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Tuesday
Feb062018

Book Review: Gables Court

Gables Court. Alan S. Kessler. Black Rose Writing, January 18, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 265 pages.

Reviewed by Sue Merrell.

Gables Court, by Alan Kessler, is the quintessential beach book: fast-paced, entertaining, and tropical. The writing style is easy and dialogue-driven, and the premise and characters are intriguing.  

The story is set in Florida in the 1960s, and it is easy to imagine Miami’s Dixie Highway and the titular motel-turned-apartment complex that provides the setting for the first half of the book. Samuel, the virgin son of a Boston mobster, has moved into the seedy Gables Court to start his first job as an attorney, signing eviction notices for a local firm. He befriends Gary, a student at a nearby college who blows his tuition money on a foolish scam, and the lovely Kate, who’s free with sex for fun but has no desire to find love. Kessler peppers the tale with other interesting characters like the childless, bedridden landlady who collects dolls and demeans her henpecked husband, and Vera, the efficient but acerbic secretary who does all the work at the law firm.

Although Samuel has strong instincts to do the right thing as a lawyer, friend and lover, his nerves and insecurity overshadow everything he does. Samuel moves out of Gables Court as his career grows and he follows his quest to find true love. Reversing the stereotypical male/female roles, Samuel is looking for his happily-ever-after life, while all the women he meets quickly shed their clothes for meaningless sex. This could be an interesting premise, but the author doesn’t follow through since all the other male characters continue the stereotypical locker room banter as expected, leaving Samuel isolated and unable to connect with like-minded males or females. Although the sex scenes are brief and tastefully handled, Samuel has so many sexual encounters over the course of the book, that it’s difficult to track who is who.  

Samuel’s clients, including Haitian refugees and a suspected Nazi war criminal, add to the milieu of interesting characters and plot twists. The eventual resolutions of these legal entanglements are both surprising and satisfying.

Unfortunately, the shallow, sex-starved female characters are difficult to relate to. Even those with strong religious convictions or social justice aspirations were given only a quick swipe. Further, it would have been nice to see more growth for Samuel during the span of a 10-year career.  For one of the last dates in the book, for instance, a lady suggests sailing. Samuel leaves all the details to her, including renting a sail boat and arranging a rescue. He never lifts a finger or a wallet to offer a sailing adventure that might have been more entertaining and less dangerous.

Despite its shortcomings, Gables Court remained an enjoyable read, and many of the issues, such as sexual harassment and immigration problems, echo today’s headlines.

 

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