A MelanieM Audio Review: Q*Pid by Xavier Mayne and Rudy Sanda (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Can a computer program understand love better than the human heart?

Archer, the AI at the dating service Q*pid, realizes humans don’t always make the best choices, so it begins making some unconventional choices for them.

Fox Kincade is the last of his group of friends to be single, so he’s delighted when he discovers a new match in his Q*pid app—one that, according to the new AI wizardry, should be the love of his life. Instead of the woman he’s expecting, he’s paired with Drew Larsen, a shy, somewhat nerdy PhD student who has also grown discouraged with romance.

Drew and Fox have little in common—aside from the fact that they’re both straight. Or so they thought. But as the guys get to know each other, they realize Archer might have the right idea. Their path isn’t smooth, because both need to overcome every idea they have about themselves and what true love might look like. But with the help of Archer—and some friends who have stuck with Fox and Drew through the thick and thin of their relationship trials—they might find their way into each other’s hearts.

Q*Pid by Xavier Mayne and Rudy Sanda was one of those stories I both liked and was left feeling sort of bereft of that happy warm feeling that I get from the romances and stories that I truly love and connect with.  The writing was well done,  the story layered, and the narrator did an excellent job with all the characters and storytelling.  Sigh.

So where exactly was the issue?

I’m not sure.  I like the slow burn stories and boy, was this one.  Both men identify as straight for most of the  story, the only “being” certain they are a perfect match is a AI called Archer, the IA forQ*Pid, who “bends” his creator’s rules and invents an algorithm that goes beyond their client’s checklists into their actual needs and wants.  And then paired them up with their actual mate, regardless of gender.  A company no no and a shock to these men and their perceptions about their sexuality.

The sections where Archer and Veera, his creator, although interesting, and the rest of her team, have a tendency to bog down the flow of the  story.  It picks up once they stop “popping in” often, interrupting the already molasses slow flow of Drew and Fox’s steps towards a relationship.  We do need to understand what when  wrong or right with Archer but the dynamics within   Veera’s team is messy, nasty (and however realistic) takes away from the romance.

The character of Fox is almost another problem in itself.  It takes an inordinate amount of time to actually like him.  And his friend or maybe it’s the voice assigned to his friend by the narrator.  Turned me off totally.  Fox is locked down tight by his background, history and riches. The author has written him as difficult to identify with, surface hard, and far too obnoxious.  Less personality than Archer at the start.  It’s not until he’s halfway into his “non dating” of Drew that he softens and his character changes enough that you can see his potential as a mate for Drew who has been a “real person” from the beginning.

Perhaps that’s it.  There’s been a real imbalance throughout most of the story, with our affections resting squarely on Drew’s side, including that of his neighbor.  Everything with Drew feels authentic.  Role on over to Fox?  Not so much.  It take a while for that to even out, and that happens only towards the last part of the story.

It was Drew that had my heart and he had it from start to finish.  Wish that I could say the same about Fox and their romance.   I think this story came really close on many levels but it just didn’t check all my romance boxes in the end.

Rudy Sanda did a wonderful job with the voices.  The only exception being Fox’s best friend. Chad.  For some reason I found that one extremely irritating and hard to listen to.

Q*Pid by Xavier Mayne and Rudy Sanda (Narrator) ended up being a sweet contemporary romance with some terrific touches.  I liked the  narrator and thought the writing was great.  If this sounds like something you would like, than I recommend it for your listening pleasure.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  Great cover and I think it’s eye catching in model and colors.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 12 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published August 28th 2018)
ASINB07JNZFMMP
Edition Language English

A Lucy Release Day Review: Q*pid by Xavier Mayne

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I had a difficult time trying to decide how to review this because I loved some of it and I didn’t love some of it.  Let’s see if I can come up with a coherent explanation. Veera, a very intelligent woman, has come up with a new way of artificial intelligence.  She has designed a system, dubbed Archer, that will look past the typical “get to know you questions” of online dating and really look at you to find your perfect match.  This means allowing Archer access to everything you do online (a security nightmare no matter what they say and it made my skin crawl) to see what you actually are interested in, not what you say you are.  I did have to laugh when we see the chosen people clicking like on puppies and babies and kittens just to make a “cute” presence online known.  Tut, tut, boys, Archer is smarter than that.

