Pine Valley by Ged Ruggles

Rating: 5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Pine Valley
Author: Ged Ruggles
Genre: Romance, Mystery
URL: Amazon
Price: US $2.99
Summary [from the publisher]:
Most men of ambition would kill for the chance to play a bracing game at Pine Valley, the most celebrated, and exclusive, golf course in the world. And in the summer of his 30th birthday, Jeff Carpenter gets his chance.

Trouble is, Jeff isn’t exactly a man of ambition, having put his literary dreams on hold 10 years ago for a soulless back office job. Nor did he ever master the art of the swing farther than once making par on the giant dinosaur hole at his local childhood mini golf.

But a chance encounter with the son of Pine Valley’s most senior councilman at a Philadelphia gay bar, sparks a clandestine romance that plunges Jeff into a web of intrigue that threatens Pine Valley’s very existence.

My review:
I was thrilled to get an opportunity to read this, as I am always looking for something just a little different within genre fiction that lately has been feeling very bland and formulaic to me.

30-year-old Jeff Carpenter is an unpublished writer working a humdrum job as a children’s book editor. He broke off his engagement to Amy Monroe, a reporter, but they are still pretty tight and she takes a prurient interest in his love life, which sometimes becomes annoying. It is understandable, though, as they have been good friends for 20 years. Thankfully, Amy is lively and vibrant without the moody bitterness common to female characters in gay romantic fiction. She takes the breakup in stride, even though she learned that Jeff was gay just months before their wedding.

Jeff meets and quickly falls for Kent Baxter, whose father owns Pine Valley, a prestigious golf club that caters to wealthy and conservative business people and is intolerant of Blacks, Jews, Catholics and gays. Women can play golf only on Sundays. So Kent has to keep his sexuality under wraps while he, Jeff and Amy become increasingly involved in the corruption and misdeeds at Pine Valley.

There is mystery, action, humor, a dollop of romance, a mysterious stalker, and an interesting, diverse cast of characters. A couple of instances made me laugh out loud, like when Mr. Horowitz choked on a piece of steak:

““KLLLGGGGGGHH.” Mr. Horowitz hacked, his throat failing to clear the giant glob of butter sauce lubed steak in which it had lodged. He grabbed at his chest and a waiter rushed to his aid and smacked his back. The plug immediately dislodged thus ending its valiant attempt to rid the world of the rich, fat buffoon. But its escape was halted by his teeth and Mr. Horowitz rechewed and swallowed it properly, sending it down to fry in his stomach acid as punishment.”

Though this was really a fun and unique story, it suffers from sluggish pacing, awkward sentence structure, spelling and grammatical errors, shifting points of view, and a lack of coherence in places that made it difficult for me to visualize the action. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the social commentary, the witty sarcasm, and cared enough about the relationship between the main characters and the shady goings-on at the management level of Pine Valley.

I would be willing to read this story again if it passed through the hands of a judicious editor, as Mr. Ruggles has a terrific sense of humor and the ability to write a compelling story.