To begin, I don't think that the description for this story does it justice. I can't think of one which does, so maybe reading the rest of this review will shed some light on it.
I've read this story two or three times the full way through. For a story of this length, that should be a huge endorsement.
All the characters in this story are great. I can imagine them having lives somewhere, doing things just like they do in the story, and having super hot sex all the time just like it's described here. This alone was enough to make the story interesting, because it felt real. There was also a good deal of character-driven humor during the dialogue, which I always appreciate.
That having been said, there's both a large and small variety in the types of characters. Female characters, with very very very few exceptions, have sex with the main character. Male characters get into fights with him. That essentially describes the plot points, though obviously there's a bit more detail.
Stroke-wise, this story has some of the best sex scenes I've read on SOL. They're fairly engrossing, as is the lead-up to them, even when they aren't "important" scenes. There's a lot of emotion conveyed here as well.
As was mentioned by orangeade, there are some criticisms which are easy to make. The events which set the entire story into sexual motion seem contrived; Damon has known and, in some cases, lived with, these other female characters for a long period of time. Suddenly, however, they start jumping out of the woodwork grabbing him into orgies. Somewhat unrealistic, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief here.
Length-wise, the sex scenes are definitely too long if you are looking to read the tale in one go or to get through the plot points as fast as possible. Sex is the driving force between most of the plot here, so get used to seeing it a lot.
This is a well-written story that's definitely worth reading, and I sincerely hope that the author manages to find more time to write the characters into "unbelievable" situations.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? "Conflicted" brings that question to the fore . . . for the reader, not the protagonist.
Eldridge's "Conflicted" has a heck of a lot going for it, a strong plot that grips the reader, intriguing characters and over-the-top sex scenes from which one can almost see the steam rise from one's computer screen. It's both romantic and nasty, set in a high school milieu with all the expected archetypes, libidinous cheerleaders, murderous football players, a willful rich girl who might have either a heart of gold, or of darkness . . . and a very fortunate protagonist who finds himself involved with luscious young women no matter which way he turns.
Damon Richards might be considered your typical high school senior, except that his life seems filled with surprises and mysteries. Like, why did his girlfriend suddenly announce she'd been cheating on him and break up with him? What led his older sister to abandon the family five years earlier? And what naughty little secret does his younger sister Kelsey and her best friend, Amanda, seem to be sharing?
Throughout Eldridge's well-plotted and choreographed tale, one shares with Damon the sense that the answers to all these questions are there, just out of his reach. Eldridge leaves a clear trail of bread crumbs for the reader every step of the way, the nervous glance, the momentary sad expression, or the misspoken sentiment that drive Damon toward the answers. Does he find out all of the truths that he desires? And if he does, can he live with them? The action takes a lot of turns, concluding with a very long final chapter that could be a story in itself, a Rashomon scenario which Eldridge, to his very great credit, leaves in an ambiguous conclusion that's much more realistic than some kind of pat resolution.
So, the perfect story, right? Well, no, not perfect. For someone who supposedly has spent the last three and a half years at his high school, Damon seems to have been airlifted and dropped into his life without much knowledge of the people around him. His sister's best friend of over a year is the most beautiful girl in school (or, to Damon's way of thinking, in the world), yet he knows nothing about her. And how is it that no one seems to realize that the captain of the cheerleaders is the daughter of the local multi-billionaire oil magnate? Apparently, Eldridge wants the reader to discover these things as Damon does, but too often the reader will feel that Damon has been going through life with blinders on.
The primary problem, though, is the sex scenes. They're very well realized, very hot, very over-the-top . . . and very long, and there are a lot of them. Eldridge never met an erotic adjective that he didn't like, and didn't use again and again. He writes excellent sexual banter, both playful and nasty, but even though each scene has a little something different, there's a sameness to how they read. This would be all well and good for a short stroke story, but this is a tale that aspires to more . . . and achieves it. Bottom line: I found myself doing something that I hate, and that's "fast-forwarding" through the sex scenes, skimming them to get to the more plot-driven part of the story.
How best to combat that tendency? The suggestion here is that you definitely put "Conflicted" in your reading queue, and then approach it bit by bit. Consuming a chapter every three or four days will help keep the reader from scrolling through sex scenes that, as good as they are, seem a bit too much like the one in the previous chapter. And we all do want to enjoy the sex, right?
"Conflicted" is one of those stories that's definitely worth the journey, and is must reading for those who enjoy coming-of-age tales, romantic incest, or simply piles of lustful cheerleaders. And any author who opens his climactic chapter with a quote from "Babylon 5" is going to get my vote.