Cephalopod Coffeehouse January 2018: Coming to a PRESSURE HEAD

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Today I’m continuing my Enemies-to-Lovers theme with a contemporary M/M mystery romance from JL Merrow. PRESSURE HEAD is the first in the Plumber’s Mate series of truly fun mysteries that add a little romance. The main character is a plumber with a knack for finding water and lost/hidden items–including dead or missing people. It’s set in England, and has the absolute vernacular. The book came out several years back, but is being re-released by a new publisher.

About the book:
Some things are better left hidden.
Tom Paretski’s not just a plumber with a dodgy hip courtesy of a schoolboy accident. He also has a sixth sense for finding hidden things. Called in by the police to help locate a body near Brock’s Hollow, he’s staggered to encounter Phil Morrison, his old school crush—and the closeted bully whose actions contributed to Tom’s accident.

Phil’s all grown up now, and Tom’s unwilling attraction to him is back with a vengeance. Phil’s now openly gay—and what’s more, he’s interested in Tom’s personal charms as well as his psychic talents. As a private investigator called in by the dead woman’s parents, Phil is sceptical about Tom’s unusual gift, but nevertheless quick to spot its potential to aid him in his work.

The further they go with the investigation, the less they can ignore their shared past, and the more the pressure and the heat build between them. But Tom isn’t certain he wants to know the secrets he’s helping to uncover, while there’s a murderer on the loose who won’t hesitate to kill again—and this uneasy couple is moving right into his sights.

My Review:
Tom Paretski is a plumber with an unfortunate name–his step-granddad was Polish, and customers continually marvel at Tom’s fluent English–and a family that’s still rather posh. Tom might have gone to uni if his schoolmate bullies hadn’t terrorized him into running into the street and getting hit by a lorry–resulting in eight months of surgeries and therapy and no time to study for his A-level exams. A decade later Tom’s philosophical about it; he’s had an inexplicable gift for finding water, which helps him on the leak trail. It’s also good for lost or hidden things. The more guilt associated with the secret hiding place, the stronger Tom can sense it, like a beacon of shame. And, his pal on the detective unit sometimes calls Tom in, on the down-low, if there’s a big search on.

It’s how he reunites with his chief childhood bully, Phil Morrison. Phil was a London cop, but now he’s returned to their hometown to set up a business in personal investigations. Phil doesn’t believe that Tom just stumbled across the body of the woman he’d been hired to find; he assumes Tom must have had inside information, info that could help his clients–the parents of the deceased girl and her devastated boyfriend–find peace and justice.

Tom isn’t best pleased to find Phil on his tail, or that he still, unwillingly, find Phil to be handsome. He wants to hate Phil for the part he played in Tom’s nightmarish bullying, and eventual injury. Phil though it was just boys-being-boys, but he’s sensitive enough to recognize that Tom’s understanding of the situation back then was very different from his own. And Phil admits a very serious level of respect for Tom, who was out and not-so-proud back at school. Phil suffered a lot of insecurity in those days, having been closeted himself, and a welfare family. Tom seemed smug, and posh, then, Phil thought, but only because Tom was afraid to get close to anyone and be pounded. Interesting that both men had a secret hankering back in school.

Now, however, Tom’s proved his valuable skill to Phil, and Phil’s taken to bringing him along in his investigations of the murder. It gets really dicey when they learn the victim had some issue within the church–where she volunteered in the budgets office. Lots of suspicions are being made about her boyfriend, a recovering addict, too. And it seems the only person with sufficient motive may have been the vicar, who’s hiding with his rather sordid past of wild sex parties.

The combinations of characters really bring this story to life. Tom’s casual English and affable nature win over some of the most recalcitrant of witnesses. I loved the banter, and Tom’s sharp wit. The enemies-to-comrades-to-lovers angle worked out well, with appropriate delay and catch-up. And outrage, on the part of Tom’s pals and family; they all have a poor opinion of Phil from that school days. It’s interesting how fastidious Phil is about his clothing, car and flat–that he makes a great effort to look the part of the successful man, to distance himself from his impoverished childhood. Meanwhile, Tom, who was raised in a middle class family, has a workingman’s profession. So there’s some interesting class themes explored, as well as redemption for both Tom and Phil, for their bad childhood behavior. Their romance is sweet and catches Tom by surprise, in a good way. Expect a little bit of sexytimes, when they finally get on the same page, I’ve read two other books in this series and highly recommend them all.

