Never Never Land by Treva Harte – review

Rating: 2/10 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Title: Never Never Land
Author: Treva Harte
Genre: Contemporary romance
URL: Loose ID
Price: US$4.99
Other Information/warnings: Explicit het and m/m sex
Summary [from the publisher]:
Sex screws everything up.
That was one good reason Jenni hung out with her gay buddies, Chris, Adam and Jake. They were gorgeous and totally unavailable. Friends were safe. At least, until they decided she needed a walk on the wild side and decreed they’d find the perfect man for her. Then all the rules changed.
Jake found the perfect straight guy for Jenni — except Jake was falling for him himself. Jenni was getting interesting e-mail from a mystery man. Chris was finally ready to take on commitment-shy Adam.
Maybe screwing up would be worth it.

My review: I really wanted to like this one. I’d heard good things about Treva Harte’s writing, the premise sounded fun, and, er, it was always possible I might submit something to Loose ID, the company owned by the author.

Unfortunately….

This one lost me fairly early on. The banter between the three gay friends didn’t sound like people who’ve known each other for ages, and came across as info-dumping. The story revolves around Jenni, and yet very little time is spent on showing us what she’s like and why these three gay men apparently have so little to do but sort out her love life. We’re told repeatedly how important and wonderful and self-sacrificing she is, but the showing comes rather late in the story and too scantily. I never warmed to her at all, even when we are shown her in more detail, and at several points in the story I wanted to simply bitchslap her for being wet, stupid and generally useless.

Characterisation is very weak all over, unless the author was trying to create a set of remarkably boorish people. Jenni’s a drip, Jake is a doormat, Adam is a manwhore and Chris is a mess, while Cole is an out and out bastard. The mysterious cop and former Playgirl model, Luis Morales, is the only one I found myself interested in. (Every other person in the story, single or not, lusted after him, so I wasn’t alone in that.) The ‘is he or isnt he gay’ thing with Morales was also intriguing, but it wasn’t enough to save the story.

The only relationships in the story which comes across at all vividly are Jenni’s and her potential new lover, and Jake’s with his. Of those two, only one was remotely appealing. The Adam/Chris pairing potentially could have been interesting, but it felt jammed in, and didn’t mesh at all with the other two couples. In fact, I got the impression it existed purely so we could see Mama Jenni displaying the qualities which apparently made her adorable. All it actually did was make the three of them look like gormless teenagers. Jake and Cole’s interactions fitted more credibly into the uninvolving saga of who would get to screw Jenni, but the actual relationship was abusive, exploitative, and the bolted on HEA made me feel ill. Cole is very rightly called an ‘asshole’ in the story by several characters, and seriously, he’s no one’s idea of a romantic lead.

If it was just the plot and characters which I disliked in this, I would have simply passed it to another of our review team as not my cup of tea. However, I really felt that a lot of the problem was the actual writing – the ‘tell not show’ I mention above is pretty much standard, along with a lot of uninvolving info-dumps. I also disliked the way the ‘I looked at myself in the mirror’ technique was overused to give us descriptions of the characters – pretty amateurish, really. The plodding dialogue was unconvincing all the way through. I never felt like these were real people talking to each other, and the guys just talked too damn much, a big peeve of mine in m/m writing. Okay, some men do gabble, but not like this.

My biggest peeve though was the almost total lack of scene setting. Over and over I yelled at my monitor as I read this, “who the fuck is talking now and where the hell are they?” POV switches abruptly with little or no warning that the characters speaking have changed and that they are in a completely different location. Dialogue is dropped into thin air, and is woefully inadequate to give us the sensory or environmental information we need to place the speakers in space and time. A little bit of this is fine – but not all the way through the story and in almost every case. It was just one more way the author keeps the reader distant from the characters, and when the characters are as hard to like as these, that’s not a good thing.

Anyone reading this story for the m/m content also needs to be warned that the het sex is given at least fifty percent of the focus. It seemed clear to me where the author’s real interest lay because the het romance and erotic scenes worked so much better than the gay ones. Which is fine, but if you’re not interested in reading het, you may find this story not worth bothering with.

The editing is clean and the text error free, but I can’t scrape up much more praise than that, because Officer Morales with his ambiguous sexuality just isn’t worth ploughing through the rest of the story for. If the premise had been treated as a romantic comedy instead of a full-on angst fest, it might have worked better. Sadly, because of the mediocre writing, the dull plot and unattractive couplings, I have to say this one isn’t recommended. Sorry, Ms Harte.

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