Review: Daddy’s Money by Alan Chin

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Daddy's MoneyMuslim Sayen Homet has had a long journey to get to the United States.  His mother fled from his abusive father and brother back in the Middle East.  Now Sayen is working his way through Stanford University’s Medical School, a place where he can be out as both gay and a Muslim.  But the bills are overwhelming him, so he has become the companion of a wealthy older married man who hides his sexuality and pays Sayen’s bills. Sayen likes his older companion but is getting tired of the secrecy involved in their relationship, When a fellow student, Campbell Reardon, starts showering Sayen with attention and gifts at the same time, Sayen begins considering ending his relationship with his older benefactor and taking up with Campbell instead.   Campbell Reardon is gorgeous, wealthy and says he is in love with Sayen.  No longer would Sayen have to hide a relationship and he would have all the benefits of a wealthy, single suitor as well.

Sayen breaks off with his older lover and breaks the man’s heart as well. Then Sayen takes up with Campbell, who not only comes out to his parents but takes Sayen home to meet them as well. This innocent introduction of Sayen to Campbell’s parents spells destruction on all involved as Campbell’s father is none other than Blake, the married man who was involved with and loved Sayen for two years.  As the shock of betrayal reverberates through the family, Blake discovers he wants Sayen back and Campbell flounders in the face of his father and lover’s past relationship. Whose love will hold the key to Sayen’s heart?

I have admired the writings of Alan Chin since I first discovered his book Matchmaker, which remains a favorite of mine.  I can always count on a complex plotline and multilayered characters that behave as realistically and humanly possible with Chin’s characterizations.  And as with Island Song or Simple Treasures, a mystical thread can be found running like an etherial current throughout the story.  All of that comes into play here and something more, an active voice for the main character versus the passive voice Alan Chin normally applies to his books.

I have mixed feelings about how all these ingredients faired in Daddy’s Money, a complicated, ambitious story on so many levels.  I was intrigued to see how Alan Chin handled a father and son competing for the same lover storyline, which is a compelling idea fraught with father-son issues such as paternal love versus romantic love. And in the father’s case, a man with repressed sexuality who has fallen in love for the first time.  Along with the elements of multiple love interests, the story is told from Sayen’s Muslim view point as well, one of the more challenging elements of this story.  I know that Alan Chin travels frequently throughout the world and assume that the Middle East has been the destination of many trips.  But I did wonder how a non-Muslim could accurately project what a Muslim would feel or do in any given circumstance, including the rape by an older brother.  This abuse figures largely in Sayen’s emotional makeup and factors enormously into his past and his outlook on love.

I think my biggest issue with this story comes down to the character of Sayen Homit.  I felt absolutely no connection to this man whatsoever.  The man is a taker, something Sayen himself admits to.  We are given to understand he feels that living in the United States has separated him from his religion as well as his ethnicity but it comes across more as his own selfish, goal oriented views that have done that than anything else.  He is ruthless in using whoever or whatever it takes to get his degree, pay his bills, accomplish his goals.  If someone gets hurt, then what small guilt he feels is momentary and soon passes. Sayen will take about seeing an inner glow in others while demonstrating none of his own.  In fact, the callous disregard Sayen feels towards his older benefactor just deepens the disconnect between the reader and the character once we meet Blake.  Blake truly is the character that draws out our empathy, our pain.  Blake is the one character, other than Campbell’s sister, that I connected with.  But with Sayen showing no real warmth towards any of the other characters, remaining remote and full of distain, how can the reader be expected to show Sayen anything other than the same.  Even when Sayen finally acknowledges that he loves Campbell, it is too late for both Campbell and the reader to believe it.

I honestly feel that had this story been told from Blake’s pov, not only would it have been a richer, more vibrant book in keeping with the man as he is portrayed, but a completely different review.  Blake is a marvelous character, so complex, so emotionally hurt, not only by his years of lying to his wife and himself over who he really is but in pain from the loss of the only man he has ever loved, Sayen.  A pain that is multiplied when Blake finds out that he has lost the man he loves to his son who is to be used as the “golden goose”.  Campbell is too golden, too superficial, at least at the beginning to engage the reader’s emotions on his behalf.  And those emotions, if not captured at the beginning, are hard to recapture later on.  For me, it never happened with Campbell.  Other than Blake, it is Campbell’s antagonistic pregnant teen sister that will interest the reader on the same level as Blake.  And it is how she ended up that cost Sayen what little grace he had gained with me at the conclusion of the book.  I don’t want to completely spoil the ending but just consider what a small village in Muslim Tunisia would do and think about an unwed nonbeliever, a bastard child, and a gay man in their midst.  I think recent headlines give us that answer and quickly.  So Sayen’s belief that his way is the only right way continues to the end and continued to further my distance from any fondness for this man and his fate.