Interested? You can find PRESSURE HEAD on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and be sure to check out the reviews for my fellow Coffeehouse presenters this month:

New Opportunities SPUN!–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M British romance from JL Merrow. I really enjoyed CAUGHT!, OUT! and PLAYED!, the three books in the Shamwell Tales series, so I was eager to jump into SPUN!. I actually finished it over a month ago, but I got busy and forgot to post the review. O.o

About the book:
With friends like these . . .
An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

My Review:
David Greenlake is a flamboyant gay man with a deep desire to find Mr. Right. He’s a romantic, but he always seem to get involved with men who plan to use him. His mother argues that he should look for a blazing passion, but David really only wants a cozy hearth fire. He gets mixed up with a dashing older man, Xav, at a company party, unaware the man is married…to his boss’ sister-in-law. So, he’s immediately sacked.

He flees to the country, and his friend, Mark–who was once his boss and his crush. Mark and his partner Patrick live in Shamwell, and were the love story described in OUT! Mark is a decent guy, and helps David out with a part-time job, and finding him a room to let with Rory, Patrick’s mother’s ex-boyfriend. Rory is a divorced man, kind and doting on his two young children, and ashamed his wife left him for a wealthier man. He’s a guy with a giant heart, and he wears it on his sleeve. He’s a postman, and his attention to life in Shamwell is nothing short of intense–he notices people, and he’s sure to be a friend to anyone in need. That includes David.

Living in their close-quarters home is sweet for both David and Rory–they like the quiet life, and vegging out with shows on the TV or computer. David’s got a special friend, hew childhood teddy Geoffrey, that he sews dapper outfits for, and takes with him places. It’s charming to Rory’s children, Lucy and Leo. Especially Leo, who speaks to David as if they are old friends, when he doesn’t normally speak to anyone but Lucy, and certainly never to his overbearing stepfather. Rory has a decent relationship with his ex-wife, and wants more time with his kids, so he’s particularly happy to see that David gets on with them.

This is a slow-burn odd couple romance with Rory spending a lot of time pondering his unexpected attraction to David. David adores the closeness he feels with Rory, and his kids, and it’s almost like an instant family, without all the sexytimes. But, he wants the sexytimes, bad. It’s also problematic when Mark admits he doesn’t really have enough work to keep David employed long, and the alternative seems to be an offer from Xav to be his ‘kept boy’ as a piece on the side in London. It’s hardly a burning passion, and not even a shadow of the tenderness David experiences in the platonic hearth fires of Rory’s humble abode.

I loved the ending of this one, as it’s so happy on so many fronts. David and Rory find a way toward intimacy, and their little family is united in love. David makes changes that allow him to stay employed, and in Shamwell, without selling his body to a higher bidder, and he’s wiser and happier with Rory at his side. David has a bit of a child-like manner, what with Geoffrey Bear and his relating to all the kids he meets, but he’s a smart man whose childhood wasn’t complete and that leaves him sweetly vulnerable. Rory’s sure he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s smart about how to act in a relationship, and while it takes him some time to come to terms about his new attraction, he’s honest and unwilling to hide his love for David.

Interested? You can find SPUN! on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, and English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

CAUGHT! in the Truth–A TBR Thursday Review

Hi there! Today I’m working off my TBR Thursday list and pulling out a contemporary M/M British romance from JL Merrow. I really enjoyed OUT! and PLAYED!, the second and third books in the Shamwell Tales series, but I’d always wanted to read the first–CAUGHT! Now that it’s been re-released I jumped at the chance to check it off my TBR.

About the book:
Bow ties are cool . . . but secrets, not so much.
Behind Robert Emeny’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But then he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.

