By Jeff Strand
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Dear Mr. Strand.
I have admired your novels and short stories for quite a while. I enjoy the way you can instill humor without reducing the elements of suspense and horror in your works. I enjoy the snappy but realistic dialogue. I've also noticed that for the most part your stories could be described as fiction for men. They tend to be suitable for those of us who crave the more, dare I say, macho tendencies in our literary heroes and villains. With a little gratuitous editing, I daresay some of your stories wouldn’t be all that out of place in those exploitative men adventure magazines of the past (“I was Mata Hari’s Love Slave!!”). Agree or not, you do seem to hit on those themes that men appreciate such as thug bromances (Wolf Hunt) and fickled femme fatales (Stalking You Now).
So when you offered an advanced reader copy of Kumquat to your fans before it was released publicly on July First, I was happy to stand in the virtual line and get my copy with the intent of reading it with lurid delight.
You wrote a goddamn romance.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong generically with romances. But do I look like my name is Mildred? Do I sit around and knit booties for real or imaginary grandkids? Do I look like I have 40 cats? Is my favorite dark humor writer turning into Danielle Friggin’ Steele?
You wrote a motherf---king romance! Admittedly a funny one but still a MOTHERF---KING ROMANCE!
But after the initial shock, I actually started to get into it. The main character may be younger than me but I really understood where he was coming from. He is a bit of a slacker but he is also looking for that elusive spark in life that we all want. The spark that often comes from someone we feel connected to. The kind of person that understands us even while collectively enduring the strange pitfalls that the imperfect world throws at us. And there are plenty of those pitfalls in this novel.
So Todd meets a girl. Amy, to be precise. There is a defining moment early on which I won’t give away and then there’s a road trip. Yes, a road trip! Now you got me. Road trips are macho and cool. But it’s also the type of plot twist that allows you to develop the two characters with plenty of clever dialogue and lots of funny situations that do not feel like they are just being tagged on. I loved the way that each strange episode tells us more about Todd and Amy. Now I'm loving both Todd and Amy and especially their various reactions to those “Shit Happens” moments. Unlike most romantic minded novels, Amy and Todd always seem very real and very vulnerable. And I really got into it. There was one particular point about two-third of the way through that I found myself verbalizing, "Oh Shit NO!" while reading it. Since I was waiting in the dentist office, it was a little embarrassing!
So what do we have in your different but hilarious romance novel. We still have that jaw-dropping dialog although a little toned down to fit the genre. We have cute meet, bomb dropped, a quest, a more self-defining quest, and finally...Nope...No giving away the ending. Of course, Jeff, you know what it is but all those nosy people reading this do not. I’ll just tell them to have their handkerchiefs ready. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I will let the readers find out for themselves.
So, Jeff. Thanks for letting me read and review this book. Thanks for writing an smart, sometimes smart-ass, comedy romance that doesn’t condescend to its reader and one that gives us male dudes a semi-healthy model in the romance division. Kumquat may be one of the best books you have ever written. But don’t retire the dark comedy horror novels, OK? At least, not quite yet. Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel can prop up the romance market a little longer without you.
P.S. If you haven’t already, you really need to write Exit Red and sell it to the studios. I would watch it every week!