Chocolate and Cabernet is the first novel by Janet Rhodes, a cop whodunit that deals with uncomfortable subject matter, including sexual bias and homophobia.
The main protagonist of the book is Tony, a young cop with a temper. His partner has a dangerous secret, and despite Tony’s best intentions, he is swept up in the need to keep the secret from the police department of fictional Port Diablo.
Even though in our time more and more people are accepting of same-sex relationships, there are still plenty of folks out there who take gay-bashing to an extreme. Janet Rhodes story is about such people.
It is a bit difficult to understand why a woman would write about a male homosexual relationship when it is an intensely private subject matter, and the experiences, emotions and understanding of men in such relationships is also compellingly confidential. Janet Rhodes tries hard, though, to make the reader live the happenings through the eyes of the gay men involved. However much her voice is empathetic and perceptive, I don’t feel the cause of the liberation of homosexual couples is well served by this mystery format. Part of that is the “preaching to the choir” element, as anyone uncomfortable or downright prejudiced against homosexuality is not likely to pick up this book to read. Nonetheless, Janet Rhodes seems compelled to express herself via this medium, and this strategy may well pay off for her in future writings.
Rhodes’ prose is tight and well voiced, however, and her characters fleshed
out to be three-dimensional and believable. A unique perspective and a brave
storyline draw the reader into the tale and certainly allow the characters many
opportunities to express their distinctive viewpoints and feelings. The
overlapping love stories, both homosexual and heterosexual, move the story
forward to an unnerving but dynamically moving dénouement. This reviewer
recommends that the reader check out the author’s website, at
www.bratcat.com to get a better sense of the her writing history, and perhaps an enhanced impression of her personality and her interest in being a different voice in the literary world.
Chocolate and Cabernet is self-published by Janet (and husband Michael) and is hopefully only the first of her titles to explore difficult subjects with sensitivity and honesty.