Rant, Review

Review: By the Book by G.B. Gordon (2022)

Follow the Money, Book #1

Heat Factor: Somehow the second time is more explicit and elaborate than the first time? (What?) But not by much – it’s very much a “just the highlights” situation

Character Chemistry: Did not work for me

Plot: Ben discovers a quarter million accounting error at his company, tells his boss, and then his boss gets murdered

Overall: The characterizations were so muddy I eventually got a headache


Sometimes I think that how I feel when I end a book becomes the whole feeling for the book, which might not capture my true sentiments as I read. This book is a suspense book, so I’ve decided to break my thoughts down by quarters. Let’s see what happens…

25%

So far, we’ve met the protagonists. Ben has discovered an accounting error at work and Nick has grumpily celebrated his 40th birthday. There’s been a murder. Nick gets the case and meets Ben. They both think the other is scrumptiously attractive. 

In terms of the plot, I’m totally engaged. What’s going on with what is clearly a large crime operation? Is Ben safe? I will say I got a bit frustrated by Ben’s lack of imagination regarding financial crimes, but I texted Holly and Ingrid the bones of what Ben knows, and they weren’t like, “Obviously that dude is bad so definitely don’t talk to him.” In fact, the opposite, so from a realism standpoint I guess it works? The benefit of a single POV is that we wouldn’t know what Nick knows and maybe wouldn’t be frustrated that Ben is being somewhat naive, but this is a dual POV so it is what it is. 

In terms of romance, I’m not quite sold yet, but I’m willing to be persuaded. It’s a lot of the reader being told that Ben and Nick think the other is hot and that they’re drawn to each other, but I’m not getting a lot of the underlying reasons for them feeling that way. Hoping this improves, TBH.

50%

Early on, we’re given to understand that this isn’t the first murder Ben has witnessed. By this point, we learn just what that means. Is it connected to these murders, or is it simply that Ben is spectacularly unlucky? There’s been a lot of time in between. Ben also gets beaten pretty badly, but the most gruesome parts that we learn about are after the fact and off page. 

I am still super invested in the crime mystery. It’s not very fast-paced, but the breadcrumbs are doled out in such a way that I want to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. Probably our learning about what exactly happened in Ben’s past helps to keep the momentum going, because it’s an added mystery, even if we’re not totally sure that it’s related to the current crime. Also, for all his naivete earlier, Ben is being cleverer. 

Romance-wise, well, I’m not getting a ton. I think I’m still invested in the romance because they spend very little time together and want more of each other, so I also want more of them together, but most of what exists when they are together is based on “I’m very physically attracted” with very slight hints of burgeoning emotional investment, as summarized by this line from Ben’s POV:

How the fuck could one be so physically attracted to a person one felt otherwise so ambiguous about?

Which is something that simply doesn’t work for me. There are more actions and interactions that indicate something is growing between them than in the first quarter, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

75%

Well, the action has taken a back seat to the character and romance development, so I’ve had plenty of time to speculate as to why I’m struggling, and I think it boils down to the characterizations. Also there were a couple things going on that made me think, “REALLY?!” which admittedly did not help.

I’ve been feeling like my sense of the characters is not jiving with what they’ve been presented as, and that’s definitely emphasized in this quarter. There’s a mismatch between what is actually behavior on the page and what we’re told about their personalities or feelings. Nick is supposedly not having a midlife crisis, and yet most of his behavior screams that he’s a hot mess. Maybe he is a hot mess, but if so, how did he get to be a field agent who’s well respected enough to get a surprise birthday party from his colleagues and to have his boss personally assign him a case that looks like one of his cold cases? Ben is supposed to be this smart guy who is also assertive or something, but he does not make straightforward connections while in the middle of a criminal investigation, and the first time we meet him, he’s too weak willed to kick to the curb the guy who’s been using him for handouts since college. 

Beyond that, there’s this underlying D/s energy that doesn’t seem to match the characters. And I’ve read plenty of age gap romances where the younger guy is more assertive, so I’m not saying the power dynamics that come with an age gap can’t be played with, or that all subs or all Doms are a certain way. Everything about these characters is just all a jumble. I don’t have a good sense of them at all. So, by extension, I don’t really have any investment in their relationship. They’ve finally kissed, and that moment should have been built up with tension breadcrumbs since the moment they met, but it just…wasn’t. I felt nothing. 

The whole thing is kind of like this excerpt:

Ben bristled at the command, but now wasn’t the time, and here wasn’t the place to make a scene. He’d managed to thoroughly piss Marshall off. So, what else was new? He found it harder and harder to care.

So he’s both bristling and doesn’t care? How does that even work?

The End

Y’all. 

Things did not improve. 

How—please tell me HOW—does one plan to hook up with someone, with a six-month prep time, mind you, and not buy unexpired condoms? I still can’t wrap my head around it. Like. Even if the plan goes south and the person ends up saying no, you’d still be prepared, right? 

Okay, aside from that and other WTF moments (which were a non-zero number), the characterization situation was still giving me whiplash, and it would be very much a stretch to call the ending an HFN. Very much. 

Like.

So. 

It was a strong start. It got messy. It did not get unmessy by the end. This seems to be the beginning of a trilogy or duology or something, but I doubt I’ll be reading further.

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.


Buy Now: Amazon


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