’m looking for in books is getting harder to reach. I hate when an author I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and championed in the past becomes average for me. I think that’s happened here because I had problems. Lots and lots of problems.

While ultimately this was a mostly sweet story it was quite top-heavy with the sexcapades. I like sexcapades. Love them. And, while I don’t need the characters fornicating while swinging from ceiling fans or performing circus acts while copulating I found the sex scenes lacking the passion and emotion that made the connection between these characters feel any different from a casual one-night stand. They were just…there, and ultimately average.

And, I’ve realized, I’m becoming less forgiving with the details. This book touched on several peeves which are keeping my rating low even though plenty of other readers seem to have been perfectly entertained.

The biggest problem for me in Finley was the number of flashback scenes, pages long remembrances of italicized text. I think every chapter included at least one flashback. I’m not going back in there to check. There were way, way, waaaay too many. Being a second-chance-romance, I get the need for some history and back-story. The history was lovely. But I wish it had been presented in another way rather than pages upon pages of italics nestled in with the present-day that only managed to give me whiplash and a headache.

My next big problem was Brantley and his bestie Jordan being forty-phobic. Brantley is about 39 during this story, silvering at his temples, lines around his eyes, etc. but all sexy as hell — especially to Daniel. But at times, he was a bit too caught up with the fact that forty is looming, and somehow this means the absolute end of youth and senility. Can we…can we quit with that? Maybe when I was 20 I thought 40 was…well, I never thought it was old, really — it only seemed far away. And now? At 42, nearly 43 I feel better than I ever have and 20 seems like yesterday. I’m more self-assured. I know myself better. That’s what happens at forty. Shit…so I might need glasses to read a goddamn menu in a dim restaurant now. And a sore muscle might take a few extra days to feel better. And sometimes I get a cramp in weird places like my fucking ankle. But really? That’s about it. We’ll not discuss the gray hair that’s only added sparkle that I may or may not disguise with a six-dollar bottle of Miss Clairol. I know folks in their fifties and sixties who are running marathons. People between 40 and 75 who are in the prime of their life and at the top of their careers. I’m entirely sick of ageism in books, especially when it’s centered on my age group.

While I’m complaining, I have two other issues. They’re nitpicky as hell, but in Contemporary Romance and Erotica, I need the backdrop to be plausibly accurate.

First, I have a bit of a geeky interest in architecture, so I tend to jump all over errors. The book incorrectly uses the word “balcony” interchangeably with “porch” and “deck.” While balconies, porches, decks and other similar structures like verandas, porticos, patios, stoops, and others share the characteristic of being external features attached to a building, they all have attributes that differentiate them. They are not interchangeable terms for the sake of avoiding verbal repetition. Not one use of “balcony” was accurate.

Second, a matter of the law in which there might be a little timeline problem or problem of omission. I know a decent amount to be able to speak with a scrap of proficiency–or able to Google with dexterity. Spoilery, sooo…Skip to the next paragraph if you need to. While the epilogue ties up the story nicely with a two months later update, it fails to mention that Daniel ever took or passed the Bar Exam in Florida which would provide him with the necessary licensing to practice law there. With the omission of this tiny little detail, I assume he was only licensed in the state of Illinois since that’s where he’d graduated law school and been living and working for the past seven years. I’m not going into the intricate details and their exceptions because I’ll just bore us all silly. But to make my point, Bar Exams are only offered once or twice a year, involve an insane amount of studying to prepare, usually take two days or more to carry out, and take weeks to receive results. More importantly, they are not portable across state lines (with some exceptions but none between Florida and Illinois), and must be passed in order to license an attorney to practice within a specific state. The fact that the two months later expounds upon Daniel’s great fortune that he didn’t lose the job he attempted to quit, but instead his Big-Shot Chicago Firm opened a branch in a small town in Florida within the span of two months in order for him to conveniently keep the partnership he’d turned down pinged my bullshit meter HARD timeline-wise, and by omission. I get there wouldn’t be much entertainment value to these details in a romance book. But this section could have been worded differently with an eye to the future, a casual mention that he’d already done it for giggles a few years prior, or set out an additional six months or so to be more plausible.

Blah…You bored with me yet? I’m bored with me.

One more. #sorrynotsorry

I had a question that was never answered—or I was in an eyes-glazed-haze and missed it. The story starts with a terse missive from Brantley telling Daniel it’s time to come home. Intriguing, yes. But why now? What changed for Brantley? What was the turning point for him to finally reach out to Daniel after nearly a decade of no contact? Don’t tell me it’s because he’s about to turn forty and he doesn’t want to spend the yawning, tenured sunset of his life without his soul mate. Shit…I think I just answered my own question with a completely unsatisfying answer. [insert eye-roll]

Ultimately, my many grievances aside, this is a mostly sweet story of second chance romance with a deserved Happily Ever After. I just wish a few things had been done better–or that I was less persnickety.

**Book two of this series, Devil’s Kiss, releases on May 24th. I’ll never say never, but I’m gonna wait it out a bit even though a few hints in Finley managed to pique my interest.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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