"The romance between Beatrix Lennox and Stephen Fairfax-Lacey was, to me, the least compelling of the plot strands in this novel. That isn't to say th...more"The romance between Beatrix Lennox and Stephen Fairfax-Lacey was, to me, the least compelling of the plot strands in this novel. That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it, just that I found the continuing story of Esme and Bonnington, and the dysfunctional relationship between Helene and Rees more interesting. [return][return]Once again James juggles a large cast of characters very well. A house party setting can seem a bit claustrophobic but after having read romances where the characters seem constantly to be travelling from one place to another, this was a refreshing change. It allowed James to focus more on the relationships and emotions of her characters. [return][return]Aside from the romance, I really enjoyed the strong female friendships. The love and loyalty between Esme, Helene, Bea and Arabella was a delight to read and contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the novel.[return][return]Again, not my absolute favourite of James' novels, but a very enjoyable read."(less)
"This was definitely my least-favourite of the Girl Bachelor series. Maria was a great character, and I loved the detail about her owning and running...more"This was definitely my least-favourite of the Girl Bachelor series. Maria was a great character, and I loved the detail about her owning and running the patisserie. I just had difficulty with the romance between her and Philip who, in my view, was not a particularly well-rounded character. I didn't get much of a sense of what kind of man lay underneath his rigid exterior and although pages and pages are spent on describing Philip and Maria's childhood relationship, little time was spent on how, as adults, they really felt about each other. I didn't feel that they really spent time getting to know one another again, and so while I could believe in the lust between them, I had a harder time trusting in the love. Those things, combined with a frankly unbelievable final chapter meant that I was altogether unsatisfied with this book."(less)
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)
Having enjoyed Merrow’s earlier novella, Pricks and Pragmatism, I was happy to see another contemporary title from this author. I was a little iffy on...moreHaving enjoyed Merrow’s earlier novella, Pricks and Pragmatism, I was happy to see another contemporary title from this author. I was a little iffy on the premise but I read the Kindle sample late one night, immediately bought the book and then didn’t sleep until I’d finished it at about 3am. You might say that I enjoyed it.
I wasn’t sure how on earth Merrow would handle the inauspicious meeting described in the summary and indeed, it’s the kind of set-up which could have been awful in less assured hands. Instead it’s funny and sweet, as we watch Larry and Al misunderstand one another at every turn, Larry because he’s petrified of this enormous man and Al because he tends to misunderstand things a lot.
Of course the majority of the book revolves around what a mismatched couple Larry and Al are; the well-heeled Cambridge academic and the uneducated, working class former bouncer. Their relationship baffles or outrages almost everyone they know (though not always for the same reason) and is a bit of a mystery to Al himself, and yet it works.
The novella is narrated by Al, which allows Merrow to portray his differences and strengths in a way that avoids patronizing him. The reader is invited to take Al as Larry does, looking past the things which others use to disregard him to see the good, kind, talented man that he is. Being privy to his internal thoughts allows the reader to see that, while not the brightest of sparks, Al is far from stupid. This is made most explicit in Al’s art, where he only needs a bit of encouragement to excel.
The narration also means that while the reader is aware of Al’s insecurity in his relationship, it is presented in the same matter-of-fact way as everything he feels (“I know it’s just fucking, Larry and me”) and so occupies far less of the narrative than the summary may lead you to believe. And it’s clearly not just fucking, because sex scenes occupy a refreshingly small part of the novella. Where present they are as well-written as the rest of the book but as a reader who is a bit tired of writers detailing every single sexual encounter, I appreciated the fade-to-black too.
Although I hate the term, Muscling Through really is a feel-good story. Any bumps in the road are realistically portrayed, but quickly smoothed over, keeping angst to a minimum. But more than that, Larry and Al are both so lovely, and their relationship so sweet (in the best non-treacly sense) that it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with them.
