Guest Review: Obsession by Theophilia St. Claire

Nick has a hard life. Not only is he working at an East Harlem bar to make ends meet and pay for his sister’s medical expenses, he’s also on the run from a shady past that’s surely catching up to him.

Most people think Claude has it easy due to the money and luxury surrounding him. But they would be wrong. Firmly trapped beneath his stern father’s thumb, Claude’s pre-determined life took a nosedive when his lover, Christian, left him a year ago.

When the two meet, sparks do not instantly fly between them. Claude thinks Nick is his ex-lover returned to him. Nick thinks Claude is crazy.

However, circumstances bring these two men together. And despite Claude’s jealousy and possessive nature, Nick is falling for him. Sick of being mistaken for Claude’s ex, Nick is willing to find out what happened to him—the real Christian. He’ll have to if he wants a stable relationship with Claude. How Claude takes the truth, however, is the only thing that scares him.

Rated 2.75 Hearts

Reviewer: Annery

The very first thing that must be said about this book is that it emphatically is NOT a romance. There are two people, in this case male, who engage in a sexual and what could be deemed a quasi romantic relationship. Claude Vanderpoel repeatedly professes his love for Nick Martin, except he calls him Christian, and Nick/Christian seems to be in a sexual thrall to Claude and more than a bit dazzled by his wealth. Sounds convoluted? It is but not in any interesting way. I’ll try to elucidate in the least spoilerish way possible.

Nick is twenty-four, working as a waiter at a jazz supper-club, and trying to scrape enough money together to petition the legal custody of his sick sixteen-year-old sister. He’s just getting back on his feet after a few years of somewhat rough living: some drugs, some gang affiliation, some prostitution, some homelessness.

Claude Vanderpoel is one of those dime-a-dozen romance MCs: fantastically rich, devastatingly handsome, and sexually irresistible. Also he’s only 27.

One night Claude sees Nick at Jenkins’ Jazz Bar, where he works as a waiter, but he keeps calling him Christian. Christian is/was Claude’s lover who left him over a year ago. Is Nick Christian in a new guise, living a new life away from Claude? It would seem not. Nick keeps insisting he’s not Christian, there’s even an un-funny running gag of whether Claude means the name or the religious affiliation when he says Christian. Because that’s a thing. SMH. In any case one silly thing leads to another and Nick ends up not only in Claude’s uber luxurious Fifth Avenue apartment but also in his bed, on Pretty Woman shopping sprees, and spur of the moment caribbean vacations. Claude keeps calling Nick Christian and though Nick is pretty adamant that he is not Christian he continues to go along with Claude and whatever he doles out. None of this is particularly scintillating. I lost interest or knew where this was going pretty quickly. I really don’t know what category this would go in, mystery? suspense? Maybe. It’s not terribly good as any of those but not horrendous either. The reasons for my low rating may be inconsequential to others who know zero about NYC, but I couldn’t/can’t overlook them. Here goes. I may get ranty.

Going by the use of technology the story seems to be set in present times and Jenkins’ Jazz Bar is located in Harlem. I don’t know what 70’s Charles Bronson movie the author used to base The City on, but that stretch of real-estate is currently one of the most expensive in New York and not riddled with marauding gangs, the smell of piss, and random gunshots. Here’s a little nugget that just about made me crazy. Claude is in his car following Christian/Nick, like the stalker he is:
”He got to his car and drove to East 116th Street in time for Christian to board the M102. … He followed it for five stops until Christian got off at the Malcolm X Boulevard stop. Christian kept his hood up, ignoring everyone else around him while he disappeared into the subway station. Claude stayed behind him a good distance as he took the Number 2 subway line to wherever. Claude was familiar with the route. He knew the stops and the time frame adequately. The farther he drove, the worse the area became. Poverty, high crime, and drug addiction were leading social problems in that corner of the world. Public housing units filled almost every block. Claude pitied the sad souls who called this place home. He spotted Christian exiting the station on 96th and Broadway. … How could Christian possibly have made a living down there? Watching his back every second to make sure to make sure it wouldn’t be stabbed? He passed all manner of homeless people and shady characters. Trash littered the streets and graffiti covered multiple surfaces.
That’s some straight out of Escape from New York fantasy. I’m sure that denizens of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, among them Columbia University and the Museum of Natural History. Here’s a peek from Zillow at the current real estate: W. 96th Street.

Next we have this gem, Nick/Christian and his friend Eric go to visit Nick’s sister Amy who’s in the hospital, and they depart from East Harlem:
”The train ride took ninety minutes to get upstate, to the New York Med, the hospital where Amy was being treated. Nick exhaled a cold breath as he peered up at the large white-and-brown building.” “I hate the Bronx,” he mumbled. If not for Amy, he’d never step foot in that borough again.”
So how do I explain two wildly incorrect things in that passage? 1) The Bronx is NOT and will never be Upstate New York, it is one of the 5 boroughs that comprise New York City. 2) Save for some horrible train nightmare, the ride from East Harlem to even the furthest end of The Bronx could not take 90 minutes. It should be 30 or 45 minutes on the outside.

Claude takes Nick/Christian out to dinner and the whole date turns into one of those film fantasies where they have dinner at a five-star restaurant, (the author makes sure to tell what dishes & wine they have), and later head to the Empire State, from which vantage point Claude proceeds to enlighten Nick on local architecture. Sure. That’s what New Yorkers do on dates.

Later Claude takes Nick/Christian on a day trip in his yacht which is on a pier on the Hudson river. Somehow that’s a two-hour drive going north on I-87! Unless he’s anchored up in the Catskills, which would make no sense given all the piers on the Hudson river right in Manhattan. I’m bewildered by the geography of this book.

Sprinkled throughout is nonsense like gangsters referring to the police as “pigs”. The 70’s are calling and want their slang back, or this little insight into Claude’s genius:
”I studied Economics and Marketing at Yale. I pored over the stock market for several years, so I think I would have enjoyed working on Wall Street. Either that, or becoming a university professor in Paris.”
Sure. Why not.

Claude is 27 and Nick/Christian is 24 and somehow Nick/Christian is always “the younger man”. Claude whisk’s Nick/Christian away on a plane and:
”Christian gazed out the window, puzzled by the hot unfamiliar surroundings. “Are we out of the country? Because I don’t have a passport. Claude chuckled. “Already taken care of.” He patted his coat pocket.” 
How, you ask was a passport procured for Nick/Christian without him knowing about it? I haven’t a clue.

I could go on as the idiocies are sprinkled all over but I’ll move on to other things that may interest some readers. The story includes kidnapping, rape, and murder on page and references to child abuse, drug use and drug dealing, all of which go pretty much unpunished. I’m all up for dark romances but I’m not sure this would qualify. On the plus side it’s not badly written, if at times overly expository, and it certainly fits the slot of different, which turns out to not always be good.

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