Sean Grant works in pest control, lives on a council estate, and rides a motorbike. Robert is an ex–public schoolboy from a posh family who drives a classic car. On the face of it, they shouldn’t have anything in common. Yet Robert can’t resist Sean’s roguish grin, and passion sparks between them even after an excruciatingly embarrassing first date.

Too bad the past Robert’s hiding from is about to come looking for him. His increasingly ludicrous efforts to keep his secrets are pushing Sean away—but telling the truth could make Sean leave him for good.

My Review:
Mr. Robert Emeny is a certified teacher whose life has taken a bad turn. He doesn’t want anyone to know what drove him from the posh boys’ public school (like a private high school in the States…) into a small-town nursery school as a primary school teacher. He’s struggling to make it through the days, class management of 20 six year-olds isn’t the easiest, but he’s especially taken by the doting until of his troublemaker twins: Sean Grant.

Sean’s twin sister’s been suffering from cancer for years, and he’s lived with her and assisted in the care of his rough-and-tumble nephews since their dad skipped off before their birth. It’s made a crimp in his love-life, but not too much of one. Eyeing up his nephews’ cute teacher–who the kids all call ‘Mr. Enemy’–isn’t a hardship either. Of course, Sean thinks Rob’s likely looking at him as the ‘bit of rough’ he is: being a poor ‘ratcatcher’ (exterminator) and all, but darned if he doesn’t like the way Rob wears his sexy bow-ties and cuddles close on the back of his motorbike.

These two are an odd couple, but they hit it off rather quickly. It’s too quick, though, because Rob’s still reeling from the accusations he faced back at his old school, where he tendered his resignation and lost his boyfriend in one fell swoop. If only he hadn’t been so conscientious…

The secret eats at the relationship, and Rob wants to unburden himself, but what if Sean doesn’t believe him? What if he does what his last partner, the man Rob hoped to marry, did? There’s a lot of fear there, and some deep, deep shame, too. Sean’s hurt feelings need smoothing over, and Rob does the smoothing in the sweatiest way possible…after a jog, people! Sheesh! Perverts, the lot of you. 😉 Just kidding, there’s some yummy sexytimes here.

I was so happy to find this one back on the market, and I’m eager to read the fourth Shamwell Tale, SPUN!, released last month. Expect a review soon.

Interested? You can find CAUGHT! on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, and English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Love is a WAKE UP CALL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M British romance from JL Merrow. WAKE UP CALL is an interesting look at forging a new life after a disabling disease, getting over past hurts, and being open to love even when it’s not easy. I really enjoyed OUT! and PLAYED! as well as BLOW DOWN and LOVER’S LEAP, so I jumped at the chance to read this first book in a series set in a fictional seaside town in Cornwall.

About the book:
South London mechanic Devan Thompson has gone to Porthkennack to track down someone he’s been waiting all his life to know. But Dev’s distracted from his quest by Kyle, a broodingly handsome local of only a few months, who’s already got a reputation as an alcoholic because of his strange behaviour—including a habit of collapsing in the street.

Kyle Anthony fled to Porthkennack to escape from the ruins of his life. Still raging against his diagnosis of narcolepsy—a condition that’s cost him his job as a barrister, his lover, and all chance of normality—the last thing he wants is another relationship that’s doomed to fail. But Dev’s easy-going acceptance and adaptability, not to mention his good looks, have Kyle breaking all his self-imposed rules.

When disaster strikes Dev’s adored little sister, Kyle steps up to the plate, and Dev sees a side of his lover he wasn’t prepared for: competent, professional—and way out of Dev’s league. With one man determined that they don’t have a future, and the other fearing it, life after Porthkennack is starting to look bleak for both of them.

My Review:
Devan Thompson is a 24 y/o mechanic who desperately wants to know who his family was. He was given up for adoption, but the family who took him disintegrated when he was young and he was shuffled from placement to placement and group home to group home until he aged out of the system. He recently learned that his birth mother is alive and part of a prominent family in Porthkennack, a seaside town on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast, so he’s come on an extended holiday to attempt to meet her in person, now that his attempts to reach her via email have been ignored.

