Title: Buchanan House
Author: Charley Descoteaux
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 157 Pages
At a Glance: 3 stars
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Eric Allen, thirty-three-year-old line cook, moved in with his grandmother, Jewell, after a disastrous coming-out when he was in middle school. She raised him, and he cared for her when she fell ill. When Jewell died, she left everything to Eric—angering his parents and older brother. The inheritance isn’t much, but Eric and his bestie, Nathan, pool their money and buy an abandoned hotel on an isolated stretch of the Central Oregon Coast. The hotel isn’t far from Lincoln City—a town with its own Pride Festival and named for a president—so they christen it Buchanan House after James Buchanan, the “confirmed bachelor” president with the close male friend.
Eric and Nathan need a handyman to help them turn Buchanan House into the gay resort of their dreams. Eric finds Tim Tate in the local listings, and over the months leading to opening weekend, Tim reveals himself as a skilled carpenter with many hidden talents. Eric falls hard for Tim, but before he can see a future with the gorgeous handyman, he has to get over twenty years of being bullied and shamed by his birth family. It would be much easier if Eric’s brother Zach wasn’t trying to grab part of the inheritance or ruin opening weekend.
Review: Buchanan House begins with Eric attending his Grandmother’s funeral. Jewell took Eric in and essentially raised him after he came out to his parents somewhere in his middle school years. Upon her death, he was to inherit all her assets. and despite some posturing from his family at the gravesite, an old family friend locked up the money for Eric.
Now Nathan, his best friend since childhood, and Eric have invested everything into revitalizing an old camp building on the outskirts of Portland. Leaving behind a grueling job as a cook, Eric can finally be master in his own kitchen while opening up the small hotel to gay couples looking for a quiet retreat. Eric hires a handyman, Tim Tate, who turns out to be just the person Eric needs to break free of a life spent hating himself and questioning his bisexuality.
I must admit that this novel confused me in many ways. First, the story was all from Eric’s point of view, which meant that most of this novel was told to the reader rather than experienced firsthand. Often I found myself rereading passages to connect what I felt were massive jumps in the story line. For instance, there was such angry tension graveside between Eric and his mother, and yet that was the last we saw of her or got much more than a mention of her for the rest of the novel. Yet, Eric’s entire self-loathing and poor self-esteem was based on how he was treated by his family. While his brother Zach had more page time, that too was only peripheral at best, and their one confrontation led to a serious event that was then smoothed away via an apologetic phone call. Little action in the storyline supported the extreme abuse Eric had received from his family in the past, and yet his inner dialogue and thoughts came back again and again to his brother’s bullying and his mother’s indifferent and cold treatment of him. Surely if his mother used the burial as a means to harass Eric about her thoughts on how he didn’t deserve all his Grandmother’s money, there should have been some follow up from her, as well as his brother?
I also really wanted to believe the rather rapid onset of the relationship between Tim, the handyman, and Eric, but it began so awkwardly and slowly. Tim’s personality was written as being so guarded that he really was a bit of a mystery. We were told Ted had a rather strange coming out himself, after an accident that left him in a coma for several days. Later in the novel this is briefly explained, but again, Tim’s past is barely touched upon even though Eric seems to angst over how much experience Tim has had with relationships as opposed to Eric’s limited exposure to the same.
Then, suddenly, they were a couple and Eric finally revealed his biggest fears to Tim. Despite constant reassurance from Tim, Eric continued to doubt the man and could not believe that Tim would settle for what Eric was comfortable offering in the bedroom. Without giving vital plot points away, I can only say that the inner turmoil Eric had was so sad and overwhelming for him. Which, in turn, made the rapid escalation of his and Tim’s relationship a little unbelievable.
In essence, Buchanan House felt underdeveloped and too neatly resolved. There was such potential in the characters this author began to flesh out, but too little attention was paid to anyone other than Eric, and so most of the others remained one-dimensional and flat. Many details about the others were hinted at but never developed. Nathan, Eric’s best friend, was painted as flamboyant, and yet he really seemed to have the potential to be campy and fun. Unfortunately we saw little more than him supporting and soothing Eric, and while there was definitely a potential love interest hinted at for Nathan, little was done to explore it.
Despite the weaknesses in this story, I definitely want to read some other works by this author. I feel she has strong potential for weaving a good story, and that this may not have been an example of her best work. Buchanan House by Charley Descoteaux began so well but seemed to lose its way the further the story progressed.
You can buy Buchanan House here: