Mind Fields – Dylan Madrid (Bold Strokes Books)

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Love can cure just about anything that’s wrong with your life, which is a lesson the most jaded among us should remember from time to time. That’s what keeps the whole genre of romance novels afloat. Sometimes those books are believable and sometimes not, but when the buy-in is there, the piece can pack a dangerous punch. And Dylan Madrid slugs it out with the best of them in Mind Fields.

Broke college student Adam Parsh is just beginning to realize what his best friend Victor Maldonado, who has been crushing on him for some time, means to him when he’s offered a tutoring position in the home of the ultra-rich, mega-sexy creep Dario Vassalo, a married Greek tycoon. But Parsh is not the first boytoy tutor he’s hired for his daughter Anastasia. Will Adam forsake paying the rent and follow his heart instead? Or will the temptation into riches become too great?

The answer isn’t as easy as you might think. Madrid is a savvy writer who throws a number of stumbling blocks in the way as Parsh makes his decision. Vassalo’s money has also enabled Parsh’s mother to get a promotion at the financial institution she works at because he throws a substantial financing project their way. Parsh’s maddeningly tentative relationship with Victor is another obstacle, as is his fondness for his charge Anastasia. In fact, all of the characters from Parsh’s mother right down to Vassalo’s wife, Evangelina, are so well-written and compelling they lift the somewhat standard plot high and force us to re-examine it in a new light. Victor’s vulnerability, in particular, is heartbreaking. Even Myrtle, the salty cabdriver who runs Parsh back and forth from his apartment to the mansion, gets a turn in the spotlight.

Parsh, however, is the star of the show and gets to expose all facets of his personality: his brash outer confidence as well as his soft, malleable center. He is, however, less flexible than anyone else here, serving to anchor the plot and be the shore the other characters crash against. Everyone else has a quirk. Parsh does not, and for this reason, he seems less interesting than the others on the surface. His shrewd observations, however, drive the plot and illuminate the personalities surrounding him. Vassalo is an able, perhaps even affable, villain. However, he turns effectively dark and threatening when menace is needed. The only ball which seems to have gotten dropped is Parsh’s roommate Stacey, a budding alcoholic who early on seemed to be adding to Parsh’s daily drama in a very real way but disappears almost entirely in the last third of the book.

But Mind Fields, thanks to Dylan Madrid’s skill, is more than the sum of its parts. He combines these discrete pieces into an extremely readable and altogether believable whole as energetic as it is entertaining.

©  2013  Jerry L. Wheeler

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