Saturday, February 19, 2022

Renovated to Death


Renovated to Death is the first book in a new cozy house renovator series by Frank Anthony Polito. Due out 31st May 2022 from Kensington, it's 288 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a house/decorating cozy built around the premise of a HGTV type renovation team who are also partners in real life as well as on their house renovation TV series. It's an ensemble cast and made up of the gay couple (PJ and JP) who are the stars and creative duo behind the TV show called Domestic Partners. Their season project for the show is a craftsman built bungalow in their immediate neighborhood, unoccupied for decades, and owned by twin brothers who disagree about almost everything, including the house makover. 

It's a new series, and I am looking forward to see what comes next, with some codicils and warnings. The book, the characters, the settings, the ancillary characters, in short everything is quite often almost caricature campy and overdone, nearly (but not quite) breaking the fourth wall. There are a number of super precious details which only served to confuse me. I am still not 100% sure I know which one of the main characters is PJ and which one's JP and don't really care a lot since it doesn't affect the outcome of the story. The secondary characters are largely over-the-top stereotypes: drama queen, gay twin brothers who are constantly at each other's throats, lots of unflatteringly rendered himbo-hook-up-app young men looking for sugar-daddies, sleek token straight couple (bonus points for them being interracial), etc. 

I'm not slamming the stereotypes, but they did make me feel slightly old and straight and melancholy (and tired) from all of the machinations and anger and angst pouring out of the secondary characters. Of the main characters, they're sweetly stable, if a bit precious, and I liked reading about them. One thing which threw me, and I'm not sure it really served the book from a technical standpoint, is that the PoV changes from first person to third person omniscient several places and there was no chapter heading or notation which signaled the change in PoV. The book is absolutely full of fulsome descriptions of house construction and detail terms as well as references to period furniture and decorating. This will likely be a plus for folks who love decorating and house-flipper type mysteries. It's also filled with angsty dramatic scenes around the relationships between the characters - who is secretly seeing who, who's being dumped for a younger replacement, and so forth. I didn't engage much with the confrontations and drama, but they are a significant component of the plot.

It made me smile that the puppy the MCs hope to adopt they want to name Mr. Clyde Barker. It's maybe a little cutesy precious, but it fits very well with the vibe of the book. The language is very clean and although there's a fair bit of talk about who is sleeping with who, there's no explicit content on-page written into the narrative. (No racy bits).

Four stars, with the understanding that readers who object to LGBTQIA+ representation aren't going to find much to like here. It's a very gay positive book, in a sort of lighthearted and campy way.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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