It took me a while to hash over this book in my mind, days in fact.  I went back and forth over a rating because there is so much here to admire, including a new approach in Alan Chin’s narrative as well as telling a story from a Muslim’s point of view, something I rarely see in this genre.  But in the end my antipathy towards Sayen could not be overcome, no matter how I looked at this story.  But I hope that Blake comes back for his own tale.  He deserves it as much as he does some happiness.  I want to know more about Blake’s future and new romantic love interest.

So I am going to recommend this, even with all my issues with it.  You might feel differently about Sayen than I do.  I look forward to hearing from  those of you who read it.  Tell me what you think.  I can see this book generating much discussions in the near future.

Cover: LC Chase’s Bentley figures large in the story.  Well done.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Maryland has actually been feeling like winter for the past week and my body is going into shock.  Last year was Nomageddon (nothing, after Snowmaggedon) but no one really knows what will happen this year.  We really haven’t had any snow or ice and believe me, I am not complaining about that.  It’s been cold but not for very long.  In fact we are due to go back up into the 50’s in a day or so.

I look at my bird feeders and find that they are staying fairly full for longer periods of time, Ditto the suet feeders,  Even our squirrels are looking complacent as opposed to frantic for food.  But it is early yet.  February is normally our fiercest winter month here and that is still a month away.  I will let you know how it goes.

Until then, today the Redskins play the Seattle Seahawks and the area is on pins and needles.  I must go climb into my Redskin regalia and prepare to lose my voice.  So here is the week in reviews:

Monday, 1/7:                   Daddy’s Money by Alan Chin

Tuesday, 1/8:                   Bayou Loup by Lynn Lorenz

Wed., 1/9:                         Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) by Lavinia Lewis

Thursday, 1/10:               All I Want Is You by Marguerite Labbe

Friday, 1/11:                     A Boy And His Dragon by R. Cooper

Saturday, 1/12:                 Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

I will leave you with this image of the man who has made the Redskin fans smile once more and dance in the streets, RGIII!

RGIII

The Week Ahead and A Light Easy Cheesecake to Die For!

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Maryland has felt like Phoenix this week, right up until the storm that nailed parts of the area Friday night.  There are still thousands of people without power and in some cases homes due to the high winds that toppled power lines and trees.  Unreal.  With the heat index in the 100’s, it was a great time to have my nose buried in a book or 10 (easy to do with a Kindle).  The dogs totally agreed with that sentiment and kept me company, happy in the ac.  I did fix a new recipe from Bon Appetite, a light and fluffy cheesecake that will quickly become a favorite desert of yours as it did mine.  Yes, a fluffy cheesecake!  So look for the recipe after the week’s review schedule:

Monday:                                 A Self Portrait by JP Bowie

Tuesday:                                 Dance with the Devil by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                           Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau  and Violetta Vane*

Thursday:                               Lessons in Power, Cambridge Fellows #5 by Charlie Cochrane

Friday:                                     The Wizard and the Werewolf by Amber Kell

Saturday:                                 The Lonely War by Alan Chin

So you say you need a little something to go with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a good book?  Here is a recipe you must make courtesy of Bon Appetite Magazine, we ate ours right down to the last little crumb:

Cheesecake with Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries:

Shortbread Crust Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup shortbread cookie crumbs made from 6 oz. shortbread cookies (such as Walkers), finely ground in a food processor
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of fine sea salt
Cheesecake Ingredients:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin2/3 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperaturePinch of fine sea salt
10 ounces cream cheese, cut into 10 pieces, room temperature
1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks
Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries
1 6-oz. container fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Preparation
Shortbread Crust
Lightly coat an 8x8x2″ baking pan with nonstick spray; line with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang.
Mix crumbs, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until it resembles moist sand. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Cover; chill.
Cheesecake
Place 2 Tbsp. cold water in a small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin is soft, 5-10 minutes.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugar, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With motor running, add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in crème fraîche, orange juice, and lime juice.
Gently heat gelatin over lowest heat, stirring constantly, just until gelatin dissolves. Scrape gelatin into cream cheese mixture; beat to blend. Fold in whipped cream just to incorporate. Pour mixture over crust; smooth top. Chill until set, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Cheesecake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled, or freeze airtight for up to 2 weeks.
Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries
Cook first 3 ingredients, 1 Tbsp. mint, lime juice, and 1 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan over low heat until raspberries are soft and juices are released, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Using plastic wrap overhang, lift cheese-cake from pan and place on a flat surface. Cut into pieces; place on plates. Spoon candied raspberries over; drizzle with sauce and garnish with mint.