Author: J L Merrow
Release: 19th January 2016
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
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.
Warning: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.
Combine the life of a very English village, a country pub, some very authentic characters and you get a brilliant series by JL Merrow. I just love the whole setting and goings-on in this series and with book three we get Patrick’s and Mark’s story. Patrick we met at the end of book two briefly when he broke his leg playing cricket and was carted off to hospital. A character that really had no bearing on anything else but here he now gets his own story which weaves nicely into the Shamwell saga. This series reads like a soap opera, not in the negative sense, but in the way that each story is complete but also connects nicely with all the other characters in the village. All books can be read as stand alone but it’s nice when characters from previous books are briefly mentioned and you already know their story. It makes you feel part of village life in Shamwell. Keeps me wondering whose story we’re going to get next.
However, let me begin with Mark. I could so understand Mark and his attitudes it was uncanny. I guess it’s a generation thing but given Mark’s age (39) and his upbringing then I could definitely understand his attitudes for sure. I’m not that much older, a teenager of the 80s, and for all its freedoms coming out was seriously not easy even then and the acceptance far worse than it is today. Living in provincial England I had to keep my inclinations to myself for a long time. No chance of being carefree and out without facing a whole load of bigotry and the rest. Mark tried to conform by getting a girlfriend and then on holiday one little accident leads to his daughter being born. this is one road that I personally never went down but I guess many did all in an attempt to “conform” depending on your background and upbringing. He was trapped by convention and wanting to do the right thing gets married but the inevitable happens. He knows he’s gay and you can only keep the pretense up for so long as the sex will always be bad. Not only for him but for his wife too. His mariage doesn’t last long and he gets divorced but is forced by his ex-wife to keep stumm about being gay for the sake of their daughter. So he couldn’t be more repressed and in the closet if he tried.
He joins the Spartans a local group of guys for raising money for charity and there meets Patrick. Patrick is only 25 but is immediately attracted to Mark. Now the fun begins! Not only with Patrick trying to win Mark over but all the shenanigans of being in the Spartans. Well, I reckon the fund raising is just an excuse to meet at a pub and get completely blathered -lol! But once again the characters are vivid, individual, everyday kind of people and this is what makes Ms Merrow’s writing for me a hit. The whole feel of this book and the others are down-to-earth, real and thoroughly entertaining. Normal people just trying to make their way through life as best as they can despite what is being thrown at them.
What I found really interesting was the generation or age difference. Is it a problem? Should it be a problem? Patrick grew up in a day and age where coming out wasn’t necessarily the social trauma it would have been for Mark. They first have to find each other and understand where each other is coming from. Tot ally different backgrounds and a big age difference I feel will play a part in any relationship. I just loved how JL Merrow deals with the whole subject. Realistic, compassionate and endears the reader to her characters immediately. These two guys have a few hurdles to jump before getting to know and accepting each other so they can embark on any form of solid relationship.
Although Mark is mostly concerned about what his daughter will think he forgets that she is a fourteen year old living in today’s society. Do you think he really has anything to fear? Well, to be honest I loved Fen, your typical, stroppy hormonal teenager, the discussions between her and her father were for me seriously entertaining, humorous and had me smiling and laughing on many an occasion. Anyone out there with teenagers will be able to relate to this book completely. Of course we mustn’t also forget Patrick’s mum who also has to accept her son has fallen for someone of more or less her own generation. Again brilliantly handled by Ms Merrow and a real treat to read.
This is a sweet romance with very real obstacles to be overcome before the HEA arrives. The HEA does arrive and all the more poignant once you know how these guys have to come to accept and love each other despite the differences . I love this series just for the very English feel it has with all its subtle humour and culture. If you want to be taken to a very English village with all its bright and larger than life characters for a while then you’ll love this series. I would love to know who is going to get their story told next but I’ll have to wait no doubt for the next book to find out.
Series Reading Order and Purchase Links
Shamwell Tales #1
Mark: “I just so loved the multi-facetted side to this story. Robs past, Sean taking care of his nephews, Sean’s sister fighting cancer, Rosie playing matchmaker although with issues of her own, a class of kids that would drive anyone nuts, but you just can’t stop loving them, all with their own stories too. I was left smiling for days.”
::: MARK'S FULL REVIEW :::
Shamwell Tales #2
Mark: “Totally loved it, and with these two characters there are seriously laugh out loud moments. Well, at least it struck a chord with my sense of humour. The relationship is the main focus in this book so it’s rather light on the sex, but that’s fine with me if the story and plot keep me interested and to say the least, very amused.”
::: MARK'S FULL REVIEW :::
Shamwell Tales #3
Meet Jl Merrow
JL Merrow is a very English writer of (mainly) m/m fiction who finds writing the only way to stay sane, except of course when a plot is driving her crazy. Having grown up on an island, she can’t remember a time before she could swim and prefers to remain close to water at all times. Luckily, the weather in her native land being as it generally is, this is not difficult.
I’m that rare beast; an English person who refuses to drink tea. I’m a writer of (mainly) m/m or f/f romance, mostly contemporary or paranormal, but with a fickle muse that occasionally ambushes me in dark alleyways and drags me off, cackling, to write historical or science fiction.
Some might call all this pillar-to-posting tragic evidence of a short attention span; I couldn’t possibly….er, what were we talking about, again?
I enjoy reading, martial arts, and surprising people who judge a book by its cover.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.