Kassa's Reviews > Hard Tail

Hard Tail by J.L. Merrow
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JL Merrow usually works pretty well for me with her smooth writing, great wit, and adorable characters. Hard Tail is no departure from that and feels like a solid comfort read that fits well with the author’s backlist. The situation is interesting with some good and obvious research thrown in. I think the external tension drew out a bit too long and in a very predictable way. Due to this some sections of the book seem to drone on while others flew by easily giving an uneven pace. Despite this the nice guy characters and cute chemistry should be enough to win over fans of the author.

The plot is your basic gay in denial guy meets adorably cute, open guy resulting in sparks. Tim begins the book with an announcement from his wife that their marriage is over and she’s leaving him for a friend of his. Since Tim is really gay in denial, he’s not too broken up over the marriage and heads out of town for a while. He is running his brother’s bike shop while said brother recovers from a leg injury. The only other bike shop employee is the adorable but klutzy Matt. Matt is in an abusive relationship and he and Tim dance around each other for most of the book before admitting their feelings.

First off Merrow does a superior job with her clean writing, dry wit, and clear research. The story includes quite a bit of bike information and this never overwhelms but fits the situation while being mostly correct. The only discrepancies I could point out are more subjective to the sport but the amount of research is evident and appreciated. Likewise the English countryside setting is well described and fits seamlessly into the story and the characters themselves. One of the aspects I particularly enjoy about this author’s writing is the ability to feel fresh and interesting with familiar elements. The descriptive quality is very nice but never overwhelms the story itself.

The characters are nicely developed with some depth. I think they tend to slide a bit easily into stereotypes – the adorable klutz, the controlled martial artist, the steroid closet case – which is unfortunate. This takes away some individuality from the characters and makes them feel more predictable and rote. We only see into Tim’s head and he spends most of the time overanalyzing and freaking out about everything. He’s paranoid and gives off mixed signals, perhaps with good reason to both, but it makes him difficult to like all the time. On the other hand Matt is cute and fun, making for a shy foil to Tim’s mental acrobatics.

I did find the pace to be uneven. Some of the scenes are quite engaging and the pages fly by easily while others seem to drag. Sadly I never really found Matt and Tim’s encounters together to be that great. I like their tension and dance a lot more than I like the scenes at the end once they were together. Their relationship also feels a bit like a rebound for both of them than lasting love but that’s not a criticism. Some of the plot is simply too obvious and predictable. It’s easy to see where the story is heading at most times and it takes away the excitement of getting to the next scene. Countering this is good writing and enough interest in the story and characters to get past any parts that drag.

Overall Hard Tail is an enjoyable read. It fits very well with the author’s backlist and likely fans of Merrow will especially appreciate this. Anyone new to the author can get a good feel for the typical style. I’d recommend this one but it’s not one I’ll read again.
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message 1: by orannia (new)

orannia I've just finished reading Pressure Head and while I liked the POV character, we only saw into his head, which meant the other main character felt...unclear. And since I had issues with the previous actions of that character I needed more of an answer to 'Why this guy?' from the POV character, which I didn't get. It sounds like I would have the same problem with this book. It's still on my TBR list though :)

We only see into Tim’s head and he spends most of the time overanalyzing and freaking out about everything.

The over-analyzing I would be fine with as I do it all the time :)

Kassa I did feel that way about not getting the other guy's POV. It's not something to put you off the book entirely but I felt the other guy was something of a cop-out. He's in a relationship for most of the book so it keeps them apart but it's an abusive one so it makes the hop to a new relationship the very next day ok.

To me that's kind of jarring.. wouldn't the guy need some help? Some time to recover? If he IS ok jumping into a new relationship what's going on in his head that *doesn't* just make him co-dependant and unable to be alone.

The over-analyzing bothered me after a while simply because I wanted to smack him and tell him to stop being crazy. But I do recognize it wasn't unrealistic or even that uncommon :D.

message 3: by orannia (last edited Oct 04, 2012 11:51AM) (new)

orannia Completely agree with your first two points. It frustrates me no end when fictional characters just seem to...get over just everything like... *click fingers* that! I like seeing characters have to work through issues, even if, when you leave them, you know they are still working through said issues. There is slow, hard progress. No magic wands.

And LOL WRT the over-analyzing :)

Edited to add: I do think I will read this book at some point :)

Kassa Good! I'll be curious to see what you think of it.

I agree though about working through things. If I had cared more about Matt or been more invested in the character it would have really bothered me. He can jump into a new relationship because someone tells him he deserves better than being hit? Like no one has said that? I get the point of it for the book (an easy exit and easy entrance, pun intended hehe).. but yea. I think his POV would have helped.

Hopefully you'll enjoy it!

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