Monday, 29 July 2013

Sonata, A.F. Henley

*** This review contains a lot of spoilers.  Keep that in mind before reading.  Also, my apologies for the length.***

- Review by Cindi

2.5 out of 5 stars

Ian is frustrated. He has a boring job at an investment firm.  He's a workaholic but not by choice. He is thirty-six and has no one to go home to each night so he always ends up working late into the evenings and his weekends are spent working as well.  Even after his last relationship ended as a result of infidelity on the other man's part, he still wants someone in his life, someone he can love. He goes to a bar after work one night and it goes as expected.

The three scotches meandering through his bloodstream should have been easing the tension in his shoulders, not increasing it. Yet even with his jacket off Ian could somehow still feel the constriction of the fabric, as if it were the very thing binding him into his middle-aged hole of existence.

His clothes screamed out the warning of too-old-to-be-cool and yet still too young to be the daddy replacement the rest were looking for. "Twenty-five or fifty-five, anything in between is simply viral," Ian's flamboyant ex used to always tell him.

The night is a wash and he makes a quick trip to the men's room thinking he'll be leaving soon and going back to his lonely apartment.  Only that's not exactly what happens.  While standing at the urinal he is approached by a man much younger than him and within seconds they are in a stall at the stranger's urging. What happens next shocks Ian but he eventually goes with it because he knows that men like him don't get approached for a quick fuck from strangers often, if ever. The stranger turns out to be a man named Jordan though Jordan is definitely not interested in trading info with the older man. He wants to get off and get gone. Ian, on the other hand, feels funny doing a quickie with someone he doesn't know so he tries to make it a little personal. I found the way he went about making things a little personal as needy, clingy. This set the stage for my opinion of Ian throughout the rest of the book I'm afraid. More on that later. Jordan comes across as a jerk in a sense but then again, not really. He makes it clear what he is there for and he has no desire to get chummy with Ian afterward.

"Are we done bonding now?"
He didn't wait for Ian's reply.  He reached for the jacket, dragged it off the hook and handed it to Ian.
"Let's fuck."

"Can I buy you a drink?" he'd asked, still panting from release, still trying to convince his legs that he could, in fact, remain standing.
"Nope," Jordan had said, tucking away body parts and straightening his clothes. "Now you can piss off."

Ian leaves the bar convinced he'll never see Jordan again but life has a funny way of changing things. First, he runs into Jordan at a mall while he's out with his best gal pal Aubrey. At this time, Ian also meets Jordan's 'son' Cole who is screaming in the middle of the mall. That meeting also goes as expected for Ian as Jordan makes it clear that he is not interested. Later, Ian runs into a female friend of Jordan's in a grocery store (who he had also seen at the mall) and ends up at Jordan's apartment building helping the woman, which then turns into Ian being pushed to take something up to Jordan's apartment. When the latter happens is when I seriously began to have major issues with this story. 

Jordan's 'son' is Cole and he is eight-years-old. Cole is not like all other children his age and when Ian knocks on the apartment door the child begins screaming. Ian, who doesn't know this child from Adam, immediately takes charge to quiet Cole down. The way this is done worked to quiet Cole but it also angered me. I am a parent and had someone, a total stranger, grabbed my screaming child and done what Ian did I would be doing more than having a meltdown. Ian would be on the ground and I assure you that Ian would be getting no "thank you" from me for getting my child to be quiet. 

This visit begins a relationship of sorts though I had a difficult time buying it. Jordan is twenty-two and takes care of Cole. There is major secrecy surrounding both and Ian doesn't just try to get to know Jordan and Cole, he comes across as a clingy stalker who thinks it's his duty in life to control Jordan and Cole. I also found Ian to be the type of man who is so desperate for someone, anyone that he would latch onto the first male who looked in his direction.  Jordan does not need a man in his life. He doesn't want a man in his life. He only wanted to scratch an itch at the bar that first night, not pick up a clingy older man who later searches his apartment looking for signs of neglect (in regards to Cole of course).