While getting up his courage, and staking out the lay of the land in Porthkennack, Dev meets Kyle, when it seems he’s collapsed due to heavy drinking at eleven in the morning. That’s what a local girl says, anyway, as the townies see, Kyle, the strange new resident, as a lewd mystery. Dev didn’t smell any alcohol though, and some of his “caregivers” were chronic alcoholics, so he’s familiar with the signs. Digging deeper, Dev learns that Kyle was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy, and he is often struck by attacks of either quite suddenly. He retired from his job as a barrister, fearing that he’d have an attack while in court, and not being able to control his situation left him bitter and frustrated. Kyle’s unsure what Devan might want with a surly, broken man like himself, and isn’t excited to even begin a friendship. But, Devan also knows people, not just cars, and he’s got precious little else to do. Reuniting with his mum seems as exercise in failure, and he’s glad to have Kyle’s shoulder to cry on when it gets ugly.

I liked this textured and layered story of two isolated men building a connection that makes them both whole. Devan’s sweet and faithful attitude is a balm to Kyle’s wounded heart. Kyle has worked his whole life for a career that now seems moot–and he laments giving up on so many opportunities to have a richer life for studies that haven’t borne fruit. Kyle has a lot of resentment about his disability, but Dev hardly finds it a challenge; he’s searching out ways to accommodate Kyle’s attacks and Kyle’s touched that this stranger is more compassionate and conscientious than his former lover of several years. Meanwhile, Dev’s always lamented his lack of family. He’s desired the connections all his friends have–someplace to go come Christmas, and people who build a life around knowing you. His dreams are realized in Porthkennack, but not in the way he anticipated. This is a sweet and tender romance, with some steam, but it’s also an interesting story that educated me regarding new disabilities and the insensitivity some have towards afflicted persons.

Interested? You can find WAKE UP CALL on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, and English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Surviving a BLOW DOWN–Release Day Review!

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Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new contemporary M/M mystery/romance from JL Merrow. I’ve recently enjoyed her recent books, PLAYED! and OUT! so I stepped into her murder-mystery M/M romance Plumber’s Mate series, and I was not disappointed! BLOW DOWN is the fourth book in the series, but I had no trouble loving it despite not reading the earlier books.

Blow Down (The Plumber's Mate, #4)About the book:

Death is what happens while you’re making other plans.

The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, Book 4

The last thing newly engaged plumber Tom Paretski needs is to stumble over another dead body. He’s got enough on his mind already as the reality of his impending marriage sinks in. Not only is his family situation complicated, his heroism at a pub fire made him a local celebrity. Now everyone and their uncle wants a piece of his psychic talents.

Hired to find a missing necklace, Tom and his fiancé, private investigator Phil Morrison, wind up trying to unmask a killer—and there’s no shortage of suspects, up to and including the local bishop himself.

As Tom and Phil try to uncover the truth, they find themselves pulled in all directions by the conflicting pressures of their families and their own desires. But the murderer they’re up against is a ruthless schemer who won’t hesitate to kill again. If Tom and Phil aren’t careful, their love—and all their plans for the future—could be blown down like a house of straw.

Warning: Contains a bishop of questionable Christian charity, a necklace of questionable taste, and a plumber of questionable nationality who may be running out of time.

My Review:
This is the fourth book in a series, but I didn’t have any trouble enjoying it without having read the previous three books.

Tom Paretsky is a plumber with a skill that allows him to find “lost” things. Unfortunately, he often finds dead bodies, it seems. He’s newly engaged to Phil Morrison, a private investigator. Tom’s called in as a favor to his sister Cherry, to find something lost, a valuable diamond necklace, for uppity Amelia Fenchurch-Majors. This puts him on the cross side of Amelia’s step-daughter, Violet Majors.

And, when he discovers a body in the midst of the church picnic fundraiser it’s a big, big problem.

Okay, so this is a mystery and it has lots of peril–some bits more mild than others–but it’s also a character study. Tom is fantastic. His language is sublime. I never, for an instant, was confused about his Britishness.