So we have Fox, the only one of his friends still unattached, who has a standard email rejection letter for women he dates who don’t make the number criteria in the spreadsheet he has, which is the most bizarre thing.  “Numbers of attempts to pay the dinner check, and height of heels in inches, and number of visible piercings, and done.” He’s rejected women he likes this way and so is still alone.  So the novelty of the Q*Pid trial appeals to him.

Then we have Drew, a quiet, shy, adorable grad student who has an unlikely bestie in Mrs. Schwartzmann but seems to attract the strangest of women.  On seeing his coffee table, his last date “As soon as she stepped into my apartment and saw it, she kind of freaked out.  She said something about how cheap coffee tables are a product of third-world sweat shops and she leapt on top of it and started stomping on it.”  This did not stop him from sleeping with her but relationship wise, it’s a no.  Drew also signs up for the Q*Pid trial, hoping to meet someone a little less chaotic. 

When the app goes live, it begins pairing people up.  Both Fox and Drew are astonished to find out Archer has matched them.  Has to be a mistake, neither one has ever been attracted to men before.  Veera is nervous but she’s also sort of ticked because Ross, one of the team members, is a total naysayer.  He questions why anyone would voluntarily give them access to everything online (I also questioned the same thing) and he is 100% positive this will not only fail but bring lawsuits as well.  The day it goes live, he studies his phone, “Just checking to see whether the first violation of privacy suits has been filed yet.”

Secondary characters, Fox’s friend Chad and particularly Mrs Schwartzmann are likeable and loyal.  Mrs. Schwartzmann, with her saving food and water for doomsday, made me smile.  She is supportive of Drew and he of her, it was a sweet relationship. “Entirely without warning, Drew heard her voice in his head, “I cannot be anything other than what I am.”   This is when Drew decides to be completely honest about his profile (and the fact that he watches porn). This actually took a lot of courage because as soon as he decides to watch porn, the laptop camera comes on.  Seems kinky. He is matched with someone who seems perfect and it is to Mrs Schwartzmann he admits, “She was exactly what I thought I wanted, and yet she turned out to be not at all what I wanted.”  And here we go.  I’ll just say, Mrs. Schwartzmann’s response made me want to hug her.

Chad is Fox’s best friend and he’s there for him, trying to make Fox see what is in front of him.  I felt bad for Fox at one point, as he is talking about the group that used to go to the diner together and slowly dwindled down to just him as people paired off.  “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we didn’t stop hanging out every night.  We stopped hanging out.” Chad, though, is supportive, funny, ridiculous and ridiculously in love with his wife.  Both Chad and Mrs Schwartzmann were winners for me.

Back to Fox and Drew. Despite the shock of being paired with a man, they end up meeting and hit it off so well they decide being friends is exactly what they need.   They are both lonely, Fox with all his money and Drew with all his academics.  They are also both caught being real in front of their laptop cameras, meaning Archer sees.  “Why can’t I find the right person and fall in love?” made me want to hug Drew.  They are worlds apart financially.  Fox lives in a penthouse and drives a BMW, Drew is a grad student.  “My people eat ramen twenty-nine times out of thirty.”

We get to see the building of a true friendship with Drew and Fox, as they get to know each other, swim in the river of denial and yet keep coming back to each other for hanging out, cause obviously these are not dates.

I wanted to know what happened with Miyoko, as this was a big thing for Fox and it really wasn’t addressed.  I wanted to hug Drew for really putting himself out there more than once, even when Fox was being an idiot.  When Fox is so in denial and just keeps looking for that “perfect woman”, Drew is a little broken hearted but he’s open to the fact that what he thought about himself may not be complete. When Fox is matched with his “perfect woman”, a score in the high 90s, (Drew and Fox have a 99.5 compatibility rating), he is appalled to realize that it wasn’t at all what he wanted.  He was bored, he was twitchy and he felt like he was sitting with his sister.  Luckily, she agreed.  Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need.

