This book had its moments but was disappointing overall. Other reviewers have touched on the issues I had (and I'm planning to elaborate in a more con...moreThis book had its moments but was disappointing overall. Other reviewers have touched on the issues I had (and I'm planning to elaborate in a more considered review) but I didn't get invested in the central relationship at all. Too much tell and not enough show (seriously, I had little sense of Mike as a character, let alone why he and Jason made such a great couple) added up to an unsatisfying read.
I bought this book straight after reading the sample - I seem to be doing that a lot lately. At first it was the unusual setting that drew me in (and...moreI bought this book straight after reading the sample - I seem to be doing that a lot lately. At first it was the unusual setting that drew me in (and it is so lovely to read a novel where the setting is so important, and so well-used) but I soon warmed to the characters and spent a very enjoyable day with this engaging novel.
I have spent some time on a narrowboat (as one of those tourists that drive Robin up the wall) and can only regret that my luck in finding a sexy tattooed man wasn’t as good as Dan’s. Real life is such a let-down. I think it’s fair to say that the setting (and especially Robin’s boat) is almost another character in this book, so integral is it to the plot, but Myles sensibly doesn’t labour the details. Mention of locks and swing bridges may mean more to some readers than others, but if you pick this book up with no knowledge of narrowboats you will be fine.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Dan at first. He seems rather superficial, given to relying on his natural charm and good looks, and lacking in any depth. Robin is the total opposite, a man who doesn’t bother with niceties at all and seems quite happy to live in brooding isolation on his beloved boat. Though these first impressions carry an element of truth it becomes clear to us, and to the characters, that nothing is quite so simple.
As Dan is a stranger to the boating world the narrative begins from his perspective, effectively introducing the reader to the setting without feeling contrived, but does switch back and forth with Robin as the novel proceeds. I found that this was done seamlessly, and at places where the narrative change made sense, and was completely unobtrusive as far as I was concerned. In this, and throughout the novel, Myles’ writing is confident and self-assured.
Dan’s writing and photography bring him further into contact with the boating community, and with Robin, and as the two spend more time together (and as Dan makes himself more useful than he initially appeared) a tentative connection is established. The sex is incredibly hot, and the two seem to get along better than expected but Robin still sees Dan as a rather feckless city boy, and Dan himself is not in the habit of forming lasting relationships. All the signs point to an enjoyable fling but nothing more.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the course of their relationship, but from what I have read of other reviews, many readers have issues with an aspect of the novel. Read the spoiler for my thoughts:
(view spoiler)[The fact is that Dan isn’t entirely faithful to Robin while they are apart, and while he doesn’t have full-on penetrative sex with anyone else, it’s clear that he’s doing something wrong and that Robin will be angry with him. I totally understand why readers have reacted to this so strongly and yet – as someone who usually despises cheating in my romance, this didn’t bother me. I think it was because it’s written as a holdover from Dan’s pre-Robin life, something which as a formerly-promiscuous man he needs to change in himself in order to make their relationship work. The fact that he confesses straight away to Robin also helps, as does the fact that Robin, while understandably pissed, doesn’t regard it as the ultimate betrayal. That said, this is something which all readers will react to differently and while I recommend seeing for yourself, I can see why this aspect of the plot will be a dealbreaker for some. (hide spoiler)]
While Dan and Robin are the stars of the show, I really enjoyed Myles’ portrayal of the peripheral characters, such as the other boaters and members of Dan and Robin’s families. While not always wildly original (Robin’s are the archetypal upper middle class parents) they are vividly written and added a lot of colour to the novel. As Dan and Robin’s relationship deepens the other characters recede for a time, so that the reader can really feel the intimacy developing between them. Then life intervenes and they have to emerge into the real world again, but I enjoyed the other characters enough that I was happy to see them again.
Barging In is on the long side for a novel in this genre which I personally loved love loved. I like that the storyline had time to unfold, and that crucial events were spaced out enough in the narrative (though within a chronologically short space of time) that I didn’t feel that I was racketing from crisis to crisis with no break. The way in which Dan and Robin dealt with their conflict helped with that, in that they are rather blokey and taciturn (and Robin has a habit of turning his phone off to avoid it). Though emotions are deeply felt, and expressed in the occasional outburst, their behaviour on the whole felt realistically low-key to me and so even though there are quite a few misunderstandings, I didn’t feel the exasperation that such plotlines can cause. I felt that both characters’ actions proceeded logically (even if illogical!) from what I knew of them and their background, and so I didn’t question it.
I will say that as long as the novel was, the ending felt a wee bit rushed to me. I really liked the idea of the conclusion, but felt that it happened a little too quickly and neatly. I loved that both men realised that they needed to make changes and compromises for their relationship, and that both had come such a long way in order to do so. It felt like a realistic and sustainable path to a happy ending, and so I was all geared up for a lovely romantic reunion, but the actual ending felt a bit pat. I was willing to go along with it because I enjoyed the rest of the book so much, but I think the execution of the ending was less satisfying than I had hoped.
That is my only quibble though, and didn’t really harm my enjoyment of this book. I’d recommend it very highly and look forward to reading more of Josephine Myles’s work.
Review first posted at Some Old Story["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
After about 65% of this book I switched to skim-reading, because I was so utterly sick of the protagonist and the circle of fools who continued to ass...moreAfter about 65% of this book I switched to skim-reading, because I was so utterly sick of the protagonist and the circle of fools who continued to associate with him despite his incredible dickishness. I enjoyed the beginning as Matt recovered from his near-fatal injuries and started to feel something for James, his nurse. Where the book lost me was the lack of development in Matt's character as the novel progressed and the repetitive fuck-fight, fight-fuck dynamic between Matt and James which bored me. James was initially a sympathetic character, but I found myself thinking less of him for being willing to put up with Matt's crap so consistently. At the end of the novel I didn't believe that Matt had really dealt with his myriad issues, preventing me from believing in the happy ending at all.(less)