Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pine Valley by Ged Ruggles

Title: Pine Valley
Author: Ged Ruggles
Purchase at Amazon
Cover Artist: unknown
Genre: romantic comedy, social commentary
Length: 58k words, approx 151 pages
Formats: mobi

Most men of ambition would kill for the chance to play a bracing game at Pine Valley, the most celebrated, and exclusive, golf course in the world. And in the summer of his 30th birthday, Jeff Carpenter gets his chance.

Trouble is, Jeff isn't exactly a man of ambition, having put his literary dreams on hold 10 years ago for a soulless back office job. Nor did he ever master the art of the swing farther than once making par on the giant dinosaur hole at his local childhood mini golf.

But a chance encounter with the son of Pine Valley's most senior councilman at a Philadelphia gay bar sparks a clandestine romance that plunges Jeff into a web of intrigue that threatens Pine Valley's very existence.


This first novel from Ged Ruggles offers a smorgasbord of social commentary to go with a low key romance, a look at all the social changes that threaten the status quo of "cis WASPy male rules". While it’s uneven, there are chuckles, and some flashes of brilliance. Expect irreverence and over the top situations, and don’t ask too much of the romantic arc.

Jeff, the hapless editor of children’s books, is questioning his sexuality at the late moment of being engaged to a longtime friend/girlfriend, but the questioning doesn’t go much farther than finding handsome business student Kent in a gay bar. They hit “I love you” early, and after that, it’s pretty much chasing after various threads of the mysteries. They peck each other upon the lips, and it’s frankly easier to see them as buddies than lovers. The ex-fiancée is certainly taking this well.

They do have oddities to investigate with the ritzy country club of the title, where Kent’s father is a high poobah and engaged in skullduggery that starts with manipulating the member list and gets worse. Haves become have nots, justice becomes a quaint concept when compared with wealth, and social climbing leaves footprints on the faces of those in the way. Jeff’s out of his depth, but bumbles through to find clue after clue, though Kent has a slightly better idea of where to look. There’s a lot of slapstick to go with some tart social observations, and plenty of pop references from the tragically hip to economics as seen by Piketty.

Some of the secondary characters are gems, particularly the Gallaghers, who have secrets and know where the other bodies are buried, and Amy, Jeff’s erstwhile fiancée turned Obligatory Pushy Best Girlfriend. Wisecracks fly, and what better way to get clandestine video than with a titcam?

The style unfortunately lets the material down. POV changes without notice or signal. Witty comments and descriptions get diluted with homonym confusions and strange grammar, and the book would benefit from proofreading. Some of the technical flaws such as inappropriately autonomous body parts may have already been addressed by the author (personal communication) but were there in force in my copy.

While I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend the book as it now stands, the author can tell a story and will advance in his craft, so I will definitely read his next work. 2.5 marbles.

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