Hearsay (Bylaws, #1) Taylor V Donovan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Legal Backdrop, Contemporary, Series
Length: 299 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS.
DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS. **
Senior associate attorney Derrick Swain wants it all: a loving husband, a fulfilling career, and a couple of kids. After years of hard work he’s on the fast track to a promotion. He’s also met the man of his dreams. A week of daily lunch meetings in Central Park provides the perfect setting to get to know him better, and Derrick thinks it won’t be long before they take the next step and go on a date. But instead of asking him out, the object of his affection stops showing up without explanation, leaving him to wonder what went wrong.
As part owner of one of the most prestigious law firms in New York City, Roman Bradford knows that professional success isn’t the be all end all. Although he’s been lucky in life, true love has eluded him for the most part. One too many failed relationships have caused him to be leery of trying again, until he meets a man that can only be described as temptation personified. A few conversations is all it takes for Roman to start believing things will be different this time around. It doesn’t matter that they are boss and employee, or that he’s feeling too much, too fast. Not when he can see the same emotions in Derrick’s eyes. Then life turns on a dime, and Roman has no option but to let his chance at happiness go.
A battle of wills ensues when a life-altering case brings them together a year later. Roman wants to do the right thing by not letting anything happen between them, and Derrick is determined to prove they’re meant to be together. Evidence will be presented and final arguments will be made. Will they be able to come to an agreement, or will they opt to have their potential relationship dismissed?
The official blurb gives enough detail for Hearsay. But there are several threads. These are my views on them and the book:
Thread 1) Derrick has a friend (Tyler Coleman) who he’s involved with via pro bono work at Tyler’s shelter for LGBTQ youth, as well as at an intimate level. Derrick is about to be implicated in a legal case because a boy at the shelter has made allegations that involve him in quite a dire way. Tyler is accused of molestation and Derrick is accused of engaging in sex with Tyler at the Coleman Centre in plain view.
Derrick Swain is a thirty two year old senior associate attorney at ABC, a global law firm. And forty four year old Roman Bradford is a high powered senior partner, the “B” in ABC.
Thread 2) The love thread. Derrick and Roman spent eight days a year ago getting to know one another on lunch dates near the Gapstow Bridge in Central Park. One of my complaints is that never hung together in the first place which impacted chemistry throughout. Since those eight days, Derrick has mooned over Roman and Roman has stayed away and brooded. But Derrick is nothing if not a Disney-hazed stalker and this bothered me immensely.
It was pathetic that he was still hung up on what he considered a magical week and a half of whispered words, blooming flowers, singing birds, and happily ever after possibilities.
Dear lord, eight lunch breaks a year ago. Okay.
Thread 3) There was a misunderstanding over something so damn basic. Derrick commented, like a lot of us do when someone goes through something painful, that he doesn’t know if he could look after someone like his dad did. Roman takes that as Derrick could never be with him, because Roman is ill. But they are both attorneys and communication and asking questions is a big part of that profession. But, hey, whatever.
The characterisations. I have no other way of saying it, they’re bad:
Derrick’s behaviour – a senior associate at a huge law firm – when his friend comes to see him for assistance about allegations of molestation levelled at him is simply silly and unbelievable:
He wasn’t as strong, though. “Crap.” Tears ran down Derrick’s cheek and two steps later he was in front of his friend hugging him tightly.
“Shhh…” Derrick caressed his friend’s auburn hair and gently rocked him in his arms.
“Will you represent me?”
“You need a criminal defence attorney, sweetheart,” he explained softly.
But not to worry, the basis for the court room proceedings, and the book’s legal title, is not given any attention except to drive some melodrama. The book is simply about Ruminative Roman and Disney Derrick.
He and Roman would live happily ever after, just like in fairy tales.
Derrick constantly fantasises about Roman being his boyfriend and husband. More than that, he equates his life to a Disney movie. A. Lot.
“Don’t think for a second someone from that agency isn’t trying to get dirt on you, too.” (You remember the molestation charges?)
“I know they are, but I’m like Piglet.” Derrick gulped loudly. “I tell myself that I’m not afraid.”
