Review: It’s All Geek to Me by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

ItsAllGeekToMe_600x900When Jez’s best friend Tel is hit by a car while riding his motorcycle, it not only lands Tel in the hospital but costs him his newest, unread comic book.  So with Tel looking at a long stay in the hospital, Jez sets out to replace the comic and maybe  buy a few more for his friend.   Jez is out of his depths when it comes to all things geek, even more so when he enters that bastion of geekness itself, the Hidden Asteroid bookstore in London.  To his amazement,  the man behind the counter is stunning, tall, gorgeous with a wicked smile and Jez is smitten.

Rhys seems to be attracted to Jez too but Rhys thinks that Jez is buying the comics for himself and is a geek just like Rhys.  What is a non geek to do?  After heading back to the hospital, Jez hatches a plan to have Tel teach him how to be a geek so he can talk to  Rhys.  When it starts to work and Rhys asks Jez out, then the act must continue but for how long?  Jez is crazy for Rhys but he’s not the geek he’s made out to be.  It’s everyones guess if love will win out in It’s All Geek To Me.

I am still laughing over this funny short story from J.L. Merrow. What a terrific set up for a romance.  Non geek falls for gorgeous geek in that hallowed hall of geeks, the comic bookstore and tries to figure out how to talk to someone so cool as to be out of his league.  And of course he goes about it all wrong.  Key the laugher because you know that the hilarity is sure to follow and in J.L. Merrow’s hands, it certainly does.

From dialog that snaps, complete with English slang and a compendium of comic book heroes (real and Merrow created), this story just dances right along, feeling real and completely down to earth.  And her characters are absolutely endearing, starting with the insecure Jez.  He has issues with his physique, seeing himself as pudgy and somewhat unattractive, especially along side the gorgeous Rhys.  He is unflinchingly loyal as a friend, especially to his hound-dog best buddy Tel, a straight man on the prowl even when he has both legs in casts and is stuck in a hospital bed.  It’s that loyalty and friendship that sends him to the Hidden Asteroid to begin with.  Jez is funny, intelligent, observant and, of course, completely unaware of his own attractiveness.  He is adorable and I loved him.

And Rhys with his black clothing, dark eyes and hair, coolness emitting from every pore, is every gay geek guy’s dream hunk.  Who just so happens to be attracted to smart, blond and cute gay guys.  Like Jez.  It’s a mismatch made in heaven, or at least a comic bookstore.  And as Jez tries to show Rhys just how much of a geek he is, it just gets increasingly funny and out of control.

Merrow has the relationship dance down proper as she puts the boys through their paces.  And although it is set in London, there isn’t anyone who can’t connect with these two men as they struggle their way towards a lasting relationship.  Of course, there were some things as a Yank I was unfamiliar with.  I had to look up what exactly a vintage Norton Commando was.  I will admit it, I thought it was a bicycle.  Then there was the word “scrumpy”.  Nope, have to use my trusty British Slang Dictionary to find out that was a “nasty drink”.   For me, this is part of the joy of reading stories from authors outside the U.S, including Merrow.  Here is a taste, including the word “scrumpy”:

It was all my mate Tel’s fault I was here. Well, to be fair, not so much his fault as the fault of the idiot in the BMW who’d slammed into his bike on the A10. Not only had the resulting pile-up trashed Tel’s legs and smashed his vintage Norton Commando, it’d claimed the life of his newest, unread comic book. Its virgin pages were now scattered to the four winds, or maybe lining the nests of all those crows that hang around dual carriageways like vultures waiting for roadkill.

So Tel had asked me, his best mate, to replace it.

I’d frowned at him, languishing in his hospital bed with scaffolding all round his legs like a beardy cyborg. That was going to put a serious crimp in his sex life, poor bastard. The scaffolding, I mean. Not the beard. I’ve never really seen the attraction of snogging a Brillo pad myself, but it never seemed to put the ladies off Tel. Dunno how he does it. Maybe it’s that West Country accent of his—he lures ’em in with his long, drawn-out Rs and the promise of scrumpy.

“What if I get the wrong thing?” I’d protested. “I mean, I don’t know one comic book from the other. You’re going to be a bit pissed off if I come back with The Beano.”

That last bit of course sent me off to google The Beano comic book too.  Really, this story is just so much fun.  And I could tell that the author had enormous fun writing it as well.  Terrific plot, and delightful characters, comic book heroes and dialog based in the vernacular. What’s not to love? After reading this, I wanted to dash off to The Barbarian Bookstore, a more dusty, aged version of the Hidden Asteroid and revel in some geekness for myself.  It’s All Geek To Me is a little gem from J.L. Merrow that keeps giving and giving.  Consider this wonderful little story one of ScatteredThoughts Highly Recommended!