“So, I’ve had everyone and his bloody dog asking me all kinds of crap ever since, up to and including Will it rain tomorrow? and Can you just fill in this lottery form for me? ta very much.”
“That’s just silly. You can’t do anything like that.” She paused. “Can you?”
“Sis, I live in a two-bed semi in Fleetville. What do you think? But try telling them that. Everyone seems to think psychic means whatever they bloody well want it to mean.

Tom and Phil are a sweet couple, still trying to figure out what to do with their relationship. When will they marry? Where? Will they move to Tom’s house, Phil’s flat or elsewhere? Tom has yet to meet Phil’s family–and that’s a fun Sunday roast dinner scene.

Seriously, I was so entertained by Tom I almost didn’t care at all about the murder mystery. Though, the investigation continues and it’s complicated and sordid and there’s plenty of dead-ends and fits and starts. Tom has such a fun and fresh outlook. His dry humor just sings to my soul. I love his bestie, Gary, who makes it perfectly clear that he and his hubs wouldn’t mind a bit of four-way with Tom and Phil. Those sassy blokes! This regular-guy-with-a-gift mystery is just good reading. Expect a harrowing moment or two; the killer sure doesn’t want a psychic getting the better of him (or her!) and might take the opportunity to snuff Tom’s candle. Little bit of sexytimes, but it’s not a big part of this story at all. That said, I liked that their relationship progressed nicely, and in a way that very likely leads us into further mystery stories down the pike.
Sign me up!

Interested? You can find BLOW DOWN on Goodreads, Samhain Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, and English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

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Going For It: LOVERS LEAP–A Review

Hi there! I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance out today from JL Merrow. I’ve loved several of her books already–OUT! PLAYED! and To Love A Traitor–so I jumped at this one. LOVERS LEAP is a funny odd couple romance between a young budding chef and the big, burly, gift from Poseidon he rescues from the waters off the Isle of Wight.

Lovers LeapAbout the book:

If they looked, would they ever leap?

Good-looking, confident, and doted on by his widowed mum, Michael is used to thinking only of himself. Getting shoved off an Isle of Wight pier by an exasperated ex ought to come as a wake-up call—but then he meets Rufus and he’s right back to letting the little head take charge. Rufus is cute, keen, and gets under Michael’s skin in a disturbing way.

Would-be chef Rufus can’t believe his luck when a dripping wet dream of a man walks out of the sea on his birthday, especially when Michael ends up staying at the family B&B. Life is perfect—at least until Michael has to go home to the mainland.

Rufus can’t leave the island for reasons he’s entirely neglected to mention. And though Michael identifies as bi, breaking his mum’s heart by coming out and having an actual relationship with a guy has never been his plan. With both men determined to keep their secrets, a leap of faith could land them in deep water.

My Review:
4.5 Stars for this humorous and heart felt contemporary M/M romance.

Michael is the youngest of four children, by a ten year margin, and the only son. His father died before Michael was born, so he’s been highly sheltered and protected by his mother and three older sisters. Micheal is a closet bisexual, as he’s sure his mother won’t approve of him with a bloke. Michael is visiting the Isle of Wight in February with his girlfriend of three weeks, Trix, and deciding right then that he’s rather tired of her–at which point she pops The Question. His stammered refusal results in Michael swiftly plummeting off Sandown Pier and into the water.

Rufus Kewell is a leapling–a child born on Leap Day and he’s strolling under Sandown Pier when he crosses a dripping Michael–clearly a gift from Poseidon for his “fifth” (20th!!) birthday. There’s some humorous banter and it’s not long before Michael’s forgetting all about his wet adventure in bed with dear young Rufus. Rufus was born and raised on Wight, and stays on as cook for the B & B that his father and stepmother run. In order to keep it afloat, Rufus has turned down all offers to leave the island to go train as a chef in restaurants on the mainland.

During the course of several days Rufus and Michael get tightly acquainted. But Rufus won’t leave Wight (he claims fear of the water crossing) and Michael won’t tell his mother about having a boyfriend. For these two, they need to take a leap of faith to make it work.