After all, should things be too severe, as much as Ian would hate to do it, he wouldn't be above a call to protective services. Jordan might be pretty, he might have a nice body and suck a good cock, but there wasn't a circumstance listed that would have Ian tolerating neglect.

Good point and I applaud people for wanting to do what's right for a child. However, Ian had been inside Jordan's home for all of five minutes and had seen Cole exactly twice. He knew exactly nothing about either of them at this point but yet he immediately latched on to "neglect" because the cabinets and refrigerator were not overflowing and because there was a little dust on some surfaces.

"What is it with you people? Like just because I'm not rich or old that somehow means that I can't take care of Cole?"

At this point, Jordan's absolute devotion to Cole had been obvious. Jordan had very little money and he had very little as far as material things but he did everything in his power to care for Cole. 

The relationship between Ian and Jordan is an odd one at best. For Jordan, it seems to be only about sex and this is made known early on, though he does eventually profess his love for Ian. Ian immediately jumps into the relationship with feelings and not just the sexual kind. Ian also has a very bad habit of discussing personal things in regards to Jordan and Cole with his best friend, Aubrey. This over sharing comes back to not only haunt Ian but Jordan and Cole as well.

Aubrey is the token bitchy female friend found commonly in M/M books. Only she takes her bitchiness to a new level and almost destroys everything that Jordan has worked for with Cole. What came later not only made me angry with Aubrey but with Ian as well. Jordan's secrets are forced into the light and instead of standing up for his man and the child he's grown to love, Ian takes a complete step back.  Granted, Ian has a health scare as a result but what about later? When he's better? He had promised to be there for Jordan and Cole but when it counted he was nowhere to be found.  The story then jumps several months in advance and concludes with what I consider to be a very rushed ending where I felt that nothing was resolved except a quickie between Ian and Jordan after they reunite after months and months of zero contact. 

Cole has Asperger's Syndrome. While I could never claim to be an expert, I am very close to someone who knows Asperger's well. I understand that Sonata is fiction and I credit the author for getting specific symptoms of Cole's condition correct. There were quite a few, however, that are not that close to what I learned from my friend who has a vast amount of knowledge on the subject. Because of this, I have to say that the lack of realism in some scenes in this story strongly took away from the story for me. Had I never heard of Asperger's or even known a little about autism, those particular parts of the story (with the exception of a major instance at the end that would not be realistic for a child with or without Asperger's or autism) would have most likely been a non-issue for me.  But as I know some about the subject, they weren't. 

What I liked:

- Jordan. Jordan, while young, did what he felt was right in regards to Cole. The decision may not have been the correct one but it was done completely out of love. He would go to the end of the earth for the child and this shines through brightly.

- Cole, though my heart broke for him.  

- The large age difference between the main characters.  Ian is thirty-six and Jordan is twenty-two. 

- The cover is beautiful.

What did not work for me:

- Cole's Asperger's and the way it is described. As mentioned above, some things are described accurately but some aren't. He is yanked out of his parent's home and forced to go on the run for four years. This means four years without the proper care needed. At eight he has not gone to school nor even learned how to spell his name. He has zero routine. He rarely speaks. The only people he comes in contact with are Jordan, a female neighbor and her child and later, Ian. The way that Cole is described is as a child with a severe case of Asperger's or as a child with severe autism as both seemed to be intertwined in his case. If it is severe then he would not be able to function as he did in this story without proper care and he most definitely would not have had what I would consider to be a 'miraculous' recovery later on... in a span of a few months... by learning how to spell, write, play piano, do a piano recital in front of a loud crowd, or handle noises or situations that he could not handle months earlier.  In other words, Cole goes from being almost 100% unresponsive to suddenly being able to do all the things he was unable to do during the first eight years of his life.

- Aubrey.   

