Bully 4 Love by Steven Paul

Bully 4 Love

Whether you read it in books, hear it in songs, or watch it on TV or the movies, love can mean a lot of things. It can be a many splendoured thing, it can conquer all, it can hurt, or it can be complicated, to name a few.

Veteran author and producer Steven Paul Leiva has taken the complicated approach to the concept of love in his latest novel Bully 4 Love. And after reading it, you will agree that he has taken the genre of the romantic comedy (or “romcom”), and has given it a pretzel-like twist, which ends up like a reading experience that you have never dared to endeavour before.

Bully 4 Love

Bully 4 Love by Steven Paul Leiva (Magpie Press, $19)

The story centres around Adolphus Seruya, a world history teacher at a community college in Pasadena, California. One day in 1990, prior to one of the history classes he was about to teach, Adolphus suddenly got thunderstruck. The source of that thunderstruck? A very attractive student named Lavinia Carson.

Adolphus is not only taken with Lavinia’s breathtaking beauty (which to him is more reminiscent of Grace Kelly), but also her unique interest and grasp of world history, which altogether doesn’t faze his relationship with his platonic (and later serious) girlfriend Margaret Kathleen Bradford (aka Peggy), his foil and better half.

But following a class of his, something jars Adolphus’ memory of his younger years when Lavinia enters the Mercedes vehicle driven by her rather towering husband. And that’s when the plot gradually enters its rather seriocomic phase that will dominate the book’s second half.

Lavinia’s husband is named Eugene Carson; however, Adolphus discovers that Eugene is actually Gene Pytka, a former friend in elementary school who ends up being Adolphus’ bully and tormentor by the time they reach high school. And Gene’s schoolyard terror campaign against poor Adolphus (or as Gene affectionately refers to him as “Adoofus”) gets more brutal as their high school years move on. In fact, it reaches its violent peak when Gene literally shreds Adolphus’ face against a stucco wall, leaving him with permanent facial scars.

Stan Carson, who owned a local rock and sand company where Gene’s single mother worked at, makes amends with that situation by not only compensating Adolphus for the trauma he suffered, but also straighten out Gene by marrying his mother and take the necessary steps of giving him a second chance, which includes getting him involved in the family rock and sand business.

Many years later, Gene (now Eugene Carson) pays a visit to Adolphus’ Pasadena City College office to deliver some sad (and somewhat bizarre) news. First, Lavinia was tragically killed in a car accident. Second, Eugene decides to honor Lavinia’s memory by giving a number of generous endowments to the college and its history department.

Now comes the bizarre part. Another way Eugene preserves the memory of his deceased wife was to commission a number of aging portraits of Lavinia that will be changed in their mansion every 10 years (take that, Dorian Gray!). And then, Eugene boldly declares his love for Adolphus (and this is not a misprint).

This puts Adolphus in a very uncomfortable, unusual situation. Should he accept his former bully’s affectionate declaration, which will have fringe benefits attached to the college and his financial security … or just dismiss it all as the rantings of an emotionally traumatized former school bully, who is looking for a means of compensation to a tragic personal loss?

Bully 4 Love is definitely not your typical romance novel. And that’s the best part about it. There’s nothing schmaltzy within these pages. In fact, Leiva tears out the wires of the romance genre and scrambles all the circuits, which leaves the reader with some tears, but mainly tears of laughter. It has a sort of Mel Brooks tone to it that will first make you utter “Huh?” and then switch to “Ha Ha”. 

So you if you want a rom com story that breaks all the rules (stucco face-shredding and all), then ditch the Harlequin Romances! Bully 4 Love is the beach and balcony read for you. 

Stuart Nulman
By: Stuart Nulman – [email protected]

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