Title: Frog
Author: Mary Calmes
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Frog
Genre: Contemporary
Length: novella ( 178 pages)
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by  Sammy

Review Summary:  A chance at real love between two mature men is derailed by an unrealistic, overly  sweet story line that leaves me wanting just a bit more grit and a touch of reality.

Blurb:  Weber Yates’s dreams of stardom are about to be reduced to a ranch hand’s job in Texas, and his one relationship is with a guy so far out of his league he might as well be on the moon. Or at least in San Francisco, where Weber stops to see him one last time before settling down to the humble, lonely life he figures a frog like him has coming.

Cyrus Benning is a successful neurosurgeon, so details are never lost on him. He spotted the prince in a broken-down bull rider’s clothing from day one. But watching Weber walk out on him keeps getting harder, and he’s not sure how much more his heart can take. Now Cyrus has one last chance to prove to Weber that it’s not Weber’s job that makes him Cyrus’s perfect man, its Weber himself. With the help of his sister’s newly broken family, he’s ready to show Weber that the home the man’s been searching for has always been right there, with him. Cyrus might have laid down an ultimatum once, but now it’s turned into a vow—he’s never going to let Weber out of his life again.

Review:  So I am a second chance type of reviewer, almost always.  I have remarked before that I definitely believe that authors can have bad days, which result in less than stellar work.  It happens to all of us.  A case in point?  Compare Titus Andronicus to Hamlet–enough said!

In keeping with my policy, I forayed once again into the story land realm of Mary Calmes, this time reading her book, Frog.

Now everyone take a deep breath and hear me out, because if you are a Calmes fan, you are already upset that I gave this 2.5 stars and unfortunately this review is not going to make you feel much better.

The story takes us into the lives of two men who have had an on again, off again love affair for many years.  Weber, a down and out cowboy, whose body is worn out from too many years spent on the bull-riding circuit has arrived in town penniless, broken and resolved to leave competitive life behind.  Once again he reaches out to his former lover, Cyrus Benning, a successful neurosurgeon who is hopelessly in love with his cowboy!

What follows this reunion is a sweet, sometimes achingly sweet, story of two men coming to terms with their love and need for each other.  Along the way both discover hidden truths about themselves,  Web realizes that he is worth so much more than his profession and that success in  a given career does not make the man, but rather what is in his heart, how he is perceived by those who love him, make him a man to be respected.  Cy finds that while he is often left feeling needy and less than adequate for his family, he is the only man that can tame his cowboy and the only man his cowboy will ever love.  Cy discovers that it is okay to give over the reigns of control to someone he can trust and who trusts him in return.

And if the story had stopped there, if Mary Calmes had not begun, once again, her penchant for endless repetition of minor themes and overly descriptive passages, if the remarkable endearing children of Cy’s sister had simply been normal, less trusting, less broken…well then dear reader this rating would have gone a very different way.  Alas, it was not to be so.  Let’s look at what were, to me, some major flaws in the writing of this admittedly lovely story.

The endless repetition and overly descriptive passages:

“Crisp, polished, pressed, the tailored dress suit and shirt that cost more than all my earthy possessions…”
“…the cashmere and wool topcoat accentuate the breadth of his shoulder, and the heavy wool scarf was wrapped once around his neck…”
The sweater and jeans underneath, the polished boots, he was a vision…”
“…the gray straw cowboy hat down low over my eyes, and flipped the collar up on the shearing-lined denim jacket…”

And on and on and on.  It got to the point where I began to gnash my teeth in frustration as each time we got rolling along in the story another observance of how someone was dressed ripped me from the moment.  This is Mary Calmes’ achilles heel.  She gets caught up in describing the most mundane things and, in my opinion, her story suffers as a result.

The children:

My god, they were adorable.  Wounded, yet so quick to trust this perfect stranger, this cowboy.  And what about that?  Was I really to believe that Cy’s sister Carolyn, took one look at this man and entrusted her three sons into his care immediately–right after their father had run off with the previous nanny?    Plus the middle boy, Micah, had been traumatized after witnessing the death of his grandmother and was now a self-imposed mute.  Yet after months of therapy, Web comes along and, within a few weeks, the child is miraculously healed and speaking again…oh dear…I just could not wrap my mind around that plot point.  To see childhood trauma treated so cavalierly–so conveniently…well that was disappointing.

This was a sweet romance.  At times it was so achingly sweet that I had to step back and pinch myself to remain calm over the fact that within record time, every member of Cy’s family fell in love with Weber.  It was all so very very easy.  Even the inner turmoil that Web deals with in coming to terms with the fact that he will never  be as successful as his partner…that he will in some way be a “kept man” for his entire life, the ease with which he gives over that constant battle within himself at the end of this novel simply did not ring true.

I think that Mary Calmes is the queen of her overly romanticized, perfect little love stories.  She fills a niche and has ardent fans and deserves to have them.  She writes the same story many times over and never fails to deliver a neatly packaged happy ever after.

