Steady Stroke by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:
30309403After a tragic accident, Lincoln West’s dreams of making it big as a guitarist fell apart. Unable to play music, he’s battling a hopeless downward spiral, and takes his friend’s offer to stay at their beach house for the summer. While at an open mike night at local bar Off Beat, he locks eyes with a busboy who doesn’t make Linc feel so broken anymore.

Emmett Westmore lives for the anonymity of busing tables in his aunt’s quirky bar where no one pities him for the fire that killed everyone he loved. He blames himself for the fire, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him—except for Linc. Emmett’s walls drop when he’s around the gorgeous blue-eyed guitarist, but he has a secret that could destroy his budding relationship with Linc.

Both Linc and Emmett are looking for a way to live again…will they let their fears control them or take a chance on something real?

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

So I finished this book with a fairly solid 4 star feeling…but the problem is that there were a few things that bothered me, and I made the mistake of going to read other reviews to see if other people were equally bothered, and suddenly I was more bothered.  GAH!  I have to stop doing that!  So now we’re at a 3.5 stars and I don’t know whether to round up or down.  I think I’ll still round up since that was my gut feeling upon finishing the book, and I shouldn’t be so easily swayed.

So the good: I really enjoyed both characters.  I felt like they each had quite a bit of depth, and their own interesting story to tell about coming to terms with being gay and all that good stuff.  I also really enjoyed the romance in this one, I could really feel the chemistry between the characters.  They were playful at times, and seemed to bring out good things in each other, encouraging each to be themselves and reach for goals.  I loved how sweet they could be to each other (Emmett taking care of Linc with the migraines and his more recent trauma, and Linc being there for Em with his past struggles, and his current struggles accepting his homosexuality and exploring it).  I really enjoyed the addition of so many intriguing secondary characters…they felt real, had depth, and added to the story, added to our view of the characters in general (though I do have a counterpoint later).  Also, I will note that I didn’t read the first book in this series, and though some of the plot was given away, it did make me intrigued about picking up Dom and Trey’s story and reading it.

And then there’s the things that bothered me: first, and FOREMOST, the secret.  OK, so this is the first A.M. Arthur book I’ve read, and from some of the reviews I’ve seen, it seems the author is a fan of angst.  I’m only a medium fan of angst, so maybe it was a bit of a mismatch for me.  The problem for me is that there was SO MUCH of it.  I mean, each character individually had enough personal strife to satisfy any craving for angst.  And quite honestly, if that was all we had to deal with, I would have enjoyed this book so much more.  The problems they were dealing with were intriguing, and heartbreaking, and more than enough to make a great plot and provide conflict and resolution.  But the author had to one-up it or something.  And so came Emmett’s secret.  I was not a fan.  I think I might have blinked in disbelief.  It’s not that I haven’t read books with this twist in it, but they usually aren’t accompanied by a bevy of problems that precede it.  The problem lies in that with so many issues being addressed, none of them really got the love and attention and respect that they deserved.  I became desensitized, and I didn’t truly believe in the resolutions then.

(This might get a little plot spoilery in this paragraph, be warned) And it wasn’t just that this additional secret existed, it was that it was introduced to Emmett early on in the book, and then he kept it a secret from Linc until towards the end.  And I’m not entirely sure I believed in the purpose for him keeping it a secret, and so I felt myself disliking Emmett for making that choice.  And then it was just there, causing him guilt, and making me want to know how Lincoln would react.  And then when that finally came to a head, it was so close to the end, I didn’t really get the believable resolution I wanted.  I know…I’m being vague.  But I really have to be in this case.

So back to the other issues.  Wasn’t really impressed with the resolution to the issue Linc deals with wrt Tom.  Too serious of an issue to be handled so flippantly in some ways.  I try to tell myself that everyone deals with things differently, and this very well might be how someone would deal with it, but it became a tiny subplot compared to everything else going on, and so it really didn’t need to be there if it wasn’t going to be treated with respect and sensitivity.

Wasn’t really impressed with the additional diversity added for Emmett/Emilio.  Could have been so good, and I LOVE diverse books, but making him Muslim felt like a plot device to address the fear, but we got nothing from his religion (and having grown up so devoutly, I would expect to learn more about it regardless of how he feels now).  It was a topic that was added, but not given enough time or, again, respect.

I’m hoping that Van and Melody get their own book, and that the author actually deals with their sexual challenges with more insight and respect.  They were an intriguing addition, but again not really given time or weight (but at least in this aspect I’m assuming it’s because they will be getting their own book, otherwise I don’t see the point in adding yet another topic to this overloaded story).

And that’s the basic jist of it for me.  The story was overloaded.  I feel like the author could have done a much better job if she’d pared down the trauma each character (and the secondary characters) experienced and given more weight and thoughtfulness to any of the gagillion topics she chose to address.  By adding so many, she kind of watered it down and missed some great opportunities.

So how the hell can I justify a round up to 4 stars now?  Hmmm…good question.  See?  That’s the thing.  These things that bothered me really did bother me.  But the good stuff of the romance and the character interactions cannot be undervalued.  They made for a very enjoyable read for me.  So I guess the written part of my review is where I rant about those bad things, but the star part of my review is where I convey how much the good parts weighed in the grand scheme of things for me.  Well, if nothing else, this book made me think a lot about what I like and all that…  (And I thought my last review was long…*rolls eyes*)

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3 thoughts on “Steady Stroke by A.M. Arthur

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