Release Review: Real World: B.A.Tortuga
Real World (Love is Blind #2)
Released August 15, 2016
Dan White is trying to acclimate to civilian life after a long career in the military with multiple combat deployments.
Now he’s home in the Austin area, living with his brother Dixon, Dixon’s husband, Audie, and their two nine-year-olds. During the New Year celebration, Dan meets Abraham Weldon, and the connection is instant.
There’s a kiss. There’s a dance. There’s a proposition.
Then Dan finds out Weldon is bisexual.
And a dad.
With five kids. Five kids, one of whom is a blind fifteen-year-old.
Weldon has been in love twice in his life—with his high school best friend, Blake, and with his wife, Krista, who he met in a Dairy Queen as she was crying over a positive pregnancy test. Love number three hits Weldon like a hammer when he meets Dan.
But since Dan isn’t interested in a guy with kids, they might only get one night together.
B.A. Tortuga’s Real World is not only the first book of hers that I have read, it’s also the first M/M romance novel I’ve read that contains a large number of children who are actively and heavily involved in the plot throughout the story instead of only being extra minor characters. It is the second book in her Love is Blind series, but it reads just fine as a standalone. Because of all the kids, there are a lot of characters to learn, but they all play important parts in this enjoyable story about how love is all it takes to find a place in even the most unexpected of families.
Abraham Weldon doesn’t fall in love easily, but when he does, he knows it immediately. He knew it with his best guy friend in high school, and he knew it with his wife. But three years ago, his life changed with her untimely death, leaving him to be the sole provider for their five kids, one of whom is a blind teenager. While at a New Year’s Eve party with his long-time friends—Audie and his husband, Dixon—Weldon meets Dix’s brother, Dan, and just like the previous two times, he knows. This time, though, with his family to consider, it’s far too complicated to get involved, but it’s been too long. He can’t resist, even though he knows he’s setting himself up for trouble. Dan White is back home in Texas after leaving a long career in the military behind. While trying to get his civilian life in motion, he lives with Dix, Audie, and their two kids. Dan is also gay, so when he meets Weldon at the party, and the hot blond cowboy seems just as interested in him, things look to be setting up for a great way to ring in the new year. And though he finds out Weldon is a widower with five kids, it doesn’t stop him from having that great night, and that’s all it should have been. But as much as he can’t picture himself being involved with a family man, and one with such a big family at that, his attraction to the man is too strong to ignore.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, this book really isn’t like any other M/M romance I’ve read. Normally, it’s pretty easy to delineate the main romantic couple as being the main characters and everyone else as secondaries. Here though, Weldon’s kids play such an active role in the story that it’s hard to classify them in that manner, especially the oldest, a fifteen-year-old blind boy named Jakob. In addition, Audie and Dix—the romantic pairing of the first book—appear so often that even without reading the first book, I felt like I got to know them pretty well by the end. So adding it up, Dan and Weldon, Weldon’s five kids, Audie and Dix, and their two kids, that’s eleven names you get bombarded with pretty quickly in the beginning of the book, and all of them are names you have to know in order to understand what’s happening. Having not read the first book made the challenge a little greater, but even so, just Weldon’s family was the source of confusion for me for a good bit of the book. And they are in nearly every scene Weldon is in, which, in the real world, would not be at all unusual, but it’s unexpected in a romance. Pretty clear where the title of the book comes from now, isn’t it? My suggestion: make a note card. I kinda wish I had, but by the time I got to the second half of the book, I think I had it down.
The author’s portrayal of the kids and the family life in the book reads like she herself grew up in a large household. Throughout the hectic action of it all, none of the interactions felt contrived. As such, I could understand Dan’s plight very well. It also made me feel a lot of respect for any single parent trying to raise a houseful of kids, especially when one has special needs. Weldon’s life is his kids, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a man who loves with everything he has. And as it turns out, it’s not just toward his kids. The attraction between Dan and Weldon is palpable, and because of the family situation, when they finally have time to themselves, the intensity leaps off the page. I couldn’t help wanting everything to work out between them.
I do have a couple of small issues with the story and the writing though. A caveat for the first one: I have lived in the southern U.S. for the last sixteen years, the last two of which have been in Texas, within a two hours’ drive of the setting for this novel in fact. The author makes use of (very) many Southernisms in order to establish the country lifestyle of the characters through their speech patterns. Some of them were things I had never heard anyone say before. Personally, I think she overdid it just a touch, which made it a little hard to take the story seriously at first. As the story goes on, though, either I noticed it less or she stopped using as many, because it gets better. I suspect a native Texan might take issue with this portrayal, though, just as I found the exaggerated speech patterns of the characters in the 1996 film Fargo bothersome because of my growing up in northern Minnesota.
My other issue has to do with the layout of the plot. The first 70% or so is entirely focused on the developing relationship—well, that and the kids—and for the most part, it’s a satisfying and enjoyable journey. In my opinion, she could have chosen to end the story here by adding a little more narrative and a happily ever after, and if she had chosen that route, the book would have been fine as is. But after this point, she introduces a handful of plot devices to introduce drama, and with one exception, these plots are resolved as quickly as they pop up, with these chapters individually reading like quick episodes of a television show: introduce the drama and wrap everything up tidily by the end of the hour, or in this case, by the end of the chapter. I understand the reason she included these dramatic vignettes, and I know the book is already rather long, but I wish that she had either fleshed all of them out more or built upon the one really important one in order to fulfill the intended purpose better. As it was, this final portion felt rushed instead of being the solid punch to finish the book that I wanted.
Real World is largely a sweet and entertaining read with a sexy romance that builds around the demands of family life. I was pleased to see the kids were not used in an unreasonable way to further the romantic aspect. In fact, I was more pleased to see that the kids, by their very nature, hindered the quick progression of the romance, as this was far more realistic. And with a title like Real World, realism ought to be the goal. To that end, I believe it was successful.
The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Real World in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Ever the Same (Love is Blind #1)
Released February 27, 2015
Audie Barrack is in it up to his elbows with a sick calf when his son’s school calls. Seems Grainger has gotten into yet another fight. When he walks into the principal’s office, he’s shocked to find his son has been fighting with a little girl named Randi.
A little girl with one blind dad and one dad who recently passed away.
Dixon has lost his sight, his career, and his husband. Thank God for his brothers, Momma and Daddy, and his little girl, or he would simply give up. The last thing he needs is for Randi to start trouble at school, especially trouble that puts him in contact with another dad who might expect him to be a functional human being.
Dixon is struggling to live as a blind man, Audie is terrified someone might see he has a closet to come out of, and everyone from the school to both men’s families is worried for the men and their children. Unless they get themselves together and commit to change, neither of them stands a chance.
Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy's Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds, getting tattooed, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she's not doing that, she's writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing porn sites in the name of research. BA's personal saviors include her partner, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.
Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but is feeling the Colorado mountains calling. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.