Okay then. Good plan, Derrick!
Oh, Derrick also has an exact plan for Roman and himself – getting to know Roman, being courted, then intimacy. But most importantly, Roman’s parents meet him and love him – in the right order. So much so, he becomes somewhat histrionic before a $10,000 a plate charity benefit at the Waldorf Astoria because he was going to meet Roman’s parents there and that was out of order.
I found Derrick and Roman’s thoughts of sex and desire were off-putting:
Then Derrick would climb on top of Roman and ride him like he was Secretariat at the Kentucky Derby…
Ms Donovan went for Secretariat over the tried and true Seabiscuit. No matter, it missed the mark.
And, spunk. Spunk is everywhere. Oddly, Roman seems to find it sexy.
His hands started shaking. He was breathing so hard his damn glasses were fogging, all because he couldn’t stop thinking about freeing Derrick’s cock and worshipping the spunk out of it.
He doesn’t stop on that dead-sexy thought though.
All righty then, that is just ….I’m at a loss
Personally, I found Derrick’s “best girl friend,” Tashana, to be this caricature of African-American women – boo, cracker, dang-it-speaking, chubby fingered, big girl, soul-food-eating, head-swatter and pincher of Derrick. I did not appreciate it at all.
“Cracker, are you there?” He heard Tashana calling him, but she sounded far away…
There is a lot more I could say but I’ll just give them a mention or two. There is way too much inner monologue. A question will be asked and it literally takes pages and pages to get the answer and by then you’ve forgotten the damn question. I found the writing to be like that of a teenage girl.
Heath Ledger was one of the prettiest men no longer on Earth…
Derrick wasn’t interested in fooling around. He wanted bona fide dating. He wanted to be Roman’s boyfriend. He wanted to meet his parents and get invited to dinner at their house. Maybe if they were official, the grapevine would finally lay off Derrick’s future husband. (They weren’t even dating.)
There is zero chemistry between the protagonists, in spite of the sugary endearments that are thrown our way more than I ever want to read.
The rumour mill angle was annoying and used as a Hearsay aside, ‘it’s not (just) about Hearsay in legalese, don’t you know?’ Ah, but there is gossip in the office and there are the accusations which should have ended in a court case. So where was it?
And what I found wrong was the fact that Roman, who is HIV+ with detectable viral loads, ends up having foreplay that involved semen with Derrick before he discloses his status. I really did not like that. Derrick is juvenile and pushes his fantasies. Roman is so embarrassed by his status that he withholds information. Okay, I get that. But I did not appreciate how Ms Donovan handled it. If you want to read how it’s done right in gay fiction, then read Amelia C Gormley’s excellent Impulse trilogy.
And when Ms Donovan tries to introduce antiretroviral medications it reads like a side effects leaflet from a drug company. Then there is this… thought from Derrick regarding Truvada, a medication used for pre exposure prophylaxis:
He was a bottom. Having constant diarrhea was a sure way to put a damper on his sex life.
Let’s just say I was over this book by then and that tipped me right over the edge.
This could have been a good book, but Taylor V Donovan did not have the writing chops to pull off what was required to show the light and shade and the authentic journey of the concept promised. The book is called Hearsay, the author gives us a definition or three, yet there is no court case. I like an interesting court case. The characterisations are lacking, they do build near the end but it is way too little too late. That Roman’s HIV status is withheld is frustrating. I knew what it was, but even so …The prose is waffling and heavy-handed. The book also stops at the end. Simply stops dead in its tracks. It is not a cliff hanger, that would imply action. You are reading and then – “The Beginning, Gainsay” smacks you in the face. This book should have been edited more aggressively and that stops with the author. The waffling inner monologues and time taken to answer a question needed tightening up. The flowery Disney, teenage prose needed to be cut out with time given to appropriate characterisations and respect paid to two major arcs – an actual court case and a serodiscordant relationship. Both deserved much better development and treatment. This story could have/should have been completed in one book. For some readers this is now an expensive option as a trilogy. Anyway, I’m simply not invested enough to be reading more by the author after this. My journey ends here. Based on my reading experience, I cannot recommend Hearsay. 1 star.