Penny’s Rating: B
If the ghost of Ayn Rand ever decided to write gay romance novels, they might go something like this. Welcome to the elite society of Atlanta. Where problems of oppression are solved by money and some kick-ass lawyering. Not only that, but insta-love exists, bad people get punished, and capitalism really works, even for kids who just want summer jobs mowing the lawn. Libertarians everywhere will rejoice, and closeted doomsday preppers will squeal with glee.
So….this series (The Appearances Trilogy by Etienne), probably doesn’t sound like your typical HEA gay romance. And it’s not. Most of us are not so fortunate as to live in a world where money is not an issue, I know I certainly don’t, but like everyone, I wouldn’t mind living there someday either. TRIAL, TRIBULATION, and TRIUMPH were absolutely fascinating to me not only thanks to the compelling plot, but also as an anthropological study of a slice of our wealthier American society that really does exist, but is completely different from the America that I inhabit. Note: I am reviewing all 3 books in this post, so if you’re worried about spoilers for the book you have not read…don’t look down too far. It should also be noted that I read this series twice before tackling these reviews. It should also be noted that the third book in the series, TRIUMPH is my favorite of the three.
TRIAL: Appearances Trilogy: Book One
Publisher Description: “Attorney Charles Barnett thought it was all over for him and his heart. In the three years since his partner died, he hasn’t felt so much as a spark of attraction to another man. That suddenly changes when Charles is assigned a new case and meets his new client. Recent widower Philip d’Autremont has been traveling in all the same circles as Charles, but somehow they’ve never managed to meet. Now that they have, both men find themselves falling hard and fast. But there’s more than one hurdle to Charles and Philip beginning a love affair, much less maintaining it: Philip is on trial for murder, a politically ambitious and homophobic district attorney is determined to convict him, and Charles is responsible for Philip’s defense.”
This is the insta-love part. Look, I know some people categorically hate insta-love, but I think that there’s a time and place for everything, and having read this series, I know it couldn’t have happened any other way for these two. They are deciders. They look at each other and…. BOOM.I still hold out hope that in real life our justice system is not this messed up as it is in this book. I could wax poetic about this, but to throw in one example, our justice system does an abysmal job of helping people who can’t afford a lawyer to navigate the court system, and our public defenders are in most cases underfunded and overburdened with enormous case loads. However, in real life, a case like Philip’s where the evidence is merely circumstantial, would never be brought to trial because it would be a complete waste of resources for everyone involved. I kept reading because it was absolutely mind-boggling to me that this trial was even happening in the first place. Nevertheless, the story, though bizarre, was compelling and so I continued with TRIBULATION.
TRIBULATION: A Buckhead Tale Appearances Trilogy: Book Two – Sequel to Trial
Publisher Description: “Two weeks after Philip d’Autremont is acquitted of his wife’s murder, it’s time for him and his partner and lawyer, Charles Barnett, to start building their life together. But it turns out that not everyone in Atlanta is as ready to leave the trial in the past as Charles and Philip, and a surprise attack leaves Charles in the hospital and Philip’s arm in a sling. With thoughts of their own mortality fresh in their minds, Charles and Philip make a decision that will change their lives forever. Future plans and home renovations take their minds off the attacks, but the danger isn’t over yet: the people behind the attacks are still at large, and they weren’t acting alone.”
These two, I swear you can’t leave them alone for one second! They’re in love! You’d think they could manage to stay out of trouble, but no. So yes, Philip and Charles are injured. Charles is hurt worse than Philip, so Philip steps in to basically handle everything while Charles is recovering. It was a nice little role reversal from book one, where Charles basically handles everything because Philip is on trial for murder. They do make some pretty big decisions in this book, but no, I am not going to ruin it for you. All I will say is, that like everything else in this series, their decisions involve spending boatloads and boatloads of money.
TRIUMPH: A Buckhead Tale Appearances Trilogy: Book Three
Publisher Description: “Charles and Philip Barnett have settled down to raise their children, but their domesticity is disrupted when Philip’s nephew Steve is delivered to their doorstep early one morning after being beaten senseless by his homophobic father. So the family grows, but of course, that’s the easy part. A rabidly fundamentalist sheriff and a gay-bashing incident leave Steve and his new boyfriend in legal hot water and at the mercy of the deputies’ harassment, and Charles must once again take up the fight for justice for his loved ones.”
It was actually the blurb for this book that led me to read this series. Stories about kids getting beat up, especially for something they have no control over, like being gay, really tick me off. I really wanted to find out what happened to Steve. Well, Charles and Philip save the day, and Steve heals. There is lots more kick-ass lawyering in this story for sure, and it’s nice to see justice served.
It is also great to watch Steve grow up in this book. He is not your typical teen, and he turns out to be pretty remarkable. It’s not all smooth sailing, but the end result is great. Like I said, this is my favorite of the three.
So are these three worth the read? I think so, but I do think that they are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But they might give you some perspective on the world that you won’t experience any other way. For me, that’s enough. enjoy!