Review: The Subtle Build of Perfection, by L.M. Turner

Welcome to the first night of Ham/mukah, 8 nights of reviews of m/m romance. This review is R rated, and the book is most definitely for adults.

The Subtle Build of Perfection is a debut novella by L. M. Turner, published in 2010 by Cobblestone Press. Click here for more blurbs and an excerpt, and click here for a great interview with L. M. Turner.

This novella was a delight to read. As Turner herself describes it:

The first book I sold — The Subtle Build of Perfection — didn’t start out as an erotic romance. I had a picture in my head of a hopeless guy who’s bored with his life, working in a video store with his insane/genius best friend. I knew, as with all stories, that something had to happen to tip this poor man’s world upside down, and into the video store walked — a guy. And so, an M/M erotic romance/comedy novella was born.

This is a sweet, low conflict story of a loving relationship as it develops between two normal men. Connor is aimless, a little immature, low in self-confidence, but kind and sincere. The book is written from Connor’s point of view, so he’s the guy we get to know the best, but Turner tends to stay on the surface, psychology wise. Dane has a real career and is more mature, but has been burned a bit in relationships and is gunshy. They share an immediate attraction, but Dane wants to go slow. And that’s the extent of the drama here.

On balance, the natural and realistic development of the relationship worked very well for me as I read it, but, perhaps because I am used to a bit more punch in the genre, a more emphatic or triumphant ending might have made this book stand out more. On the other hand, that likely would not have been consistent with the characters.

Connor and Dane’s dialogue has a real honesty and sweetness, and they both have a terrific sense of humor. The following phone discussion while Dane is away at a conference is typical of the dialogue in the book. Connor hasn’t called Dane in a while, and Dane says:

“You know what I thought it was?”
Connor swallowed. “What?”
“I thought it was because I wasn’t putting out. I saw you, what? Five, six times? And all you ever got from me was a kiss.”
“It’s fine,” Connor said in a rush. “I don’t mind, honestly, I can wait.”
“Really? Could you wait for, say, a month?
“Yes, definitely.”
“You don’t even know if I’m worth it,” Dane said, an odd edge to his tone.
“I’ll take the risk.”
Dane was silent for a moment. “What about six months?”
“What?” said Connor, before he could stop himself. He cleared his throat. “Um. I mean. Yeah, if that’s what it takes. I could try …” Even he could hear the uncertainty in his voice, and he grimaced. “You know what? I want to wait. We’re waiting.”
“Really?” said Dane. “That’s a shame because I was kinda hoping we could forget the whole waiting bullshit and you’d let me suck your cock next time I saw you.”

For those who prefer their romances on the chaste side, this one has just one explicit scene, at the end.

Connor’s friend and roommate, Boyd, is a very endearing and amusing secondary character, who reminded me a bit of Hugh Grant’s roommate, Spike (Rhys Ifans) in Notting Hill:

I was impressed that Boyd was so well developed, and indeed, important to the story, without feeling like either a distraction or the author’s invisible hand.

When I want to read “short” in romance, I often turn to category, but my go-to category line, Harlequin Blaze, rarely features heroes or heroines who aren’t the top of their field, wealthy, gorgeous, or in some way superlative. Connor and Dane’s story is a lovely reminder that in a skilled writer’s hands, falling in love can be just as compelling when the lovers are ordinary people whose lives lack high drama.

It’s a measure of how much I enjoyed this book that while I was looking for passages to quote in this review, I basically got lost in the book and read the whole thing again. Turner’s second book, Resistance, a more angsty tale, has been published by Loose-I.D., and I look forward to reading it.

Word on the Web:

Sarah/Joan, Dear Author, A-
Rosario, B+
Reviews by Jessewave, 4.25

5 responses

  1. Oh, Jessica, if you loved Subtle Build, you’re in for SUCH a treat with Resistance. On my Top 10 list for this year, tied with Mitchell’s No Souvenirs for Best Book of 2010. SO good. And I totally know what you mean about getting lost in the book. I also find it hysterical that you quoted the same passage I did.

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  2. @Sarah Frantz: @Sarah Frantz:

    I also find it hysterical that you quoted the same passage I did.

    I did? I deliberately did not read the reviews I linked to, so it was great minds thinking alike. It was between that one, and the part where Connor admits to loving Monster In Law, LOL.

    Can’t wait to read Resistance!

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  3. I’ve just spent this week’s book budget so will have to wish list this. The review and the excerpt make it something to look forward too. Enjoyed your Hanukkah post over at Book Smugglers, Jessica. I am trying to imagine my romance reader/Maccabee tee shirt. Something along the lines of one I saw last week; red riding hood wearing a wolf skin cloak as she puts away her gun in her pretty picnic basket.

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  4. I enjoyed this story for all the reasons you cite, and I’ve got Resistance in my TBR. It’s funny that Turner would call it “erotic” romance, because I didn’t think so at all–if it were a straight couple, the level of “heat” wouldn’t be described that way.

    I also loved your Book Smugglers post. One of my favorite pieces of music is Haydn’s “Variations on a Theme from Judas Maccabeus” (for cello, and I was once a cellist). We used it as the recessional at our wedding–much to my husband’s delight, when he learned the corresponding lyrics in the Handel oratorio are “See the conquering hero comes.” Given all that, I loved your description of the Maccabees, and I’m thinking someone should write a romance series featuring this band of alpha brothers!

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