I liked this book immensely.  The writing was strong, although there were a few times I had to look up an unfamiliar word.  I appreciated that finding out you are not as clear on your sexuality as you always thought you were wasn’t a simple thing to deal with.  Did I want to slap Fox with his response to Drew at one point?  You bet, I was SO pissed at him.  Naked wrestling took care of Fox’s idea that Drew was female.  I loved that scene. 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a slow burn, sort of “what are we doing” type of story with likeable secondary characters and MC that, especially in the case of Drew, you are really pulling for.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  Its ok.  Obviously a hard concept to get across and this is a cute cover, bright and eye catching.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802292
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Farlough by Xavier Mayne

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Newly turned thirty, Cameron North is preparing himself to spend his life alone. When he inherits his great-aunt’s teashop on the remote island of Farlough, he returns for the first time in more than a dozen years to a place where memories—and demons—flit close to the surface of his mind. There he meets Gwyneth, a sassy barista who becomes his instant best friend—until Cam discovers she’s the wife of his first love, Matthias. She has only the best of intentions when she arranges a reunion between the two men, and it forces them to finally discuss why Cam left the island so long ago.

With his heart broken anew, Cam retreats to his great-aunt’s house—where he learns he is not alone. Someone—or something—has pledged an oath to look out for Cam, and as he investigates the presence, he uncovers wounds that both he and his mysterious guardian sought to escape by coming to Farlough. Now Cam must figure out how to heal them—and himself.

Oh, that synopsis….what a teaser!  I had no idea which way this story was going to go, there was even a hint that there might be an element of the supernatural here but no.  It’s simply a wonderful contemporary romance about putting the past to rest, finding out who you really are and coming home.

I absolutely need to contact Xavier Mayne to see if Farlough is real.  He made it so for me, it came alive on these pages.  I wanted to meet these people and come for the Solstice celebrations (not that it was for outsiders).  I wanted to ride the Ferry and meet everyone that lived, laughed and loved so well on this amazing island.  From the librarian to the Misters at the Tea Room and so many others, this place had my heart soon after I arrived along with Cam.

Cameron North, what a journey the author placed him on.  From lonely orphaned boy to lonely man (by choice), it’s not until he returns to Farlough that he’s able to make himself (along with another) whole again.  I won’t go into spoilers here but every time I thought the author might take a wrong zag with the storyline here, Mayne came through.  The relationship dynamics here are beautifully done, handled with adult care and sympathy.  I’m talking about Gwyneth (a wonderful character and powerhouse), Matthias, Cam’s first and only love and Gwyn’s loving husband.  This entire element is just so well done. Plus did I say how much I love Gwyneth and family?  Why, yes I do!  Duck included.

I should also mention Cam’s Aunt.  Although, physically missing from the story, the way in which the author has written it and her, she is as big a presence here as any of the characters and the island itself.  I felt as if I knew her too.  And mourned her loss along with everyone else.  That’s wonderful writing.

The other mystery person, the one left with the duty of Cam’s guardian?  I liked him too.  This is the only place where I wish there had been a little more “time” or length to let me get a real depth of feeling from these two. I did get it later in the story but not in the beginning where it said it began.  That’s my only quibble here.  Everything else is outstanding from the Misters (I couldn’t get enough of them, so adorable) to Ari, who is such a sparkling, snarky bird that he needs his own story.   I hope  Mayne is listening.

Need a new contemporary romance?  Here’s one I absolutely recommend!  Farlough by Xavier Mayne!  And if you’re listening, Xavier, contact me and let me know if Farlough is real or not.  Maybe I should just let it go.

 

Cover Artist: Reese Dante.  That cover is perfect for the story in every way.  I love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published May 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleFarlough
ISBN 1635334691 (ISBN13: 9781635334692)
Edition LanguageEnglish