About the Book
When best friends Jamie Eckert and Derek Duran realized they were in love, they took their relationship to the next level. But then Derek’s budding music career took off, and so did Derek.
Twenty years later, Jamie still lives in the small town of Ashbury, Virginia, where he grew up. He’s grown up and moved on — now he owns the family funeral home business and is raising Riley, his precocious six-year-old adopted daughter.
But emotions Jamie thought long buried are stirred up again when he gets an early morning removal call. The deceased is Derek’s mother and Riley’s babysitter, Mrs. Duran. Now Derek’s back in town for the funeral, and he turns to Jamie for support … in more ways than one.
Angry at Derek for not keeping in touch, and angrier at himself for still loving the man who left him behind, Jamie is torn between his professional duty and his feelings for Derek. Will he be able to put aside his past with Derek to carry out Mrs. Duran’s final wishes? Or is Derek interested in rekindling their relationship after all this time?
The Finer Details
Written Ink Designs
130 e-book pages
The general premise of Not Another One Hit Wonder, as offered up in the blurb, was super enticing. Set in Virginia — check, because I’m a Virginian. MC1 a funeral director — check, because I’m bizarrely fascinated. MC2 a rock star — check, for obvious reasons. Precocious child — mmm, okay, I can play along. Second Chance Romance — YOU BETCHA.
I’m happy to state that I liked my first read by J.M. Snyder and all of these elements ended up working out mostly okay for me.
However, it didn’t knock my socks off.
It’s rare that I opt to read novellas or short stories because I generally feel that, with so much pressure on the author to pack in a complete arc with satisfying resolutions and character development, I’m going to be left dangling in the wind — grasping for all the bits that would flesh out the story to my complete gratification. Unless it’s a story being offered as a serial, then I might play along because there’s a better chance I’ll ultimately get a worthy return on my investment.
Here, there were a few disappointments that plagued me while reading and well after finishing.
The theme of Jamie’s reluctance at getting involved with Derek, how it would be bad for him, how he’d be left — again — when Derek decided to return home was repeated way too many times for my liking. Reinforcement of theme is a tactical device in writing, though it should be used sparingly; otherwise, its purpose can seem more geared to bolster word count rather than plot. It doesn’t do much to propel a story forward when we keep harkening back to the central problem that is something to overcome…but instead dwell in its mire.
Sometimes I’m a POV snob. I admit this. There are times when first-person narratives work for me, other times I don’t feel like I’m getting a complete picture of the love-interest to embrace him as the Main Character’s One-N-Only. Jamie’s point of view was delightful. He’s a likable guy with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Derek…I never really got him, the appeal, the strength of character, his motivations…or anything that cemented him in the role as perfect partner — especially in a scenario that IF he’s the one, he’d also be tasked with parenting a child. I desperately needed more of him, not necessarily through his eyes or omniscience, but a few 1st-person POV tactics to paint a more complete portrait would have made this pairing a bit stronger.
Heat factor – I don’t base my ratings on heat or the presence or lack of sex. It’s not a secret I like sexy books, from mild to explicit is cool with me. Here, there was none. And, it’s not about a want for gratuitous freaky business — the opposite, in fact. Sex in romance — even fade-to-black — helps cement the bonds of desire, intimacy, and emotional connection. Those elements were missing for me entirely. It wasn’t’ enough knowing that they’d been childhood besties and first loves. With so many years between the then and now…I needed MORE on the Why Now.
Kids in romance books. So…I’m not a huge kid person. Even less so in romance. I’ve certainly read a few I’ve liked…the more precocious the better, it seems. Riley is Jamie’s six-year-old niece who he legally adopted as an infant after his sister and her husband died. I don’t know that I’d call her precocious…mouthy and bratty, yes. Also, she was way too much in the picture for me. Way too much. Sure, she’s a HUGE part of Jamie’s life — but this story was less about a family being created than it was second-chance romance. I could have done with a lot less of Riley and her whining — the exception being that IF there was more meat on the bone when it came to Derek fitting into this family scenario for the long haul.
Then, finally, the ending was about as abrupt as it could get and sorely lacked the resolutions of nearly every plot thread except one. An important one, to be sure — but a whole lot of other bits were left to swing in the breeze as unanswered questions.
So! Will this be a series? I’ve seen no evidence one way or the other — and I’ve looked. I’d kind of like for it to be because the bones are here, strong bones that would cure this feeling of incompleteness I can’t seem to let go of.
There was some stuff to like on these pages…and I’ve grumbled so much that I don’t want to leave anyone thinking that this story doesn’t have its good points. There were some incredibly sweet moments, some humor that was right up my alley, colorful side characters worth knowing, and evidence of a Happily Ever After, and ultimately some very sound writing that culminated in an enjoyable and mostly engaging read.
I pull into the red-striped area next to my usual parking spot and pull up my handbrake hard enough to jerk the car forward a little. The striped spot is double-wide — during a funeral, the police who will accompany us to the graveside park here — but I pull in as close to the other car as I can. I don’t care if the other driver is grieving over a long-lost relative; that’s no excuse for driving like an idiot and parking where he doesn’t belong. And I plan to tell him just that, too. Even if he storms into the funeral home and tries to duck me, he has one hell of a surprise coming when he finds out I’m the person he’s here to see.
