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Book Review: Romanus, by Mary Calmes

Book – Romanus
Author – Mary Calmes
Star rating – ★★★★☆
No. of Pages – approx 70 (14 pages of promo)

Movie Potential – Hmm…probably yes, but it would need to be something along the lines of I, Frankenstein.
Ease of reading – easy to read, with a few hiccups
Would I read it again – Maybe. If it’s part of a series.

Romanus - Mary Calmes

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** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
reviewed for Divine Magazine

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This was my first Mary Calmes story and the first time I’ve ever seen Gargoyles used in a romantic setting. I was pleasantly surprised by both.

This one was really hard to review. On one hand, there was a lot I liked about it. On the other, there was a lot I didn’t like. For me, this story is a solid 3.5 rating. I’ve rounded up to 4, because a 3 seems unfair, considering the fact that I liked it. Let’s divvy it up into Pros and Cons.

CONS

I always like to start with the worst things and build up the best, so that my review never ends on a sour note.

Issue 1:

Length: the story wasn’t long enough. The story needed a lot of guts and flesh to really work, but both of these were lacking somewhat. I think, although the ‘romance’ aspect of the story happened fast, it could have been elongated and more focus could have been put on the world that Calmes was trying to build. The story was just too short to do this plot justice. It needed to be two or even three times as long. I just think it needed more time to develop and flourish the way the characters and the plot deserved. To me, this read more like a Prequel to an upcoming series. Which would be fantastic.

1st Person POV: I’m not a fan. It tends to detract from the story. Instances like these, tend to put me off:
“Firemen carried all sorts of emergency items in their vehicles just to be on the safe side, and I was no exception.” This sounded like an excuse, from the author, as to why his character was fully prepared for the moment. In third, a statement like this would have made sense, but in first it sounds awkwardly like the character is trying to justify their actions and it jars my reading. But, this is just my personal preference. Once the story got going, these little snippets dropped out and more focus was put on the individual characters.

Slang, Accents Etc: I also don’t like these: wanna, gotta, lemme. I get that accents make these words realistic, but it makes the character sound lazy. I’m not sure if this was the point or if it was to strengthen the thought that the character was drowsy at the time (though they use them later, as well) but it’s just a little pet peeve of mine.

Unnatural Phrases: “like he was just so pleased” irks me. It’s not a phrase I’ve ever heard in this order. It feels really unnatural, but maybe it’s not for some people.

Confusing Descriptions: When things got hot and heavy, it also got really confusing. Actions took place that weren’t described well enough (which direction the person was facing, what position they were in etc) so that it took me two or three reads of the paragraph to make sense of what was going on. I won’t go into too much detail about it, as it’s not all that important, but I don’t like being jarred out of the moment to re-read something, because it didn’t make sense. People also miraculously went from lying to walking immediately; literally from one position to another, which was entirely impossibly.

Mason and Luc: Mason’s reluctance to admit what was happening between them didn’t seem quite in line with his acceptance of what Luc is. He’s fine with accepting that Luc is a gargoyle, but he doesn’t sense that they’re really soul mates, when he keeps insisting they’re just “trying things out”. This doesn’t work for me. Either Mason has gargoyle instincts that lead him to accept who and what Luc is, or he doesn’t, which means he can’t feel the same connection that Luc is convinced makes them soul mates. It can’t go both ways.

PROS

Gargoyles: the general idea of the story really appealed to me. The gargoyle aspect was unique and the characters were strong enough to carry the storyline. The description of the creatures, their habits and their “chasse” (AKA clan type of gathering) were great. Not enough was said, in my opinion, about their world.

Friends: Mason has a group of friends, and maybe this was intended or not, but these people are NOT my definition of a friend. They’re leeches and hangers on, that Mason lets away with murder. Honestly, other than Finn, I wouldn’t be friends with a single one of them. I hate them (which is a sign that the author did something right). I don’t like the way they talk about each other or Mason and I certainly don’t like Eli, who tries to manhandle Luc right in front of Mason.

Mason and Luc: as a couple, these two are cute, hot and sweet all at once. Mason is more of a “settle down” type of guy, while Luc appears to be the hot dangerous boy (has a motorcyle, has horns and fans, flies and breathes fire and is constantly naked) but they’re more similar than they first appear. This works well for them. Though, Mason’s reluctance to admit what was happening between them didn’t seem quite in line with his acceptance of what Luc was.

Characterization: It took me a while to warm up to Mason, but eventually he became this nice, wholesome guy, old enough to be a fireman, but with some childish/teenager tendencies. This worked, because he came across as a little naive and a whole lot shy. He’s this typical twink; skinny, power/greedy bottom, who feels unattractive but is uncomfortable with the fact that he’s irresistible to all men. Luc, on the other hand, is the opposite extreme. Strong, buff, hot, dangerous; he’s the typical bad boy, with a softer side.

Mason’s Acceptance: as I said above, Mason is extremely accepting of what happens, but I can buy this, because the gargoyles know him by sight. Knowing that Mason is one of them is really the key to making this part work. I accept that he accepts it, because it’s his nature and completely normal. (though I still have doubts about the whole issue mentioned above)

OVERALL

In total, Romanus was a great short read, which could have been longer and needed a little more fleshing out. With a few shorts or a real novel to explore this world further, Calmes is onto a winner. I really do hope she continues it, as I’d like my questions answered and I’d love to see this taken to the next level, with these characters and the few minor ones mentioned.

I’ll admit, I was disappointed with the ending. It was too abrupt and, as I said, my questions weren’t answered. This made the story feel incomplete. It’s enough that it peaked my interest, if there were more stories to read in the future (as I suspect there might be, considering the ending and Raoul) but I’d have liked this as a novel instead of a short. I’d be interested in reading more, but I’d probably wait until they were all available, so that I’m not sitting on a cliffhanger.

As the prequel or introduction to a series, with these characters, Romanus is a success. The plot has so much potential that wasn’t reached in this short, which would make sense if it was just the start of a more extensive series.
However, if this is a stand alone short story, never to be revisited again, it reads as incomplete. There are so many questions unanswered and a very hasty, sudden ending that leaves me feeling unsatisfied.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more.

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