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Perfect Score-Susan Roebuck: Review and Interview with the Author

Perfect Score by Susan Roebuck is in many ways a romance, but certainly not your typical romance.  The two main characters, Alex Finch and Sam Barrowdale, are males, but Susan Roebuck handles the romantic relationship that sits at the core of the story very adroitly.  Perfect Score isn't just a romance, however.  It's a story about the powerful and the powerless.

Alex Finch is the adopted son of Timothy Finch, his uncle.  He lives what seems like a charmed life on the surface, but he gets little love from his adopted father. A musician and sentimental heart, he meets Sam Barrowdale when they are both just young teens. Sam is a homeless boy, but despite his ragged appearance, Alex falls in love with him at first sight. Alex's chapters are told in first person, which is a successful technique to show how self involved he can be, but it also works to show Alex as the protagonist who causes much of the relationship between him and Sam to occur. 

Sam's story is much different from Alex's.  Told in the third person, the reader learns he's homeless and often in trouble with the law, and he suffers from several learning disabilities, which make people think he's stupid.  He's often called names like retard, but Sam is bright and sensitive, which is best seen in his care for the animals he takes care of and his relationship with his institutionalized sister, Amy.  He ends up working on Alex's mother's farm, and when Alex goes to visit her years after first meeting Sam, he once again sees him.

But circumstances keep Alex and Sam apart for more time. And when Alex gets his girlfriend Liza pregnant, his life is set in stone.  He will be a father to their child, as he must.

The story is on a deeper level about Alex's cruel and manipulative adoptive father, a very powerful man both Alex and Sam must struggle to free themselves from, and his actions that cause not only the main characters harm but the townspeople around them pain also.

There is no doubt that to have mainstream appeal, a story with a homosexual romance must be handled carefully, and Roebuck does it well.  There is little sex in the story, and what is discussed is brief and in the context of emotions, not just physical parts meeting other physical parts.  She succeeds with the romance between the two characters because she makes the reader care about them.  Alex can't imagine a world without Sam, even before they finally get together.  He's a character readers want to see happy because of his devotion to him. Sam is sweet and sensitive, but Roebuck keeps his sexuality ambiguous for much of the story, unlike Alex's, which is clear throughout it.  But when she finally has the two together, Sam's true feelings for Alex are revealed, and the result is a scene as sweet and sensual as any well written romance.

The epilogue of the story is told from Alex's son's point of view, and it's in this part of the book that the relationship between Alex and Sam can finally be seen at its fullest.  Sam has been the best part of Alex's adult life, even as Alex  has remained to the rest of the world a husband and loving father. 

Perfect Score is a touching story of two people who finally find happiness after years of struggling against the world around them.  Read it and focus on the story and it will be well worth your while.



The Perfect Score..........
Susan Roebuck introduces readers to two unlikely characters in The Perfect Score,  Alex Finch, the seemingly classic underachieving spoiled rich kid, and Sam Barrowdale, an honest and hardworking young man who entered the world with two strikes against him.  An odd encounter when the pair are teens commences the entwining of their opposite but equally difficult lives through the years.
Roebuck's tale begins in the late 1960's, set in the heartland of the United States of America.  Against a backdrop of struggling farms and ranches, Sam Barrowdale ekes out a living as a hired hand, providing for his sister who is quite ill.  Sam's character is quite likable.  He is responsible and dependable.  Alex Finch, on the other hand lives a posh life miles away, and at first comes across as disdainful towards the poor, rural existence of his roots.  These differences leave plenty of room for conflict to erupt, but throughout the novel, as the reader begins to know Roebuck's characters, a terrific depth is uncovered in each man, opening the possibility for their relationship to develop and deepen.

This Broad admits that I was not particularly thrilled at the idea of reading a novel about a homosexual couple.  I would not have sought out Roebuck's book simply because the topic does not interest me.  However, after reading The Perfect Score, I commend the author on a well written story.  Roebuck's storyline was interesting and unique, holding this Broad's attention throughout, ably maintaining tension without venturing into ridiculous and unbelievable drama.  Her portrayal of the love interest between Alex and Sam was done tastefully, and she incorporated this into the novel without allowing their sexual preference to overshadow their innate personalities.  Both Sam and Alex were first and foremost men coping with life and family in their own way, and Roebuck's writing provided each with substance as opposed to relegating them to stereotypical caricatures.