I glance over but the driver has his head down, digging for something on the seat beside him, and I can’t see his face. Which means he knows he’s done something wrong and is going to wait until I drive off before he gets out of the car. Surprise, I work here. What’s your excuse?
Grabbing my cup of coffee, I get out of the car and slam the door shut, hard. As I turn, the other car’s door opens. I see a shaggy head of dark hair — still not looking at me, as if ignoring me will make me go away — followed by a lithe male body. A Rolling Stones concert T-shirt with the sleeves torn off, skinny black jeans so tight they almost creak, a faded pair of black Converse that look as old as I am.
Really? I shake my head. That’s what you wear to a funeral home? Show some respect …
Wait, I think I recognize those shoes.
My heart skips a beat, and my fingers go numb. I set down my coffee on the hood of my car before I can drop it. “Jesus Christ.” My voice squeaks a little when I ask, “Derek?”
The guy looks up, finally, giving his head a familiar little shake to toss his hair out of gray-green eyes I used to stare into for hours when I was younger. The same eyes that still haunt my dreams from time to time. Derek Duran, in the flesh. He’s no longer eighteen and perfect — he’s aged like me, and the lines around his eyes and mouth suggest he’s had a rougher time of it than I have.
But when he smiles, one corner of his lips pulls up higher than the other to show off the eyetooth he broke on a seesaw when he was eight. In that instant, the years fall away from him, from us both. My body flushes hot all over and I feel like I did the last time I saw him, the last time I held him close.
“Hey, Jamie. Long time, no see.”
His voice is throatier than I remember, smoked out and husky and, I’ll admit it, more than a little sexy. It suits his grown-up appearance, and helps distance me from the boy I used to date.
I ask, “You know you’re in my spot, right?”
With a guilty start, he looks around, his gaze settling on the sign in front of his car. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I can move –”
“Don’t worry about it.” My earlier anger is gone, shocked out of me by his sudden appearance. Sudden? Who am I kidding? I knew he was on his way; I’ve been looking for him ever since we spoke on the phone.
You’ve been looking longer than that, a voice inside me whispers, but I tamp it down quickly before my thoughts can run away with it.
A smile spreads across my face as I look him over again. Damn, he still looks good. Not quite the same as I remember, but better in some ways, and I’ll take what I can get. I find myself falling right back into the way we were, as if no time has passed.
“Come on inside,” I tell him. “We can go over the plans your mother made for her funeral. I’m sure that’s why you’re here.”
He shoves his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. It’s a snug fit, and the way the black denim stretches across his crotch draws my gaze down where it doesn’t belong. You know nothing about him now, I remind myself. Where he lives, who he’s dating, if he’s married. He’s here to talk about his mother’s funeral, for Christ’s sake. At least act professional.
As he steps around my car, I reach for my coffee, ready to lead the way. My mind is already several steps ahead — I see me holding the door open for him, the two of us sharing an awkward grin, then the shocked look on Molly’s face when she realizes who’s followed me in.
But his hand catches mine before I can pick up the Starbucks cup. I raise a questioning eyebrow as he comes closer, right up on me now. When I take a step back, the car’s sideview mirror stops me.
“Jamie,” Derek sighs, his thumb stroking the inside of my wrist. His touch is warm and velvety and strong, and I can imagine his hands on other parts of my body all too easily. He stares at me, his eyes hungry, the same look in them that I remember from when we were together. His voice drops to a sexy rumble. “God, I’ve missed you.”
My knees go weak at the admission. “Me, too,” I breathe. “I mean –”
Before I can explain what I mean, his mouth covers mine with a needy, desperate kiss.
About the Author:
I’m a writer whose main interest lies in gay erotic fiction. Why? Why not? I write what’s in my head and I guess that’s just how my mind works. You’ll find that my stories run from contemporary to science fiction, because I like a variety of different genres, but the characters are all gay men. They’re just who I like to write about, and who I’ve found my fans like to read about. And I don’t shy away from the sex, either (though some people say I don’t write enough). Gay erotic romance, you could call it. Works for me.
Currently I live in Richmond, Virginia, and work full-time running JMS Books and Queerteen press. I have two very spoiled cats named Marley and Lew. On those rare occasions when I’m not writing or editing or marketing my books, I like reading (mostly fantasy, sci-fi, and non-fiction), visiting Civil War historical sites, watching cheesy 80’s TV shows, and playing video games (I’m a Legend of Zelda fanatic).
I graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. While there, I was the Fantasy Editor of The Fractal, our campus sci-fi/fantasy journal. After graduation I started my own speculative fiction webzine, Disenchanted, published quarterly for almost two years. Though it was mostly fantasy, I began to explore gay fiction in the last few issues.
At some point I stumbled upon slash fan fiction and thought, “I can do that.” I dabbled in various fandoms (X-Men, Star Wars, an awesome video game called Suikoden), but when I finally got serious about fan fic, it was in “real person slash,” specifically Justin and Lance from the boy band, ‘N Sync.
If you enjoy my writing, you might like to visit some of my other websites:
J.M. Snyder — my blog
Vic and Matt — a site dedicated to my gay superheroes
J. Tomas — gay young adult romance
J.T. Marie — fantasy fiction and lesbian romance
Shawna Jeanne — MMF erotic romance
Written Ink — cover art and book layout services