Kevin Klehr’s debut novel is a quite a mixed bag. On the one hand, his easy style and quick wit makes the novel a relatively enjoyable read but, on the other, the book is rife with missed opportunities and a disappointing lack of depth.
Arriving in the Afterlife, Allan and Warwick have only vague memories of their life and no memory of how they died. They’re best friends and may have once been partners but neither can be sure. The Afterlife is populated with people from all eras but it turns out to be much like real life, with familiar places and situations.
At the centre of the story is the romance of the two protagonists. While Allan pines for Warwick, the latter finds immediate love in the arms of a jealous playwright, Pedro. This unexpected love triangle brings physical and emotional dangers that must be resolved before anyone can move on from their purgatory of unresolved issues.
Klehr’s plot is straight forward and focussed, discarding any notable subplots or character development in favour of progressing the single romantic story. It results in a lack of highs and lows and the plot doesn’t build to a climax or offer any anticipation of things to come. The flat action is often repetitive, whether it’s the number of times someone is kissed on the forehead, or Allan’s perpetual whining about his unrequited love.
There is a mystery, when three attempts are made against Allan’s afterlife, but these happen in such close proximity that the danger soon passes and any sense of ongoing threat, or urgency to solve the mystery, becomes almost irrelevant.
While all the characters lack any real emotional depth or motivation, the biggest disappointment in Klehr’s Afterlife idea is the wasted opportunity to introduce and explore the interaction of characters from different cultures and time periods. With such an ingenious landscape to set his story in, there’s no limit to the friction, comedy and accidental misinterpretations that could occur to complicate matters. Instead, Klehr’s characters, regardless of the time period they come from, seem to all belong to western cultures and share the same societal norms.
On the positive side, Klehr provides a refreshingly different kind of gay love story and the sex scenes, while explicit, are short and few. It’s a story about unrequited love, which is something anyone of any persuasion can related to.
Drama Queens with Love Scenes is light adult reading that takes an inspired idea and does bugger all with it. Klehr’s easy style shows great promise however, and I’m keen to see how he develops as a writer as he explores the Afterlife concept further. A sequel, Drama Queens and Adult Themes, is already released and, as Klehr becomes more proficient in plotting more intricate ideas and characters, there’s a promising future ahead.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 5
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Release Date: October 2014
RRP: US$14.99 paperback, US$4.69 eBook