Title: Hidden Attraction
Author: Frank Malone
Pages/Word Count: 156 Pages
At a Glance: Hidden Attraction is a book I can’t recommend. As always, however, your mileage may vary.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Mason Jennings
Speed is what I know best. Speed has made me who I am. Speed has made me millions of dollars. I’m a former race car driver, record breaking winner, and darling of the Formula One scene. When I retired, I put all of my time and quite a bit of my fortune into building sports cars. Without racing, though, there seems to be something missing in my life. A recent meeting with a young mechanic may change all that, however.
I had dreams of racing when I was a kid, but never really got the chance. I decided to become a mechanic instead, and I ended up being really good at it. I work for Mason Jenning’s company, Stone Motors. I’ve only been there for six months but have moved up the ranks quickly. When I got the chance to meet Mason, my opportunities seemed to move even faster. His offer seems to be too good to be true. Something is telling me I shouldn’t trust him so quickly, but how can I turn down the chance of a lifetime?
Review: Frank Malone’s novel Hidden Attraction opens with Mason Jennings’ introduction—nothing flashy or attention grabbing—but a simple introduction of the character. Through the course of the first chapter, we learn bits and pieces about his former career as a Formula One driver who’d enjoyed some success; though, now retired, he currently aspires to be a successful race car designer/builder.
Told in an alternating first person POV narrative—which is great for readers who don’t enjoy the limitations of first person storytelling—Oliver Pike’s introduction rounds out the second chapter of the book, as we find him at his bedsit where he’s cajoling his landlady into giving him a little extra time to pay his rent, with the promise that his new job at Stone Motors—having just been promoted from the factory to working with the builders in the showroom—will cover the past due if he can only have another week to pay. Oliver, we eventually learn, is a brilliant mechanic whose own dreams of becoming an F1 driver have never been realized.
Beyond these initial introductions, we learn precious little else about these two men, which makes this short novel difficult to categorize. I would hesitate to call it literary fiction because of the lack of characterization or significant observation; nor is the book romantic fiction in even the broadest sense of the genre. What we do see throughout the narrative is that Mason comes off as somewhat arrogant, Oliver comes off as more than a little naïve, and neither man is terribly mature for their respective ages. For the majority of the story, they don’t develop beyond existing with each other from one scene to the next, as there’s limited word count spent on them getting to know much of anything relevant about each other; rather, there’s a lot of Mason leading Oliver around from place to place, situation to situation, and Oliver doing a fair amount of wondering what Mason’s story is. The storyline itself wanders along from one scene to the next, failing to demonstrate a clear objective or interesting motive for readers to engage with the characters, and offering little more than a string of inconsequential and disconnected scenarios during which little to nothing happens to drive the action, build suspense, realize a strong story foundation, or further illuminate its characters’ motivations. Mason’s end-goals, we eventually learn, seem to lie in getting his pet car project up and running, and to get Oliver into bed—no more, no less, and not necessarily in that order. If you’re a reader who loves cars, though, as it is apparent the author does, you might enjoy that aspect of the book quite a lot.
Once Hidden Attraction reaches the 90% mark, and what can be described as the climactic arc of the story, Mason makes his move on Oliver, at which point the scene evolves into a machination so jarring and seemingly out of character for the little we’ve come to know of Mason—or, more to the point, what little Oliver knows of Mason—that it propels Mason at whiplash speed into the realms of unrecognizable based on what we’d learned about him up to that point. As a result of his mishandling, not to mention manhandling Oliver, we’re left with the predictable and pivotal reaction from the naïf protégé, which amounts to a soap opera-esque cliffhanger as the resolution to this emotionally charged scene. While clearly there needs to be a plot goal, and a subsequent consequence and resolution once that goal is realized, in the case of Hidden Attraction I have to say that the melodrama came so far out of left field for me that it lacked any sort of positive impact and left me more baffled by than empathetic toward its outcome.
Succumbing to the seduction that is the ease of self-publishing in the digital age, the book’s one true flaw is the unfortunate lack of professional editing. Riddled with awkward scene and situational transitions, scenarios which stretch the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief, issues of no consequence that are introduced and then tidily resolved, scenes that ended up serving no purpose, setting and character descriptions that neither enhanced the tone nor mood of the scene, nor furthered the story or development of the characters, and grammatical issues throughout—when all was said and done, this book left me more frustrated than entertained.
Not liking a book is never fun, not for the reader, not for the author who’s poured a lot of time and effort into writing it, only to then have people like me read it and go on about why the book didn’t work. Oftentimes, the true test of a great read is whether or not the author has created characters I’ve liked spending time with. Interesting and revealing conversation between them is a huge factor in this, chemistry between the characters is another, and creating people who invite me to empathize with them or who elicit an emotional connection is yet another. Absent any or all of these things, a book will always fail me, as is the case here. It’s a difficult truth to share when things don’t work between reader and novel, not to mention that reading and reader reactions are such a personal thing. Suffice it to say that based upon my own experience, Hidden Attraction is not a book I can recommend. As always, however, your mileage may vary.
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