Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Breath Of Fresh (Testosterone-Filled) Air: Review of On The Fly by Jillian Brookes-Ward

As most of you know, I am part of a romance writer's critique group called The Quirky Ladies. Submitting work to them results in fairly uniform consequences. "VM" bags my adverbs. "MP" and "DD" make comments such as "Where is the penis in this scene?" (That is an actual comment from one of my WIPS. No kidding). "TT" adds in lots of LOLs and grammatical corrections. "SW" points out when my POV changes are unclear. And all of them love to point out one of the most important observations in critique. When a male character doesn't sound....male enough. When he sounds...um...like a girl.

For example, if a male character thinks to himself....."Wow. Her eyes are so beautiful. They are as blue as an azure colored sky with flecks of cerulean."...then, this is problem. Because, let's face it. Unless a guy is a gay interior decorator, he has no freakin' clue what azure or cerulean mean. A real guy might think something like....."Wow. She has pretty eyes." But more likely, a guy would actually think "Wow. That chick has a great pair of knockers." Unfortunately, if you're writing a romance novel, the knockers comment might not be appropriate. It's not very romantic, or heroic, or sweet. But a real guy, in a real situation, could probably give less than a crap about a girl's eye color.

Now, I love me some romance. Even if it's not very realistic. But every once in a while, it's nice to get a glimpse into the real male psyche. Not through rose-colored glasses, but rather through a sticky beer stein. It's a breath of fresh air to jump into a real man's point of view. And it's especially impressive when that POV has been written by a woman.

On The Fly by Jillian Brookes-Ward is not a romance novel. It's not erotica. It actually doesn't have much of a plot. There's no big adventure, or character arc, or profound resolution at the end of the book. It's a portrait of a guy. That's it. (With a bit of a cool paranormal twist at the end.) You know those cartoons "Diagram Of A Dog's Brain?" Here's an example....

This is real basic stuff. It's not complicated. Well, if you made a diagram of Brian's brain (he's the main character in On The Fly), it would have two things.....

1. Fly-fishing
2. F*cking

That's it. And you know what? It feels totally real. Because honestly, I'll bet there are many, many guys out there who really only think about those two things.

Other things that this book has going for it? It is totally British (ETA: Oops! I mean Scottish!), which I love. It has great spots of humor. It is well-written. The pacing of the book is perfect for Brian's story. We sort of lumber along in the narrative, watching him fish, f*ck, and look like an ass, as he bumbles along. The fly-fishing stuff is way cool. And I like Brian's vulnerability. It is less than heroic, but so very authentic. A 40-something guy, forced through an emasculating divorce, living at home with his parents, his mother doing his laundry!!, and all he cares about is getting out on the water. And shagging any and all available lassies.

This story was an entertaining breath of fresh air. It's probably not for everyone. Especially folks looking for heroic acts and a complicated storyline. But if you're interested in reading a portrait of a real guy, warts, sore back, and all, then this book is for you. (And it's only 99 cents at Amazon!).

Grade: A-