Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fields of Gold by Dev Bentham

Why I read it:  I was offered a review copy by the author and I've enjoyed her previous books.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads) Life is full of compromises. That's what Avi Rosen tells himself. He's a yeshiva boy turned historian, working on his dissertation and stretching his meager stipend by moonlighting as a closeted politician's houseboy. Their relationship used to feel like a real affair. Lately it seems more like a job.

It isn't until he meets someone decent that he realizes how corrupt his life has become. Pete is a tall blond farmer who charms Avi with his dazzling smile and his straightforward life. But even if he can believe this refreshingly honest man doesn't have his own political agenda, will Avi find the strength to emerge from the dark life he's chosen and find a future in the sun

What worked for me (and what didn't): I enjoy Ms. Bentham's writing style and, as expected I enjoyed this book as well.  I liked the imagery of Pete being the bright blond man who helps (inspires?) Avi into the light.   Avi doesn't like to think of himself as a whore, but he starts to as time goes by, when he realises he doesn't love his assemblyman and the "relationship" is more about having a roof over his head than romance.  When he meets Pete, he is attracted and tempted.  The picture is of someone who's afraid to move on, who is hiding. This is reflected in his academic life too - he's been at college for 7 (?) years working on his dissertation for many of them and he'll make every excuse possible why he's not read to defend.  I don't know much about the US academic system so I'm taking it on faith that people actually spend years and years on their PhD at college.  But, because of my lack of knowledge, I'm happy enough to go with the flow. (Truth to tell, I don't know much about that level of education in Australia either).

When he's pushed, by his attraction to Pete, and academically by his professor, he starts to come out of hiding.  

I thought the conflict between Pete and Avi at the end was a little manufactured - Avi had no reason to believe that badly of Pete I thought.  But, it did force Avi to spend some time on his own and the advantage to that was that I was sure he wanted to be with Pete and the end (and Pete was too) rather than just jumping from one "relationship" to another for some kind of safety net. 

I liked how Pete and Avi were together - the juxtaposition of the kindness and sensitivity (without being wimpy) that Pete showed Avi, how they could be together openly ("in the light")  and the closeted, dark and hidden relationship with Mr. Assemblyman who treated him like a servant, (like a whore, in fact)  only served to highlight just what a catch Pete was.  

I found there was very little by way of description of Avi physically, so other than from the cover (which could be accurate I guess), I didn't really get a picture of him.  Dark hair, shorter than Pete, skinny and pale was about all I could glean (notice my grain farming reference there? heh) from the text.  I would have liked to have had a clearer mental picture of Avi but that's probably a me thing.

I also liked how Professor Joan was able to pin down what made Avi tick academically and what he would be most comfortable and happy doing, as opposed to what he could potentially be successful financially doing.  

What else? There were a number of sympathetic female characters in the book, which is a plus I'm appreciating more and more with m/m romance.  

Even though the title of the series is Tarnished Souls and is set around Jewish holidays - this one is about Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, I think the story is only tangentially related to that theme.  Not that it matters. 

I liked catching up with Isaac and Nathan from Learning from Isaac also.

Given that they were only together for 2 weeks, I thought it was entirely appropriate that the book ended with a hopeful HEA rather than a proposal and exchange of rings (whether symbolic or legal - I don't know the state of the law in Wisconsin).  I did think that the two would make it in the long haul - the fact that there wasn't over the top emoting at the end, made me more convinced of it actually.

The parts of the book that worked best for me were when Pete and Avi were together and I would have liked more of it. The book is only just over 110 pages long and, like in earlier books from this author, I felt that a bit more fleshing out of the main characters, their issues and their relationship (via more pages), would have really added to my enjoyment of the story.  I enjoy Ms. Bentham's books but, would love to see her take more page time to add some further depth - because her books have the potential to be amazing.

Grade:  B-


Brie said...

This book had many good things going for it, but some flaws as well. I'm convinced the problems all come from length constrictions, I really want to see what this author does with a longer book.

And regarding his PhD -- I don't know how it is with history students, but in anthropology/archaeology one can spend years and years and years on the damn thesis. So I did find believable the 7 years; the writing of the thing in such short time, though, not so much.

Kaetrin said...

@Brie I took the short time to write it as being an indication that he could have written it sooner and had just been procrastinating? But I've never written a dissertation so I really have no idea :)

Chris said...

That's an ongoing frustration of mine, that so many books just seem to be trying to cram too much story into too few pages - you can see the potential for something so much better, but...

Kaetrin said...

She picks such interesting topics for her books too. I'm hoping for longer stories in future. :)