There were a few things I did not like about The Perfect Score.  The beginning of the novel jumped around to cause pause enough that I had to go back once or twice to sort out what was going on.  Also, there were a number of loose ends that I would have liked to have seen dealt with.  Apart from these, The Perfect Score was, in this Broad's opinion, close to perfect. 

We'd like to welcome Sue Roebuck to the Brazen Broads Book Bash today for a few questions about herself and her book, Perfect Score.

Sue Roebuck was born and educated in the UK, but she now lives in Portugal.  She has taught at various colleges and institutions in Portugal, and her interest in dyslexia started with a discussion over lunch with a colleague and friend. Nowadays Sue's mostly occupied by e-learning courses which, when no cameras are used, are also known as "teaching in your pajamas".  But, given a choice, writing would be her full-time occupation.

Working from home presents no problem for her since her office window overlooks the glittering Atlantic Ocean.  The huge container ships, tankers, and cruise liners, which are constantly on their way in or out of Lisbon harbor, are a great source of inspiration (or distraction).

She has traveled widely throughout the States and believes that "being born American is like winning the lottery of life".  If she could live anywhere, she'd live in the Catskills in Upstate New York.

Brazen Broads:  What factors led you to writing as a career?  Had you always planned to be a writer?

SR:  I'm pretty "run-of-the-mill" in this.  I've always loved writing and even won a prize at age 14 with a ridiculous little book (now I look at it).  But I couldn't live in a freezing garret, so I earned a living by teaching, which seemed to take up most of my creativity.  But I've always yearned to write so a few years ago I joined a large writing group in the States, wrote short stories, and got good critiques, which amazed me.  Now I do have more time on my hands so it's going to be writing, writing, writing from now on.  Ah bliss!  I can lose hours when I'm into a story.

Brazen Broads:  What made you choose to write a M/M story?

SR:  It chose me.  Originally, Perfect Score was set in the Catskills Upstate New York.  Alex was a famous musician at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, and Sam was a girl!  But (because I tend to just write and not plan, ahem), everything changed, Sam became a different person, and I decided he had to be a man to be able to survive the horrors of his childhood.

Brazen Broads:  Do you have a favorite character in Perfect Score?  What is it about this character that you connect most with?

SR:  It's Sam.  He had to overcome such odds to become the tough-guy he is that I really admire him.  I know he didn't change much throughout the book (Alex is the one who turned into a different person), but I loved him from the start.  I got scared at one point in the book because I had his name as Sam Riverdale and then realized he had the same initials as me!  So I changed his name to Barrowdale.  I don't think I was writing about myself (anyway, I don't have dyslexia nor did I have a terrible upbringing!)  Mind you, I think I enjoyed writing Alex's parts in the book-I really wanted to get his voice right, and I think I did-he's such a twit (sorry, a Britishism there).

Brazen Broads:  Do you plan to keep writing?  What can readers expect next?

SR:  Too right.  It's already up and going.  It's called The Deepest Secret, and it's set between the UK and Portugal.  The MC will have a special ability (which I'm not going to tell you yet).  At the moment, she's a girl, but who knows how she'll end up.  There's going to be a female bullfighter in it too, but she'll be a very, very bad person.

Brazen Broads:  When will you publish your next book and what type of story will it be?

SR:  Help!  It's not written yet!  It'll be suspense, romance again, and with some very flawed characters, as usual.  I'll probably only think about publishing when the final version is finished (Perfect Score had twenty-seven versions...).

Brazen Broads:  What do you like to read when you're not writing your own stories?

SR:  It's funny, but I don't often read romances.  I had to read up on M/M to write Perfect Score and found some fabulous authors:  Alan Hollinghurst, Michael Cunningham.  My favorite book is the Ghormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake, which couldn't be more different to what I write about.  Although maybe there's something in the I come to think about it.

Thanks Sue!  It's been a delight reading your book and discussing writing with you.  We wish you great success with Perfect Score and your future books!


  1. Thank you, Broads (!). I really love your review and appreciate it. It was great talking to you both.


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