So what’s really wrong with that?  Well, in this genre of contemporary m/m fiction, there are so many who manage to do all that this author does but without the pandering, the glib story lines and the too perfect cast of characters.  And given the level of Ms. Calmes’ writing, I think she could as well.  So I suppose, dear reader, it simply came down to a matter of taste…and this story left a bit of a sour one in my mouth.


  • Sammy, I think you can be the perfect therapist to go to for my Mary Calmes’ addiction ;).

    “She writes the same story many times over and never fails to deliver a neatly packaged happy ever after.” – This. Exactly this and I still buy every single one of them.

    And exactly what you said on children – after five minutes they and their mom all are happy to trust perfect stranger. Oh well, I guess it goes along perfectly with – everybody falls in love with him, fast. Thanks for the review.

    • HAHA!! And my rates are so much cheaper!! UHM–Wave–about that raise?? :forit:

      Thanks Sirius!

  • Oh dear. You got a case of the romance book blues! But I do see your point and I understand it. This author is, for me, among those I don’t take to seriously. There are a few on my list that I enjoy reading, but would never review for the reason you described above. They aree fun to read, but objectively there are a few things amiss, doesn’t make them bad books. Just ones you don’t take too serious.

    But it is frustrating sometimes, especially if you liked the previous books!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head Larissa–to approach her novels with the mindset that you are about to read fluff–good advice!! :yes:

  • I agree with what you say, but loved it anyway. Yes, she returns again and again to the same themes. Yes, her protagonists are unbelievably charismatic, always say and do the right things, and everyone falls in love with them, which stretches my sense of disbelief to the point of breaking sometimes. Yes, the kids were unrealistically adorable.

    And yet Mary Calmes is my only buy-on-sight author. There are others who were on that list but fell off after disappointing me a couple of times, but Calmes’s stories, unrealistic as they are, are still a consistently enjoyable experience. But I certainly understand that her story type doesn’t appeal to everyone. I’m not even sure why it appeals to me.

    • Gail, I actually feel the same way as you do. No, I cant say that I *love* her stories, but I certainly am addicted to them, but the reason why I get irritated with myself when I buy her new one is because of your last sentence. I dont *know* why it appeals to me. I do not think that this is a great characterization – to write the same loveable, perfect character in every single story, and would not give a third chance to any other author who does that. With her books – the moment her story is out, I am there. I have every one of hers, except A matter of time series.

      I am totally fine with being attracted to fluff, after all I love fluffy stories as much as I love the deep, serious ones and do not think it is something I need to apologise for, or anything like that, but normally this type of fluff would not be my cup of tea either. Even in my fluff I want well written diverse characters. But as I whined many many times, I just need to know what attracts me in her stories lol.

    • And really?? That’s as it should be–I have go to authors as well–Josh Lanyon, K. A. Mitchell, Kaje Harper–some of my friends would never read them! I think she deserves the fans she has–she really does this type of story well–very well–it is just too glib overall for me!!

  • I had the pleasure (or misfortune) to review Ms Calmes A Matter of Time series and I swore then that I would not review another book of hers. Many of her fans were upset at me because I didn’t absolutely love each and every character in this series especially the MCs who were “just adorable”. The first story in the series was fine but the others were a repeat of the unreal characterizations and incredible, unbelievable plots.

    However, I thought I would give her another chance and I found one story of hers that I loved in the Wishing on a Blue Star anthology called Linchpin. But then I read His Hearth and it was all over for me.

    I can understand the fans’ fascination with Ms Calmes’ MCs even though they are unreal and identical and the other characters just worship the ground they walk on. If you’re looking for a fantasy in a contemporary setting you don’t have to look any further than this author’s books. In the old days she would have been a perfect writer for Harlequin romances where the heroes are scripted and formulaic (as hers are currently), but for someone looking for believable, flawed characters who live in the real world her MCs don’t cut it for me. However, I realize that I’m in the minority which is why I no longer read or review her books.

    I think you have expressed perfectly what I find so jarring about this author’s books. She writes well – I just wish she would grow and give us flawed characters and plots we can believe in.

    • Wave—Harlequin??–just a perfect niche for her–spot on really!! She has a formula and it works for her! What is unfortunate to me is that she is a very good writer. She can evoke some serious reaction-pluck more than a few heartstrings–and she wastes it on repetitive story lines that go nowhere.

      They don’t challenge us–they don’t challenge our thinking or even our emotions. It is like being on autopilot–you sit with a little smile on your face and a sigh in your heart. And sometimes that is good–but a steady diet–oh my, that just leads to indigestion for me. 😐

  • Heh Wave I am sure you saw Dreamspinner ‘s this year collection of short stories is out ( this year theme is Time is eternity or something like that). So this year I would not purchase the whole calendar because I disliked most of the stories when I did it year before last and thought I wasted my money, I only purchased three. You wanna guess if Mary Calmes’ story was amongst those three ? 😉 Yeah need therapy ASAP. Oh and you love science fiction as much as I do – there is a time travel there.

