Rant, Review

Review: Custom Built by Chantal Fernando (2020)

Fast & Fury, Book 1

Heat Factor: It kind of felt closed door, but it’s not, it was just that I was that detached while reading

Character Chemistry: 180 degrees wouldn’t adequately describe the instant shift these protagonists have in their attitudes to each other

Plot: I don’t even know what to tell you. There’s more than one murder of characters we meet, and I was wondering why the epilogue was 1. Not called the epilogue and was 2. Four chapters long

Overall: SMH

I have enjoyed many books by Chantal Fernando, at least half of them never seeing the light of day on this blog. While her writing may not be technically superior, I typically have felt that she can tell an engaging story with a good voice, and I enjoy her heroes. Ergo, I must admit that I was surprised at the quality of the prose in this book, primarily because I was just sitting in my chair (or wherever I was) thinking to myself, “But I don’t understand why this is happening right now. Why is this happening right now? Why are these characters behaving in this way?” most of the time.

For example: Bronte is 24, and she’s been working as an assistant to a PI, but she’s not actually a PI, and she doesn’t have any special skills, and she’s been dating this biker guy for about a second. So why is she the one investigating her father’s murder when her uncle is the most powerful drug lord in town? Yes, she uses her PI friend and the MC as resources, but why does her uncle let her run the investigation? He’s just like, “Okay, you do you little niece. LMK if you need any help.” REALLY?!?!?!?! And the suspects are all other drug lords who want to take over when Bronte’s uncle and father retire. WHY WOULD THE DRUG LORDS WHO SEEK TO GAIN FROM THE RETIREMENT OF THE TOP DOG MURDER THE TOP DOG?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Shouldn’t they murder each other in the vacuum left by the absence of the top dog? Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about the politics of underworld drug culture, but really. What a waste of resources when there’s almost certain to be a war among the remaining contenders to vie for the top. If that’s how it actually works, I’m disappointed in drug lords everywhere. Fernando kind of tried to explain the idea of this for a hot minute and I was just like, no. No. I am not buying what you’re selling.

I mean, that’s most of the plot, so everything just snowballs from there. Bronte is so fantastically immature but talks a big game in her head (it’s 1st present POV, so it’s aaaaall in her head), I was tempted to grind my teeth in frustration at times. And the 1st POV really detracted from this narrative, because there was a good bit of telling, not showing. Beefing up the dialog to demonstrate how the relationships were progressing would have done a lot for this book, but almost all of the story is told like: “this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, and I had these feelings about it,” which does a grave disservice to the seriously meaty content in this book. 

And I’m talking seriously meaty. Bronte is orphaned (her mother had died when she was young) very early on when her father is murdered. She learns that her irregular cells on her cervix constantly returning mean that she might need a hysterectomy. Another friend is murdered because of the sleuthing surrounding her father’s murder. And she finds out that her father was secretly dating a woman he never told her about, when he swore he’d never replace her mother who was the love of his life. That is some seriously heavy stuff. And we just breeze by it because it’s described to us in such a detached manner. 

I’m just shaking my head right now. 

So let’s talk romance, shall we? This is a romance blog, not a suspense/thriller blog, after all. 

This was also – to a lesser extent, but only because I brushed it off to get on with the story – a WUT situation for me. Because: Bronte gets laid off from her PI assistant job because the PI isn’t making enough money, so her uncle gets her a job working at this custom bike shop (Fast & Fury…hello series title) that his newfound daughter is associated with because, yes, this is a spinoff series from the Knights of Fury series, and Abbie from Temper is, in fact, Bronte’s cousin. Anyway, Bronte starts working at this shop, which is owned by the Knights of Fury MC, so naturally it is run by one of the MC brothers – Crow – and Crow is both super hot and super standoffish/rude when he first talks to Bronte. 

So we have this whole setup for resisting the pull of the romance, and….nothing. Nothing, because they have about three grumpy interactions in the shop and then Bronte and her bestie go out to a club – a club also owned by the MC, because of course it is – and Crow is there. So they dance, and JUST LIKE THAT it flips a switch from “this can’t happen” to a fully committed relationship. And I say this because the next plot point that happens is that Bronte’s father is murdered and suddenly she’s got all this support and people who care about her that we didn’t know about 30 pages earlier, including Crow practically living with her. I just. I can’t.

Furthermore, Crow is completely 2-dimensional. Why does he care about Bronte at all? I honestly could not tell you, except that she walks into his shop and he has the hots for her and he’s not a total jerk. I guess. He is there to prop up Bronte’s character and for no other reason.

There is so much here that could be a really, truly interesting story, and it just does not pull together. I’m super bummed about it.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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