- Ian. The best way to describe Ian is needy, clingy, obsessive, stalkerish... among others. Not only does he immediately try to have a relationship with a trick but he acts whiny when he is told "no". He pushes and pushes and comes across as weak.  Then later he tries to appear as if he's the strong one who should be in complete control of Jordan and Cole. The word 'neglect' is tossed around often in regards to Cole's care when he knows absolutely nothing about Cole or the situation. He physically grabs a screaming child (who is unable to be touched) and locks himself in the bathroom with him, locking Jordan out I must add, in order to run water in the tub to calm Cole down. I touched on this above. Had anyone grabbed my child the way Ian did Cole, he would be picking himself up off the ground and I would most likely be arrested for assault.  Especially with him being a total stranger who has seen the child exactly two times. I will say again that what Ian did to quiet down Cole did work but this mom here has a difficult time getting past the fact that he grabbed the child in the first place.

- There is a lot of jumping ahead in this book. Early on, Jordan goes from refusing to be kissed to suddenly being in a relationship with Ian. The biggest jump in time is when this reviewer needed more detail, at the end. There is so much build-up in the story with Jordan, Ian and even Cole but then something major happens and suddenly the story is jumping ahead weeks and then months with very little detail to explain that time. The detail that is there?  All about Ian. I would have preferred to see what happened to Jordan and Cole during the few months as they were the center of the story for me. By reading what Ian went through during that time did not endear his character to me in any way, shape or form. He walked away when he should have been there for Jordan and Cole.  Never is it explained why he did not do a little research to find out what happened to Jordan and Cole after Ian's friend, Aubrey, brought everything crashing down on them. He just went on with his life and that was that.  Only when he receives something in the mail from Cole does he decide to man up and do something.

- Jordan and Cole's parents. Because of the time jump mentioned above, I had a difficult time buying into their sudden change in regards to their children. Had the author come back with their father being out of the picture, perhaps I could accept it.  That was not the case. He miraculously changed his ways. It must be noted that Jordan/Justin had kidnapped Cole when Jordan/Justin was eighteen and Cole was four, four years prior. I find it difficult to believe that after that, they would all be one big happy family a few months later.

- The ending.  It did nothing for me other than prove that Ian and Jordan's relationship is based solely on sex. When they should have been discussing all that had occurred in the previous months, they were having a quickie in the parking lot. And then it ended. What happened next? Did Jordan and Ian go on to live happily-ever-after? What about Cole?

- The Jordan/Justin thing. I totally understand it and I get where the author was coming from but I could not go from reading Jordan Jordan Jordan to suddenly Ian calling him Justin without hesitation.  Ian met him as Jordan, not Justin. One would expect Ian to slip up once the real name comes out.  Nope, that did not happen even one time once Jordan's real identity was made known.

I want to stress that I went into this book with an open mind once I got to the part of the book about Cole having Asperger's Syndrome. I am aware that this is a fictional story but it is written about a very real condition. While Cole may have still shown some signs at the end, I find that by changing him almost completely over a span of a few months to be extremely unrealistic and inconsistent with what I know about the subject. Someone I care about has Asperger's and I know for a fact that one must do more than Cole did in order to get where he did at the end of this book. I am aware that each case is different but Cole's quick behavior-change seemed to me to be a bit much.

Overall, I enjoyed the story though I was not a fan of Ian from the onset. This, in turn, jaded the rest of the book for me, on top of the other things mentioned above.  I fell in love with Jordan/Justin and Cole immediately. Had the book focused more on them instead of Ian perhaps my opinion would be much different.

This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.


  1. Thank you for pointing out the intricate aspects of the ASD and your sensitivity to this subject. It takes far longer than months for an unresponsive child to make this kind of recovery - if ever. The inability to handle stimuli does not go away, it can lessen with age and, once again, time and, hopefully, therapy.
    I did not like the "neglect" thing thrown out there like that, even though I respect people for caring. He just sounded pushy.
    Great review, Cindi :)

    1. Thanks, Kazza. I had a hard time reviewing it because as much as I have learned about Asperger's over the past year or so, I still don't know a lot. I wanted to do right not just by who we know with the condition but others as well. I'm glad I did okay with my wording because I was terrified of getting it wrong.

      The 'neglect' thing bothered me because Ian jumped to that conclusion with no knowledge of the situation. I just wasn't a fan of Ian in general.