Review: St. Nachos – Z.A. Maxfield

St Nachos

St Nacho’s follows the story of Cooper as he tries to outrun the trauma caused by a vehicular accident in his past and ends up working at a bar in the middle of nowhere.

This is probably the first fiction book I have read in a long time with a D/deaf character. Which is also a shame because something didn’t sit right about the way Shawn was written, though I couldn’t exactly place why. Still…onto the review.

St Nacho’s primarily follows Cooper who is running from a traumatic incident in his past and has been in a somewhat self-destructive manner for many years. It’s only later in the book that the reader learns what that incident is and the way it’s written, discussed and even the traumatic incident itself is well put together, and it makes sense that the characters involved would react the way they did. In Cooper’s flight, he comes across St Nacho’s and, after initially only planning to stay for a few days, settles down and develops feelings for Shawn, a Deaf man who works in the same restaurant/bar that Cooper finds work at.

This is a romance novel and as usual I mostly skim read the sex scenes so I don’t intend to try and deduce whether those scenes were well written or not. One thing that didn’t really come through well (and this links to the point I made at the top) is that even though Shawn was the dominant partner in the relationship between Cooper and Shawn he is repeatedly described in the text and by other characters with words such as “puppy”, “baby”, and “angel”. The “puppy” description was the most jarring of them but a lot of it came across as patronising and infantalising in the text, particularly when Shawn was an assertive and dominant character.

There’s also a “magical” element attached to some of Shawn’s actions which does not sit well – such as when the reader is also expected to believe that Shawn can perfectly lip read what Cooper has said at one point while walking ahead of his because he reads his lips from the reflection of a car window… Lip reading is hard enough at the best of times, under those circumstances, that’s just seems unlikely.

It isn’t all bad – while Shawn is very oral, which in and of itself is okay because many D/deaf people are oral, he uses ASL and other means of communication regularly throughout the book. He also teaches Cooper ASL and there are scenes during the book where Cooper seeks out more avenues to improve his signing. He also had the potential to be a memorable and well-rounded character, he was certainly the character throughout the book with the strongest personality, but then the second half of the book happened…

Without giving too much away, halfway through St Nachos a phone-call from someone in Cooper’s past and linked to the trauma he is running from, makes him return to his hometown. The second half of the book had nowhere near the potential of the first half or the depth of character to carry even the number of pages it was alloted. Most of the characters in Cooper’s hometown come across as little more than human props moved from situation to situation with mininal characterisations. Even learning more about Cooper’s past falls flat and the way that he learns to deal with his trauma is equally unsatisfying. So much so that by the time Shawn reappears (and he does just randomly pop up at the beginning of a chapter), I had half lost interest in the storyline and his reappearance did little to improve it. I read to the end just to see what happened and it was a reasonable and tidy(ish) ending with Cooper making some decisions about the direction of his life but I don’t have much more to say about it than that.

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