James Bromley,
Adding Two to the Heart:
A New Family

(1stbooks, 2002)

Advances in printing and publishing technology have made self-publishing more accessible than ever. The ability to print on demand eliminates costly print runs; books are stored electronically and as many or as few copies are printed when needed or downloaded into an e-book format.

The advantage of print-on-demand publishing is that it provides access to books of local or specialized interest. More often, however, the companies offering print on demand are high-tech vanity presses for authors and books that are nowhere near ready for publication. Such is the case with James Bromley's Adding Two to the Heart: A New Family, in which a widowed farmer rescues twin boys from the car accident that killed their parents, then goes on to foster and adopt them.

This story is riddled with problems. Errors of grammar and punctuation abound. For example, Bromley never uses an apostrophe before a possessive "s," and the best one can say about it is that he's consistent. His word choices are frequently imprecise, such as his confusion regarding "affect/effect" and "lay/lie." Others border on ludicrous, as in the scene where he teaches the boys to milk a cow. He instructs them to take hold of her "breasts," a term I have never heard used to indicate a cow's teats.

The plot is not only hackneyed, it is unbelievable. The reader is asked to believe that the farmer, Rob, would be given custody of two boys not related to him and would be encouraged to adopt them with no indication of anyone researching whether the boys had a guardian. (Apparently, no one bothered to tell anyone in their hometown what happened; the neighbors are still taking care of the house a few months after the accident when Rob brings the boys back to pick up their belongings.) In addition to this, however, Bromley adds an escaped convict who hides out on Rob's farm, a rattlesnake, Vietnam flashbacks and a vengeful figure from the past to the mix, obviously mistaking constant drama for authentic conflict.

All of this happens in 116 pages, which length does not allow for thorough plot development but instead strains the reader's credulity to the breaking point. On top of this, character development is nonexistent; all the characters sound alike, from the 8-year-old boys to the 50-something Rob.

I understand the appeal of self-publishing, especially when it is so difficult to attract the attention of recognized publishers, and for some, it's an appropriate alternative. The majority of those whose works are deposited in the electronic vaults of print-on-demand "publishers," however, seem to be those authors who lack the patience, determination and discipline to master the mechanics of their craft.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 22 February 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.