Corporate Bodies, by AE Ryecart

Cover-AERyecartCorporateBodies.pngWhen professional turns personal, it’s too late to step back…

Smart, young and ambitious, the future’s bright for Jake Stafford—except for his addiction to a man he should have turned his back on years before. When he receives news that forces him to re-evaluate his life, Jake has to kick his habit and go cold turkey for good.

When Oliver Lester walks out on his life in New York and returns to London after an absence of more than twenty years, the biggest piece of baggage he brings back is a broken heart. Powerful and sought after, Oliver is a man whose corporate reputation goes before him but as he stares into his future he sees nothing but work-filled days and empty, lonely nights.

Free of long-term relationships which have left them disillusioned and cynical, neither man is looking to risk his heart. But an invitation to dinner leads to more, and Jake and Oliver find themselves swept up in an affair neither is seeking. Crossing the line and breaking all the rules, both men come to learn what it is to feel whole and complete as they begin to fall in love.

But the past has one final trick up its sleeve. An uninvited guest, a violent confrontation and the fear history is repeating itself leaves them reeling.

As the future they promised each other hangs in the balance, Jake and Oliver are faced with a stark question: can they find the strength to destroy the past before the past destroys them?


Stats:

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Series:
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February 7, 2017
Self-published, AE Ryecart
Urban Love, book 3
Contemporary
M/M
Gay
232 e-book pages
3rd person
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 read Corporate Bodies a few weeks ago and had to take some time to mull it all over. I see lots of great reviews have been posted hither and yon– so here I am with dissenting opinionzzz. Make of them what you will.

Fact: It can absolutely be read as a stand-alone. I haven’t read the first two books, I can guess who the characters were — but don’t feel as though I missed some Big Secret Arc Thread that ties them all together.

A few elements had me invested, at least until 80% until everything flew off the rails, but weighing out the good, the bad, and the ugly, I gotta say this book ended up being a…well…not good experience.

The age gap of 20 years between our MCs, Jake and Oliver, should have been a tasty treat as well as the Office Romance. And, gotta say, elder Oliver’s innocence was mostly sweet and endearing — and HOT As Fuck when being schooled by young Jake. Outdoor Sexy Times, y’all. The raw, quiet intimacy between these guys was also one of those things that makes me swoon.

BUT

Corporate Bodies is plagued with pacing problems and other peeves that overshadowed the best things it had going for it.

Ya know how in real life when A Thing happens and you tell a pal? Then later you tell Someone Else. And then later on Pal says, “Oooooh, ya gotta tell That Person what happened,” and Pal is FINE with hearing it again. Before you know it, you’ve recanted the story to a lot of folks. Because it’s a good story. In real life that’s okay. That’s one of the many ways we deliver ourselves into the world and bond with our fellow humankind — and end up saying things like “Stop me if you’ve heard this.” But in books, rehashing A Thing that we’ve witnessed unfold, essentially in Real Time, several pages later with Jake’s Pals, or whomever…is REPETITIVE. I don’t need to read about A Thing more than once. Jake’s pals might need to hear it at a later date — but there are OTHER ways to do it so that readers DO NOT. Because, as the reader, rehashing an incident comes across as filler that bogs down the pacing. Not to mention that it feels pretty damn condescending when we’re smart enough to have gotten the gist on the first go ‘round. If that had only happened once I might not have mentioned it. So…

There were numerous instances of stepping back in time to hash out the backstory. And places where I thought something was happening that ended up not happening for pages and pages. Delineations were unclear, and there weren’t many clues leading up to these abrupt about-faces or delays. So, again, pacing — where we take a few steps forward then a few steps back with a ferocity that nearly gave me whiplash and forced me to reread previous paragraphs to figure out where I was in the timeline. There’s an artform to serving this up to the reader in successful ways — because sometimes foreshadowing or going back in time is crucial, pivotal, or whatever. But this totally missed the mark in execution.

The main characters, Jake and Oliver — Lordy, I really wanted to love them. They each had some endearing flaws and elements of perfection that, in many ways, made them make sense as a couple. However, the ways they presented on the page, with lots of flowery phrasing, dramatics, and an abundance of stereotype and internalized homophobia only resulted in them coming across as caricatures. And as a reviewer, I should probably cite some examples to strengthen my position, but…honestly, I can’t be bothered. Just know I’ve got tons of highlighted notes such as Oh Please, Gimme a Break, WTF, Gag, For Real?, and Oh Fuck No. So…I’ll leave it at that.

Then.

Look, I don’t really have any triggers to speak of, and I don’t disparage those who do. In fact, I feel adamant that trigger warnings are a necessity for all of us regardless of sensitivity levels. I can usually find it in me read through the dark, violently hateful things in books IF IT SERVES THE PLOT. When an author is hell-bent on including brutal violence in any book, but especially romance, there is a massive responsibility to ensure the reader understands, feels to their bones, that it is a critical element. That the story would be lacking, that the characters have to scale that particular mountain to come out stronger individually and together. Here? All the No.

***SPOILER ALERT***

Sorry, I try to avoid spoilers…

…it’s hard to do that in some cases.

But I warned you.

I’ve been marinating on this for weeks now, and I still cannot find any reason whatsoever why a brutal back-alley gay-bashing needed to happen. None. It happens somewhere around 80%. Jake and Oliver had already had The Big Conflict and parted ways. They were miserable. Their heartbreak wasn’t improving no matter what they were doing in their attempts to move on. They were already on a path back to each other, full of remorse, but determined. Then Jake is hideously attacked and beaten within an inch of his life — on-page in gory detail. Oliver rushes to his hospital bed (a few days later when news reaches him). They have reluctant heart-to-hearts and gushing wary confessions where Jake does nearly as much talking as Oliver — through missing front teeth and unimaginable agony barely touched by intravenous drugs. This was a BIG FAT NO for me on two counts — necessity to plot, and feasibility on Jake’s part.

***Spoiler Over, Mostly***

The story never recovered in that last 20% — though Jake did, apparently to spectacular effect. There wasn’t any mention PTSD, or therapy, or…anything — except, clearly, having Oliver back in his life was all the healing he needed. And yeah, I get people manage recovery and survival in different ways, but here I couldn’t buy it.

Not a win.

Advance Review Copy generously provided by the author via Signal Boost Promotions in exchange for an honest review.


Purchase Links:

 Amazon US | Amazon UK


Other Books in the Series:

1) Loose Connection
2) The Story of Love

About the Author:

 

AuthorPhoto.jpgA E Ryecart writes mm romance/gay fiction about complex, multi-faceted men who don’t always make the right decisions. Filled with angst, high drama and emotional tension, she writes the books she likes to read. An avid people watcher, most of her writing takes place in a local café amidst the background hum of hissing coffee machines, where she can check out the other customers for character and story inspiration! A born and bred Londoner, she may have moved to someplace more leafy but the city is still very much part of her DNA, which is why her books are set in and around present-day London, providing a thrilling, metropolitan backdrop to the main action.

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