Title : Venetian Masks
Author : Kim Fielding
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY IT HERE)
Genre : M/M, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Length : 216 pages (e-book)
Published : February 11, 2013
Jeff Dawkins’s last partner left him with a mortgage he can’t afford and nonrefundable tickets for a month’s vacation in Europe. Despite a reluctance to travel, Jeff decides to go on the trip anyway. After all, he’s already paid for it. He packs a Kindle loaded with gay romance novels and arrives in Venice full of trepidation. There he meets the handsome and charming expat Cleve Prieto, who offers to serve as his tour guide. Jeff has serious misgivings—he wasn’t born yesterday, and something about Cleve doesn’t sit right—but anything is better than wandering the canals alone. With Cleve’s help, Jeff falls in love with Venice and begins to reconcile with his past. For the first time, Jeff finds himself developing strong feelings for someone else. But he can’t be sure who that person is because Cleve’s background remains a mystery embroidered with lies.
Then a dark figure from Cleve’s past appears, and Jeff must choose whether to let Cleve flee alone or to join him on a desperate run through central Europe. Maybe Jeff will finally be able to see behind Cleve’s masks—if he survives the journey.
Jeff Dawkins is a somewhat reclusive person whose world was his ex-lover, his city and his home. When his safe life crashes, he resolves to enjoy the trip he and his ex had planned for themselves. Traveling around Europe companionless is a scary stretch in every way for him. He loads his Kindle with books, packs a bag, kisses his folks goodbye and flies to Venice.
He hooks up with the handsome, mysterious Cleve Prieto. Almost immediately, Jeff feels uncomfortable with Cleve’s misstatements and actions, but his instincts are overcome by his fascination with the gorgeous man. Jeff lets Cleve show him the town and as their relationship deepens, he recovers from the pain of the “break up.” When Jeff comprehends the truth of Cleve’s past, he jumps off the tourist bus, putting himself in danger in an effort at rescuing the man he is falling for and the suspense begins to build. Or, it should have.
The writing in this story is solid in stretches, the dialogue intimate and revealing. What we learn about the city of Venice is lovely — its customs, food, culture — but as lovely as this narrative was, I found it halted the suspense because nothing was happening in a run-for-your-life storyline. Yup, I found I wanted to skim those pages, thinking: “Let’s get back to the good part.”
I also thought that Jeff’s instincts were on the money about Cleve, but his repeated choices not to trust them were odd. I wish that Cleve’s character had been more fully fleshed out because I found him interesting. I wanted to cheer them to an HEA. I wanted to enjoy the setting, the love story and the suspense. I just struggled with the descriptive stops and starts that did nothing to propel the story and I think a strong content editor could have fixed. I could have been forgiving of the travelogue, had it been a meaningful, seamless element of the story. It’s not.
If you don’t believe you will be bothered by suspended action in favor of sightseeing narratives with romance in the mix, you should read this book.
All read and said: I’m giving the romance a four and the uneven suspense in the storyline a two.
I throughly enjoyed Kim Fielding’s “Brute.” Her tale of the gentle and honorable giant was a lovely read, which made me want to read more of her work and I will.
Rated 3 stars by Carli