Review: Červenà by Louise Lyons

When Joel Jones finds homeless Russian Sasha outside his gay nightclub in Prague, he cannot find it in his heart to turn him away, so he offers him a home and a job as a dancer and stripper.

Despite a fifteen-year age gap, romance develops between them but is interrupted when Joel has to return to England for many weeks to deal with a death in the family.

Upon Joel’s return, he is horrified to discover his business partner, Karel, has gambled away the club’s money and put them all at risk. Joel buys him out of the club, but when Karel continues to gamble, the people he owes pursue Joel for the debt instead—and they’ll stop at nothing to get paid.

Suddenly Joel and those he cares about—especially Sasha—are in danger, and Joel finds himself with no choice but to seek the help of known criminal, Vincenc Jankovic. Ensuring a happy future for himself and Sasha will mean a struggle and some difficult decisions, but Joel is determined to protect what they’ve built together.

Words I'd hope to describe Červenà (prior to reading): hot, plotty, and a believable romance.

Words to describe after reading: soft, sugary fluff and sweet.

And none of the words I'd hope to see.

A book that has crime, a big age gap, cultural differences, opposites attract...weak, too ambitious and boring. Never thought I'd see the day.

As the blurb states, Joel is a premier gay nightclub owner in Prague. The Brit has a heart of gold and is very sweet to all. He know he's "soft hearted". And has doormat underneath the "boss" facade. He saves a homeless youth who calls himself Sasha. Sasha is twenty, been living on the streets for years due to being kicked out by his homophobic parents. Joel takes one look at Sasha, sneaking food out of the club's yard and offers him a job on the spot. That should have been my first warning sign. Or maybe the nonsensical MANTEARS at Sasha revealing his name is false (under no duress) at 6%.

Thus began a never ending rush into insta-love, script like dialogue and poor development (which the characters remarked on from time to time) in Červenà.

What do you get when the entire plot is not only given in the blurb, but is completed before the halfway mark?

A lot of unnecessary filler and no romance development.

Let's get into my ARC quibbles, shall we?

There were many which I hope are problems of the ARC version and not in the final such as:

- The length & pace - They work hand in hand due to the fact the pace is lopsided - lukewarm start lead to rushed info dumpy middle and dragged out ending. The blurb was promising but when the reader is told every thing and still don't get a sense of the main characters or characters for that matter, it makes for a lackluster read. The length could work as long as the weak spots are formed, trimmed and expanded on when needed. Maybe it's fixed on the published version?

- The characters  - flatter than a pancake flatbread sandwich with flatulence. With the style of telling so heavy in this novel, any sense of with main character is lost anytime there was promise. Joel read older than 35, maybe this was cleaned up in the final version but he was out of character for owning a business like Červenà. He was too polite, any conflict he had was readily explained within the next few sentences and he was more troubled about a headache than dealing with a shady partner from the moment there was a hint of trouble. Just writing he was "soft" didn't cut it. And the way Sasha is readily accepted into his world without giving a sense of the harsh life he left behind...c'mon now. Writing homeless characters who are barely homeless in the story is a pet peeve of mine. Why introduce a homeless character if it'll barely be used?  Both were too cookie cutter and their caricature of their characters didn't fit. At one point, Joel tells Sasha (who said he didn't mind stripping) that Sasha doesn't like stripping, he will need to look into a new job. Too many missteps made for a uneven read.

- The style - info dump central and waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much telling. Nothing is shown. The conflict read too difficult for what the author could offer. If softness and romance was the aim, it should have stuck there. The story suffered from this style.

There were also parts that read underdeveloped and not researched. An example:

- Filipov - I do hope in the final version the mistake with Sasha's sister is corrected. I'm not fluent in Russian but I knew his sister being named, "Elena Filipov" was wrong. It should have been Filipova. Sadly, a quick search would have shown the area the author chose wouldn't have worked for Sasha's hometown. Book says he's from Russia, online that surname is prominent in Bulgaria. This is from less than a minute research. So...

I'm not the type of reader who gets excited just because strippers as a plot point are used in a book. I actually expect some work and research on the author's part to make an interesting read. A land where there are probably 100 (or more) romance books featuring strippers, it should stand out or at least attempt to.

This book is too polite and too ambitious. It'd probably work best if it was kept simple, lost the crime since it was sloppily handled with polite "criminals" and tied up way too easily in sentences when it should have been chapters.

I did not like the main characters, I'm pretty sure once Sasha is exposed to more than just the savior/boss he can do so much better. It came off as gratitude rather than love. It's a little sad actually. Criminals who offer their home for you to recover from injuries. Sales of businesses and contracts to be completed in a matter of hours. Love that is told to happen after the main characters remark they haven't spent any time together (it shows). The entire story could have been a 60pg novella at that rate.

My rating is for the attempt (though it fell short), the sex wasn't anything to write home about but it was decently done.

Probably won't be reading more from this author - the style didn't work for me.

Recommended for readers who prefer telling, not learning much from the characters or story, extremely easy answers to conflict and sugar.

Find more on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

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