Review: Where There's Smoke by L.A. Witt
A young lady should never discuss sex, religion or politics in polite company." This is a phrase that was drilled into me since I was a young child. It appears we are not in polite company with Ms. Witt in WHERE THERE'S SMOKE. In this book we receive two of the three. Since this is a romance story, I'm thrilled with the sex because that's what I want to read about. The politics I could have done without.
Let me clarify. The focus of this story is about politics. This I'm fine with since Ms. Witt did an excellent job showing the dirty side of politics through the struggles of Jesse Cameron and Anthony Hunter. I am impressed with the portrayal and learned a bit more about the game of politics. The reality of politics disappoints me, but I understand it and felt badly for Jesse.
Jesse is retired Senator Roger Cameron's nephew and the former senator's pick for California governor candidacy. Anthony Hunter is the miracle worker campaign manager. Both of these men are ones I admire.
Jesse is running for the governor office as a Democrat even though he wants to be Independent. As an unknown with no track record except his wild college and Hollywood days, it's a long shot. His picture perfect marriage with a twice Oscar winning actress definitely helps boost his image. My issue isn't because the book is based on politics. It isn't even with Jesse running as a Democrat. What I found as a turn-off is Ms. Witt's attacks on a specific political group. From the book, it comes across as what she feels is the better political party through her use of characters blasting one group for being uneducated and brainless. Or better yet, with brains which are never used.
I did take this personally as my loved ones are in this party and I've been labeled as that party despite my Libertarian leanings. The first few chapters were distasteful enough that I nearly rated this one star and returned the book as "Did Not Finish". I didn't think I could continue if I had to read through anymore of this bile. I suffered through the tasteless mockery and came out feeling as if I were soiled with mud thrown at me. My recommendation to the author is if she wants this story for broader appeal, the unbalanced attacks should have been cut out during the editing. Some of the readers are in the demographics she's calling stupid. One could argue this is merely fiction and these are not her real views. My answer is - perception is reality.
I am glad that I stuck with the book though because when we finally move on to the real conflict, the story becomes really good. The real situation is Jesse being a hypocrite and whether he can make the choice for a resolution he can live with – will it be ethnical or unethical? The struggle is difficult. My gut is churning in this situation. Jesse is a gay man using his happy heterosexual marriage as a foundation for his campaign. I can't begin to even fathom how he could think this wouldn't be a problem. I'm frankly shocked a man who came in 4th in his law school class would actually think this would work.
The characters in this book are well developed. I really enjoyed them. On characters alone, I would give this book a four star rating. I enjoy Rayna, Jesse's assistant, who possesses a wicked wit. I like how she is a woman of colour and it's not an in your face reminder. It came across as natural. Anthony Hunter leaves me speechless. His only flaw is he smokes. I love everything about Anthony. Jesse is at heart a sweetheart who wants to do the right thing. The issues he wants to resolve are personal to him and he wants to make a difference. It's people like him who change the world and who I want in a government office.
Unfortunately for him, his uncle's tactics basically "screwed the pooch". Let us not forget Jesse's wife, Simone Lancaster. For her, my heart weeps. Unrequited love is never a happy situation. It makes me hate Jesse a bit for the hellish situation she's forced into living. Lastly, one secondary character my heart breaks for is Jesse's brother, Chris. Domestic violence is something I would never condone and I really appreciated Ms. Witt's portrayal of it.
This story concludes in a lose-lose situation for me. No one makes it out of the situation unscathed, least of all Jesse. Yet through it all, the ending is perfect for me. Jesse makes the choice I can admire and give my full support. If it weren't for the political attacks, this book would have made a five star for me. I recommend this book to m/m lovers who enjoy angst, unrequited love and personal sacrifice for the greater good.