This is such a rollicking, sweet tale, with aggressive, obnoxious and obtuse Michael swaggering his way in to Rufus’ life. And, for Michael, Rufus’ tender charms and selflessness make him want to reach beyond his self-centeredness and be a stronger man. There were some tough love moments carried by Rufus’ best friend, Liz, and even Trix as they both try to convince Rufus that Michael is no good for him. Also, Liz wants Rufus to man-up and go to culinary school. And, there’s a poignant and difficult ordeal with Michael’s staunchly Catholic mum.  I really liked the sentiment and comedy of errors that this plot followed. Plus, a Love Shack was not only located, it was employed. Such fun.

I pretty much inhaled the book in one early morning read. The one thing I might have loved more: more sexytimes. Things got a bit subdued on that front early. *tuts* That said, it’s a fun one filled with delightful Briticisms, great banter and a few praises to Poseidon. Take the leap!

Interested? You can find LOVERS LEAP on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.

JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Daddy’s OUT! What Next?

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a just-released M/M romance form JL Merrow. OUT! is a contemporary romance that features a mature divorced man getting his new life started, with a hot young boyfriend. Oh, and his daughter’s there to take him down a peg, or three.

Out! (Shamwell Tales, #3)About the book:

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.

My Review:

This is the third book in a series but can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

4.5 Stars.
Mark is a 39 y/o closeted gay man, who is recently divorced from his wife and assumed custody of their 14 y/o daughter Fen. His ex-wife is the only one he’s told of his sexuality, and he thinks he’s been canny enough that no one will suspect. He’s given up his lucrative career as a tax advisor (one of those blokes who tells the uberwealthy where to hide their money from the taxman) and moved out of London into Shamwell, a countryside village that is the location of all books in this series.

Mark hasn’t had regular contact with Fen in a long time. Even when he lived with her, he was basically a workaholic and hardly saw her. He has fond memories of her being a doting child and immediately thinks he can quell her spate of rebelliousness–that which got her expelled from her school–by installing her in a private school in Shamwell. Oh, poor deluded father. Fen has no trouble giving dear old absentee dad the raw side of her tongue. Or, well, the silent-but-haughty treatment. Don’t get the wrong idea about Fen, she’s aces.

Patrick is a 25 y/o aid worker who is well-out as bisexual, and still gets along mighty well with the locals in a men’s social group, the Spartans Society. He meets Mark when Mark shows up for the club, and begins going out with the group. Patrick’s drawn to Mark, but Mark puts him off. He doesn’t want to tip Fen off about his sexuality. (Oh, poor deluded father!!) Funny thing, Fen KNOWS all about Daddy Dearest, even if he doesn’t wish it so.

I adored how addled Mark was regarding being a parent. I guess I thought he had it coming to him, on account of being a bit pompous and overconfident and still endearingly oblivious. He felt like he was so slick, and so savvy and this 14 y/o girl thwarted him, and befuddled him, and figured him out and played him, by turns. In truth, Patrick owes that girl a life-debt, as she was the one who not only addressed her father’s closet full of skeletons, she pushed her father to find a new partner. Fen, for herself, wants a stable family. And she doesn’t care if she has two dads in her home. At all. Turns out two of the people she most bonds to in the book are Mark’s flamboyant gay former-assistant, and Lex the genderfluid assistant to Patrick.

There’s some issue issues between Patrick and Mark regarding Mark’s former job as a tax (cheat’s) advisor. This has to do with social services in England, and the lack of them when people don’t pay their taxes. It was a very minor part of the story. I liked it for my own self, mostly because I’m rather sanctimonious about people paying their “fair share”, but I doubt that’s the case for every reader. That said, its a SMALL part of the narrative and the one part that Patrick’s mother–a bit of “tarty” lady who disapproves of her son’s choice in partner–actually tries to smooth over.

There isn’t too much heat here. There were a few frustrating interrupted trysts and false-starts (for the characters and myself) Every time Mark and Patrick seem to get things rolling there’s an interruption–for the first two-thirds of the book. That said, I liked the book a lot. It’s funny and smart and I loved that Fen was so great a kid. That girl has a right head on her shoulders. I did really like Patrick, and I liked how Mark had to really grow up, and become the adult he’d rather been playing at his whole life.

Interested? You can find OUT! on Goodreads, Samhain Pblishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.

JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!