Caught! by J.L Merrow

22030684
Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Series: The Shamwood Tales #1
Published: 8/19/14
Reviewed by Anne
257 pages

Robert Emeny (Mr. Enemy to his students) is the new teacher in a small town English primary school.  He’s happy to have left his past behind him and settle into this new, less fancy life.  He’s upper crust, wears a bow tie every day, is a bit of a nerd, and is the kind of man that people just seem to figure out is gay.  Sean is the local pest control guy, and uncle to two of Robert’s students.  They each find the other attractive, but there’s some misunderstandings and baggage to work through before they can settle into a relationship.

First off, let me warn you that this book is told from the first person point of view, and that Robert, our narrator has an ADHD style of thought that almost made me dizzy as I read.  That said, it’s hilarious.  So, just go into it knowing what you’re in for.  It works for me, but I don’t think I could read a bunch of J.L. Merrow stories back to back.  Here’s a quick example as Robert looks around, marching his class into an assembly:

 

“Thirty pairs of eyes (actually, twenty-nine and a half; Jodie was wearing a patch for her lazy eye) searched eagerly for the sight of parents and grannies.  I gazed out on the sea of female and/or wrinkly faces in the pews and wondered idly if there was any job in the world, anywhere, that was worse for meeting men than the average primary-school teaching post.  Father confessor in a nunnery, maybe?  Avon cosmetics rep?  Or one of those poor sods who went round emptying the sanitary bins they put in ladies’ loos?” p. 5

Robert is a bit of a geek; math jokes and Doctor Who references abound, and that made the story even more enjoyable for me.  Robert has a couple friends who round out the story and add to the hilarity.  Rosie is a fellow teacher working her way through a recent break up with her boyfriend.  She takes Robert on as a friend and project and works to hook him up with Sean.  Hanne is Robert’s grandmotherly neighbor who enjoys popping into his house and baking him things.  The exploits of Robert’s class round out the hilarity.

In a sweet twist, there’s a side story with one of Robert’s students and his father.  It made for one of those moments where you just sigh and think maybe the world is an ok place.

There are some more serious threads weaving through all the comedy.  Robert is dealing with some baggage from his previous job.  He also worries about coming out to Hanne and being gay in the small town he’s living in now.  I thought it was all really well handled.

The only thing that frustrated me in the story was that Robert sometimes seemed too oblivious or stupid.  I think that’s a risk you face when you have this kind of narrator.  The biggest obstacles to Robert and Sean’s relationship were all in Robert’s head.  Still, it worked for me overall.

If you enjoy m/m, or are wondering if you might, I’d recommend this book.  It’s hilarious and sweet – a story that will keep you laughing and smiling as you read!

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Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane

22033639 

Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: m/m, Contemporary
Published: 7/21/14
Reviewed by Anne
243  pages

Stuart’s partner Mark died in a car crash a year ago and he’s still having a hard time living day to day.  When his dad starts dating a new woman, her son, Paul, calls Stuart to check on Stuart’s dad and make sure his intentions are good.  Stuart and Paul don’t get off to a great start, but recognize the loneliness in each other.  Paul has just moved away from his partner, Ben.  Ben just stops calling, texting, emailing, or contacting Paul in any way.  So, as Stuart sees his dad coming back to life with his new girlfriend, Paul is seeing his relationship ending.  Stuart and Paul decide to get together again and see where things will go.

I really enjoyed this story!  It reminded me of a Lauren Dane story in all the best ways.  You get to know the characters and watch them get to know each other.  They aren’t perfect with each other.  They make mistakes and have to decide if it’s worth the work to set things right.  They each have to decide if they are ready to let go of their previous partners or not.  Just the kind of book I love to sink into!

It’s set in England, which I really enjoyed.  I love the little differences in slang and really appreciate that they weren’t edited out!  Stuart’s dad and Paul’s mom are nice secondary characters.

After I read the book I checked out Charlie Cochrane’s backlist – it’s huge!  I’ve got that giddy feeling you get when you realize there’s a long list of good books to read!  It does look like most of her writing is historical.  I really enjoyed this contemporary story, but next time I’m in a historical mood I think I’ll try one of hers!

This was a great story!  I recommend it to readers who enjoy contemporary m/m and like a slower paced relationship centered book.