Review: Pathway to Love (Radclyffe)

There are times when you can parachute into a series and it will be fine, and there are times – like this – that reading the series from the beginning is almost a requirement to understand most of what is going on, who the characters are, and what their history is. The upside to a recurring cast of characters is that they do have that history, between themselves, with the community, and so forth. The downside is that in books such as this one, there are so very many characters who get page time, that even attempting to give histories would take a lot of time and bog things down. So, no real history is given for the regular characters, only the new addition, and you’re left wondering, assuming you care about all the characters.

This entry features a new addition, Bennett Anderson, an orthopedic surgeon tapped to head up the new sports medicine division at the hospital (which is populated by characters from the previous books). She has signed on for a year contract, but the book makes it sound like the job is meant to be long term. Why have a director of that department for a year if you’re just going to have to start looking for another director almost immediately? That didn’t make much sense to me. Neither does having a Trauma 1 designated hospital in the middle of nowhere, really. Also, this is yet another small town that seems to be overrun by women, or at least the hospital seems to be, and most of them seem to be lesbians. That’s unrealistic, but I let it go because that’s what the genre needs from time to time.

Bennett “call me Ben” Anderson is also a former basketball player, who briefly had a stint in the WNBA, but (her “tragic backstory”, a requirement, because no one can just live an ordinary life) is that she had to leave pro ball because her father was dying, then got better, then died for real, a result of his alcoholism. She went to med school afterwards, and was hired by the hospital.

Courtney Valentine is a resident in the general surgery department at the hospital. Apparently, she’s been a member of the community forever, given her interactions with the other characters, and has a booty call buddy who also works at the hospital. Her tragic backstory: dad was out of the picture growing up. Court first meets Ben when she is walking to the hospital for her shift and finds Ben shooting hoops solo at a playground. Court. Basketball. Get it?

They meet for real at the hospital, and each thinks the other is attractive. Court winds up as Ben’s resident that morning as various cases roll in. They keep evaluating one another as the day goes on. There are approximately a zillion characters introduced at the hospital, most of whom are women, and who a new reader (like myself) will probably have a hard time keeping track of and distinguishing from one another.

At some point, Court is on the Life Flight (or equivalent) helicopter, heading out to a bad car accident. Her cousin is seriously injured thanks to two idiots in their trucks racing (PSA: don’t be an asshole. If you want to compare dicks, just whip them out instead of potentially injuring yourself or others by street racing.) They rush Val to the hospital, and Ben and Court operate to repair Val’s leg.

There’s another subplot about a couple of teenagers working out their first date, and one of those teens is a transman (Blake) who is trying out for the men’s basketball team. There is the usual school bully getting in his face, and a bi football player who wouldn’t mind a date or three with Blake.

Most of the book – about 70% on my Fire – takes place in the 24 hour-ish period that opens Court and Ben’s story. There is no real middle to this book, and the requisite disagreement/issue between lovers/Major Thing/”dark night of the soul” that would inhabit the end of the middle and lead into the final act takes up about four pages – and once again, it’s an issue that could easily be solved by the two characters just talking to one another. The last 30% is rushed, which for some reason seems to be a trend of many of the books I’ve read lately. Ben and Court get their sexytimes on, having gone from “hey, she’s attractive and nice” to “take me to bed, you hunka hunka burning love” in next to no time. I suppose that’s a little better than instalove/instalust meet cute thing, but it’s a little jarring because all we’ve seen of their romance, such as it is, has basically been in the course of less than a week.

And suddenly, it is about a month later! We don’t know this because we get some kind of clue to that or a chapter heading that says it from the author – we only know it because there’s a surgery referenced that took place a month ago. The two mains have moved in with one another, and they’re happy, as required by the genre.

What we do not get is anything more on any of the other characters, like Blake. Given the prominence of the basketball tryouts in the book, I wanted to see how things were going, since we’ve jumped ahead a month. How did Blake’s date go? Is the hot football player still flirty? Did Blake make the team?

It may not be Cecil B. DeMille and his cast of thousands, but there are far too many characters given page time here. Maybe leaving some threads undone is common in this series, but I’m not a fan of introducing a bunch of characters and focusing on them as much as or more than the main characters and it is disappointing when toward the end, the only thing we’re really seeing is the two mains and the sexytimes that go with the nectar of new love.

No sex until the end, but it is slightly graphic in each episode if one of your metrics is that point.

Only two stars of five on this one from me. Sorry, the way the story was told and the pacing just put me off. Hats off for no snapping of necks (“her head snapped up”) in this one, though.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.