It disappoints me to say that I expected more from Mila Kerr’s “Holding Back” and it never delivered. For the record, I will say it’s easy to determine what the problem is…there really wasn’t much of a story to be had in “Holding Back,” and the scenarios were so obviously contrived that I was neither convinced by the measures presented, nor was I convinced of the relationship within the work. I applaud the author in that this was her first F-F story, and I applaud her also for actually attempting to write a New Adult story with GLBT characters, but it left so much to be desired, especially considering I’ve read so many stories of this kind that took the ball and ran with it in much better ways.
I’m usually a person who loves reading stories that are character driven and allow me to see inside the lives of the characters and view their struggles. I read multicultural stories, I read GLBT stories, I like reading books that showcase characters from a number of different backgrounds. What irked me about “Holding Back” was not only the fact that the characters were mentioned as either “straight” or “lesbian” every so often to the point it was overkill, their struggles within their sexual identification and relationships were told more than shown, and they were having sex every other page, with very little else defining the characters themselves and their relationships. I’ll admit in the beginning, there’s some initial set up to showing who Dani and Lex were – Dani’s a famous person (though this is never defined – the book cites Dani as being famous just because she’s a lesbian – I had trouble with this), while Lex is a waitress at a lesbian club. The two meet, hit it off, even considering the measures that Lex is actually a straight woman. Lex keeps emphasizing the fact that she’s never been with a woman, and this is repeated over and over and over. I kept thinking “I understood that the first time, you needn’t repeat that factor – it’d be better to use that space to actually develop who Lex is in terms of her relationships and background. I’d also like to see that with Dani because there’s not much given to make either one of them stand out or memorable.”
Unfortunately the characters aren’t delved into – there’s no deep POV or any expansion on the issue of them dealing with their sexuality issues and relationship beyond surface development. They instalove and have multiple measures of sexual encounters that feel repetitive for such a short text. Not to mention the fact that the conflicts that they encounter are incredibly contrived – what with the discrepancy of a friend having a female name (Shay) but actually being male, and jealousy games that really didn’t have a strong backing to begin with. I read through to the end, but I kept thinking “This could’ve been so much more than what it was.”
It was a quick read, but I didn’t care for it, unfortunately. I think it needed so much more development and actual stakes in the story to make it more compelling. The characters felt too threadbare, and the encounters and conflicts were far too shallow for me to connect to anything in the story.
Overall score: 1/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.