    • Some of the blurbs for the DSP collection are among those circulated to the guest reviewers last Saturday. I thought that many of them sounded interesting. :)

      Re your Mary Calmes’ addiction, maybe you could start a 12 step program with other readers who want to be “cured.” 😆

  • :-) I’m like Gail that this authors is an auto-buy for me, and I guess mostly that’s because I know what I get before I buy. Yes she writes the same characters pretty much over and over but I like her writing style and I know I will be entertained for a couple of hours.
    One of the reason I really liked this one is that both guys are in their 40s and there is no “oh I’m so old” and “old man” stuff in the book. Finally a book that doesn’t make me feel like I’m way over the hill because I hit 40 myself.

    • I agree about the mature characters. Having passed 40 myself, I get very tired of characters a lot younger than me thinking of themselves or being described as old.

  • Hi Sammy, seems I have bad taste in books, because I liked it.
    Not so much as a few of her other stories, but enough that I will buy her next book, too.
    An no, before you have to ask, I’m not an abolutely hardcore fan of MC.
    What I don’t get, if you don’t like the way she writes, why do you write reviews of her books? With Mary Calmes stories you know what you get before you read it, so why bother?
    And why do I get the impression that some people seems to apologize for loving her books? :sceptic:
    I don’t want realism each and every time I start reading a book. If I wanted this, I would never read romance, especially male/male romance. It seems to me reality in this sector looks a lot different than in most romances.
    And yes, in basics it’s the same story over and over again, but who cares? You can say the same about so many other writers. Should I stop reading their books, too????
    Mmmhh, I think I won’t stop, I will indulge in my bad tastes furthermore…. 😛

    • Hi Eve – I can only speak for myself but I wanted to clarify something. I am not apologetic for being addicted to Mary Calmes books. I am more being confused. I watch mindless comedy shows on tv when I am stressed and there is no way I am going to be apologetic about it . The thing is as much as I am addicted to them, I also get angry every time I buy the new book of hers, because no I do not care for reading about the same character in different story over and over again. But something obviously appeals to me in her stories and when I figure our what it is, I will continue buying them feeling much better because I will know what the appeal is for me. Also I am not Sammy but I am not sure since when reviewer giving the book a low grade implies that she is accusing the readers who like it of bad taste?

    • Hi Eve! Thanks for leaving a comment! First, I think I mentioned in the review that I wanted to give this author another chance–I felt like reading just one book by an author is not always representative of their work–remember–“bad days happen”. I though it fair to review a second book to make sure that the things I saw in her previous work were not just a one-off so to speak!

      Secondly, I must apologize if you felt I was in any way judging her fans–not at all–I really do feel she fills a niche that some really like! I am just saying that I think her work could be so much better–if she ever dipped into more reality–more real relational scenarios.

      I hope that helps to clarify my review!! :smile:

  • And Eve–never let anyone suggest to you that you should stop reading an author’s work that you enjoy–and please know–that was not my intention!!

  • Whenever I take book notes — which is not so often as I intend because it takes me too long and keeps me from my TBR list — I find it so much easier (and often more fun) to write about what I don’t like.

    So… I liked this book. It was built like a romantic tearjerker that my younger adult daughter might recommend, one I’d initially resist, then enjoy, then silently pick apart to deny my enjoyment. The implausibilities fit that kind of script; how they’re delivered makes the difference. I’m a sucker for lush description, so that works fine for me. Weber isn’t perfect; his self-esteem is skewed, which could be dismissed as a device, but it’s a real-life problem. And the sex is hot!

  • It’s the Mary Calmes Balm! Gotta have it! I agree, her books could be so much better if she just challenged herself a little bit and stepped out of her comfort zone. I never rate her books very high, and lately I have started rating them based on what I want her to write, not what she has actually written. Bad me. But I have to have it! The total acceptance, the instant family, the intense LOOOOOOVE and holding down. The belonging. I need it.

  • I have to agree with Wave, after A Matter of Time I have given up on her characters being believable. It is what it is.

    However, I did like Again, and reviewed it for this site with a positive reaction, but that was a short novella where the perfection of the main character wasn’t as bad as her other books. 😀

    I have Frog on my Kindle, but your review will push it back down to the bottom of the list for me reading it.

  • I like Mary Calmes, but I couldn’t finish this book. I enjoy the Matter of Time series even if it is a bit sappy, but this book just didn’t work for me. I have up about the halfway point.

  • Hmmm, as a general rule this author’s books aren’t for me and I gave up on them a while back. But a friend who feels the same way, and has very similar tastes in general to mine, said this one was worth reading. I was going to give it a whirl, but after this review I’m not so sure… :afraid:

  • Well, I’m with those who love Mary’s books, but just can’t quite figure out *why*. But I can tell you I’ve re-read every single one of them at least once, most of them twice. There’s just something there that gives me that extra good feeling when I’ve finished the story. This book was no exception. I fell for Weber just as hard as the rest of the characters in the book did. He had me from the first scene in the phone booth. I didn’t want the story to end.

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