A Caryn Review: All Wheel Drive (Bluewater Bay #18) by Z.A. Maxfield


Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Well, that was 3 hours of my life wasted.  I wanted to DNF early on, but that is the drawback to getting a book for review — you gotta review it even when it’s just that bad…

This book was set in the Bluewater Bay series, and I admit I’ve only read one other in this universe — Burnt Toast B&B — and that one I actually enjoyed. The books are all pretty much stand alone, although the various characters do show up in other books.  And at first I thought that’s what I was missing, and why I struggled with this book:  I just didn’t have enough background.

But as I went on, I realized, no, this book was just that random and disorganized.

The main characters here are Healey, who grew up in Bluewater Bay although he’s been at school and away from home for years, and Diego, who moved in as part of the Wolf’s Landing production crew (the unifying theme of this series).  Healey came back to town broken both physically and mentally from a recent car accident that for extremely vague reasons he is not allowed to talk about.  His family has long since moved out of his boyhood house, but he feels like he just has to be there.  So he shows up, beaten, wet, and bedraggled, on the doorstep, and begs the new owner, Diego, to let him stay in the garage apartment.  And pays him a couple thousand dollars for the privilege and gives him a false name.  The apartment is full of Diego’s dead mother’s art, apparently because Diego wanted it as far away from him as possible — because Diego is in a wheelchair, he cannot get to the apartment.  Despite this inauspicious beginning, there is instant, undeniable chemistry between the two men, which is convenient because otherwise these two have absolutely nothing in common and there would be no story.  The next day Healey moves out, so I guess he got over his extreme need to be back in that home pretty quickly.  But he goes back, fesses up to who he is, admits that there really was no reason for the subterfuge and bribe, and helps to move Diego’s mother’s things to the garage where he can reach them.

Diego, in the meantime, has never really come to terms with being disabled, and now he’s also being hounded by his stepfather to collect and write about his mother’s art and life.  But something about the instant attraction he has to Healey makes him want to start accepting his disability, and to dig deeper into his mother’s past — because Healey makes a fairly random comment about one of her photographs that gives Diego an epiphany about his mother.  Which, as a side plot, completely fails because there is a big mystery brought up about her which is ultimately just dropped.  Healey summed up his side of things like this: “for me, attraction is instantaneous.  I lock eyes with a dude, and it’s either on or it’s not.”  Seems to be the basis of this romance, and that’s not enough for me.

What other things bothered me?  How about head bopping, changing from Diego’s to Healey’s point of view with each chapter, and their dialogue was so generic and stupid that I didn’t know which one of them was even talking.  The way both men would go from friendly to pissed off to sad to passionate from one sentence to the next, without any sort of explanation that made any sense.  The way the mystery of the car accident was dragged out way too long so I had almost no idea why Healey was so full of angst until the big reveal, which was pretty anti-climactic.  The way both of these guys were completely inconsistent in what they wanted, and how they acted — I mean, yes, characters should grow and change and let the story lead them to new things in life, but I didn’t buy any of it in this book.  Completely random.  The editing errors, like when Healey was afraid to tell Healey about the accident, when Healey came between Diego’s thighs and all of his cum ended up on his own stomach, or the multiple times when words were just left out.  I was really wondering if I got a rough draft instead of the final book, but as far as I know, this was the final book.  Then there were weird descriptions and analogies scattered throughout:

“Diego rattled his pinkie finger like the Titanic hit an iceberg and it was up to him to inform all the ships at sea.  He always did that. It was his tell”

“longing rose in his belly like the smoke of an abandoned cooking fire”

“post-SCI sex turned out to be almost like every other kind of sex he’d had.  It was embarrassing and funny and silly and gruesome.”  Gruesome?  first time I’ve heard that adjective used for sex in a romance novel…

“his hair slithered over Diego’s shoulders like he was some hipster saint, come to perform a miracle”

I almost gave this book only one star, but I was pleased that at least the author did some research about spinal cord injuries and adaptive equipment (that led to awkward conversations about self-catheterization to urinate that really should have been left out), and Healey showed amazing understanding and forgiveness for his mentally ill ex-boyfriend when it would have been easier for her to demonize bipolar disorder as a lot of people in society do.  So there was that.  But overall, don’t waste your time…

Cover art by L.C. Chase didn’t do much for me, and I don’t think adds anything to the story.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 329 pages
Published July 8th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleAll Wheel Drive
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBluewater Bay #18