"I loved the first section, then completely ran out of steam partway through the second. I enjoyed the writing but the reverse chronology didn't work...more"I loved the first section, then completely ran out of steam partway through the second. I enjoyed the writing but the reverse chronology didn't work for me at all."(less)
I've really enjoyed work by these authors before, so I was sorry to be disappointed by this book. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was underwhe...moreI've really enjoyed work by these authors before, so I was sorry to be disappointed by this book. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was underwhelmed until I read that the chapters were originally published as short stories, then revised into a whole for this book. I think this explains why I felt that elements of each chapter were repetitious and that while there was character and plot development, it was both limited and halting, as issues emerged and were resolved within each chapter. I enjoyed the beginning, but began to lose interest mid-way through and was skim-reading by the final chapter.(less)
"The book started out promisingly enough - Nadia's confusion about her sexuality was well-written and contrasted well with her mother's enthusiastic r...more"The book started out promisingly enough - Nadia's confusion about her sexuality was well-written and contrasted well with her mother's enthusiastic rediscovery of her own sexual desires. Unfortunately as the story wore on I became increasingly annoyed with both characters and their tendency to fall in love at the drop of a hat. However, I was ready to give the book a solid 3 stars until the incredibly rushed, cheese-tastic denouement wiped out any goodwill I still held for the novel. Disappointing."(less)
"Given the challenging subject matter, Boy A is a surprisingly easy book to read. Jonathan Trigell's prose is literary, poetic in places, always compe...more"Given the challenging subject matter, Boy A is a surprisingly easy book to read. Jonathan Trigell's prose is literary, poetic in places, always compelling and never obstructive. Jack, the Boy A of the title, is the central figure of the book but throughout its 26 chapters, Trigell explores the lives of the people around him, from those who helped shape him into the man he is at the novel's beginning, and those he meets during his new life outside prison. Jack is an immensely sympathetic character, brutalised and occasionally brutal but the reader has no doubt that he has been fully rehabilitated; that the crime which landed him in juvenile detention was an aberration, the product of a particular set of circumstances rather than something 'evil' inside him. [return][return]Though Jack makes friends and finds a girlfriend he cannot escape the truth of his hidden past, nor the reality that many people, urged on by the tabloid press, want nothing more than to see him back in prison for the rest of his life. The themes of justice and forgiveness runs strongly through the novel, and we wonder whether either is truly possible in this case. The two boys are irredeemable monsters, or so the papers say, because to admit the possibility of rehabilitation is to admit that any child could potentially become a murderer. [return][return]Boy A is a very powerful, moving novel. I read it in one evening, but I know that I will be pondering the issues it raises for a long time to come."(less)
"According to the author's introduction to this new edition of Fatal Light, the novel was written following a decade of poetry, prose poetry, and shor...more"According to the author's introduction to this new edition of Fatal Light, the novel was written following a decade of poetry, prose poetry, and short story writing. Currey's experience in poetry and short-form fiction is apparent in the novel's structure, in which vignettes - some no longer than half a page, some poetic, some more traditionally narrative - link together to form a portrait of a young man's experience serving in the Vietnam war.[return][return]While I found the novel moving, and am very glad to have read it, the impressionistic effect of the structure and the highly figurative language of some sections was not quite to my taste. I felt distant from the narrator due to the lack of a strong narrative, and further alienated by many of the prose poetry segments, where I found the imagery obstructive rather than illuminating. This was a surprise since I read a lot of poetry and am no stranger to an oblique metaphor! However, I think it likely stems from my personal preference for longer, narrative fiction rather than being a reflection of the quality of the novel. The fragmented story is itself an excellent metaphor for an incomprehensible conflict whose participants, like the narrator, will struggle to make sense of it. Thus, although it wasn't my cup of tea, I feel my time was well-spent with this novel and do recommend it to others."(less)
"Aww. As much as I enjoy novels about new love, it's sometimes nice to read about a couple with more miles on the clock. Rees and Helene's estrangemen...more"Aww. As much as I enjoy novels about new love, it's sometimes nice to read about a couple with more miles on the clock. Rees and Helene's estrangement has been a thread running through the series, and this is their book. It didn't completely knock my socks off but I enjoyed their gradual rapprochement, particularly because it required both of them to recognise their own culpability in the breakdown of their marriage. Rees was a beast, yes, but Helene caused some damage too. [return][return]I appreciated this nuanced approach in James' treatment of Lina, Rees' mistress. While I wasn't terribly interested in her plot line (and I can quite see how other readers could find being yanked out of the Rees/Helene storyline quite irritating) I loved that she wasn't a stereotypical 'other woman', the cardboard cut-out you see so often in romance who exists for the plot's sake but has no depth of character. Lina was more than she first appeared[return][return]All in all this was a worthy end to a very enjoyable series."(less)
I really, really loved this book. Every aspect of it worked for me, from the characterisation to the interesting but not overly-complex plot. This was...moreI really, really loved this book. Every aspect of it worked for me, from the characterisation to the interesting but not overly-complex plot. This was my fifth Hoyt book, after being a bit underwhelmed by the Legend of the Four Soldiers series, and I can quite see why people rave about it. I loved Anna and Edward separately and together, and enjoyed their bumpy road to happiness. This is a book I can see myself re-reading often. Very highly recommended!