I have no idea what A Tragicomic NZ Love Story looks or reads like, so I am already anticipating the differences I will find in this novel. What is the specific New Zealand (NZ) slant? The book begins with a very positive note that includes a link to a free short story that is a prequel to Taking the Plunge. The link is a (dot) net address, which requires me to sneak up on the address through a VPN, but things eventually worked out.
In a Prologue I found attractive; readers meet Kate as she is piling all the worldly goods of her husband in her backyard in preparation for a barbeque that I am sure husband, accountant Lawrence, did not anticipate. Lawrence returned home to find his surprise as a reward for marital infidelity. Baby Corbin did not react other than to welcome Dad home, and readers can settle into a story to find out what a Tragicomic story reads like.
This novel has two useful elements. It is competently written as far a vocabulary, grammar, proofreading, and editing, although I have some reservations about the content editing. Secondly, it has several ethical issues or themes which can be the base for several novels. None of these ideas arrived at the early stages of development.
After the above two positives, disaster struck. I was quite disappointed because I had read other things the author had written which led me to believe this would be good. For a list of short stories, some of which I have read, look to the links on the author’s Amazon page. I was happy to receive an offer from the author/publisher for an ARC. The launch date was 13 October, and I determined to read it near the launch date and post a review as close to the launch date as possible. In other words, I did not read the ARC furnished by the author but had promised to post a review. Because I got the book from the author, there would be one of those turgidly phrased paragraphs saying that my increased financial fortunes were not a result of a payoff from J. B. Reynolds. The inclusion of such a section was not necessary because I bought the novel as a Kindle download. That is a measure of how much I dislike this book. Paying for it makes me feel not guilty about pointing out problems that may be unique to one reader (me), but I doubt I will be the only one offended.
The Plot: Try and find an overall plot. Yes, there is an overall theme of marriage or girlfriend infidelity. Some infidelity incidents are planned, some are not, and this makes it difficult for a reader to focus on what precisely the author’s definition of infidelity is Are “accidental” infidelities true betrayals? The element of cheating does not have a solid description as a plot element.
The Characters: This story is driven by characters on training wheels. They are all unlikeable, weak, uninteresting, or a collection of such properties. A reader can debate whether the novel centers on Evan or Kate. Both are objectionable to me — first, the character of Evan.
Think of a toy you may have had as a child. There is a paddle with a ball attached by an elastic band. The ball rests on the board until you launch it by hitting hit hard, but not so much that the ball will not return to the board to be hit again. The elastic is the personality of Evan. Evan always comes back to his origin board with character unchanged. Does he love Yummi? Does Evan want to marry Yummi? Or does Evan feel he should marry her after having invested time in the relationship and knowing that if Yummi does not get married, she will be deported to Canada due to an expired visa? Evan will explain his ugly answer near the end of the book.
The most objectionable character to me is Kate. Older than Evan and with son Corbin, she is now a single mother and is very attracted to Evan. They go on a few dates. Evan does not tell Kate about Yummi. And Kate does not tell Evan about Lawrence. Perhaps she felt Evan would feel suspicious about a wife who sets fire to her husband’s clothes and equipment.
Her most undesirable social behavior is to elevate oral sex to a level equivalent to shaking hands. Kate’s favorite activity does not bother Evan too much, but the publicly displayed act shocks some skiers/snowboarders. Evan and Kate almost get caught a few times, but it is Kate, not Evan, who can dismiss their activities as normal with more attention paid to circumspection. Perhaps I missed this emerging, fashionable trend. I also missed Woodstock. I felt this material warrants a warning label on the novel.
Several other characters appear to fuel the flames of jealousy about the infidelities of Evan and Kate. All are seeking some advantage from our two main characters as they spread gossip, true and untrue, about our confused leading duo. No character is developed; there is reporting. No surfaces were scratched in search for meaning during the construction of this novel.
Religious dogma, ad nauseum, frequently appears, once in the thin disguise of an attempted intervention on the part of Kate’s parents and a spiritual zealot friend to encourage Kate to go back to her ex-husband. For the sake of Baby Corbin, of course. I have no problem with discussions of religion if it is not entrenched dogma, something that wastes my time. Disputes between two or more intractable foes over meanings they don’t understand define dull. Such discussions happen in three places within this novel and even includes the ultimate question near the end of the story when one adoring set of eyes reinforces the question, “Do you believe in …?”
Finally, there is political correctness that smells. Kate and Evan met in a bar where Kate’s friend Tracey works. It is the first date for Kate and Evan, and Kate has brought Corbin along. Corbin fills his diapers. The ever-helpful Tracey suggests Corbin’s “accident” might be an early opportunity for Evan’s training in changing diapers. I contemplated my reaction to a similar situation. I meet a woman I am very interested in; I meet her for the first time in a restaurant to which she has brought an adorable child I was meeting for the first time. When smells became objectionable, I would leap at a chance to change diapers, just for practice, of course. Date aborted.
Unfortunately, the torture goes on. On a second date, at Kate’s house, Evan gets to demonstrate knowledge of the chivalric code as he hauls Corbin to a changing room. Evan discovers the difference between the use of regular toilet paper and daily wipes. Readers formulate graphic images of what happens when Corbin decides to continue expelling meals even after Evan thought he was done with the cleaning. Table conversation, manners, and behavior have reached new depths.
I am opposed to giving overwhelmingly negative reviews. I felt trapped in this novel. I liked what I previously read by the author. I indicated I would post a review. I thought it worthwhile to pay for the book so it would display as a verified purchase and save others from such a waste of reading time. The author has written several promising starts to further stories. They were well embedded and disguised in this poorly presented mixture. One Amazon star is a stretch.