Cover art by LC Chase combines photography and comic book style graphics to create a cover that radiates joy!  I loved it!

Book Details:

ebook, 51 pages
Published February 10th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 8th 2014)
original titleIt’s All Geek to Me
ISBN139781626491144
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com

Review: City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 5 stars out of  5

City Mouse coverWhen Malcolm Kavanagh chased down Owen Watson in the middle of a train station and told Owen he loved him just as Owen was about to leave London, well that is the HEA moment always envisioned at the end of a romance novel.  But for Malcolm and Owen, life is what happens next.  For Malcolm, he is on new territory as he has never been in love or even a relationship before Owen.  Now Owen is living in his flat, and Malcolm doesn’t  really know how to handle things, even something as simple as eating breakfast together.

For Owen, Malcolm is the man he has come to love and stayed in London for.  Luckily for them both, Owen not only has experience with relationships, and a great Mom to ask advice from but Owen realizes that Malcolm has some growing to do and he is willing to help him through the precarious first steps of a serious relationship.  His mom said the biggest obstacle to overcome will be Relationship Armageddon, when you’ve reached the sixth week, the honeymoon phase is over, and reality sets in.  Owen has a new job, and patience, lots of patience.  But when the stress of Mal’s job combines with the strain of adjusting to a new relationship, will Owen’s patience and love be enough to help the couple struggle through  to a real HEA.

When I love a book the way I did Country Mouse, I always approach its sequel with a little trepidation, even with such wonderful writers as Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov at the helm.  You always wonder if the continuing story will measure up to the joy and outright affection you have for the original.  Well, I shouldn’t have worried, because the fates of Malcolm and Owen are in wonderful, capable hands and I might even love Malcolm’s story a tiny bit more.

Haven’t you always wondered what happens after boy gets girl or in this case boy gets boy in the romcoms in the theatre or on TV?  In City Mouse we get to see what happens after that wildly romantic gesture when Mal runs after Owen, catches up to him in the train station and declares his love for Owen.  Usually its “cue the music, close the curtains, The End” time but now we pick up the story two days after Malcolm’s declaration of love.  The boys are living together in Malcolm’s high end flat and Malcolm is getting ready to resume his routine, a routine that now must make  room for Owen in it.  And to say that Mal is extremely uneasy about the whole thing is putting it mildly.  This is how City Mouse opens, with Malcolm already in high stress mode:

The bad thing about a fictional Chinese prawns food poisoning was that it couldn’t possibly outlast a real one. Malcolm had done his research on the internet, and a real food poisoning would be over in a day or three. Another problem was that he felt guilty for having left the trading desk. He should be at work.

Oh, but Owen was so sweet in bed.

That’s where they’d gone right after the train station, where Malcolm (Malcolm!) had poured his bloody heart out and begged Owen not to leave. Bed. There would be time to hammer out the details later. Time to figure out jobs and schedules and Owen’s place in all of this? But Owen was here, in Malcolm’s penthouse, and that’s where they stayed for the next two days.

But today, he had to go to work.

Malcolm got out of the shower, shaved his maddening dark stubble carefully, and combed and gelled his hair until it would stay perfect for the rest of the day. He had one clean suit left, and the rest needed to be serviced. God . . . four days, five nights he’d spent playing. And now his life was falling apart.

Okay—that was a tad dramatic. But he did need to do some dry cleaning. And—

You can almost hear the hyperventilating begin….it’s funny, it’s realistic, and in its own way kind of heartbreaking.  I love the character of Malcolm.  He has so many mannerisms and attitudes built in to his personality that help to protect him from hurt and his past although he would be the last to admit it.  As written by Land and Voinov, Malcolm is a complex, flawed and, for me, wonderfully appealing character.  He so wants to be loved and for his relationship with Owen to work, if he could just figure out how to bring that about.  The authors make sure the reader sees Malcolm’s vulnerability even as he is spouting off nonsense about Owen’s less than chic address at work or the clothes that Owen wears.  Lane and Voinove make sure we see that there is a reason for Malcolm’s shallowness even if we don’t know just what propels it forward.  And the authors make us laugh while they are making Mal stress over something else that Owen has done.  Here is Malcolm meeting Owen at the coop he is working for.  Malcolm has entered the Happy Endings Little People’s Club adoption agency inhabiting the third level floor of the building:

Happy endings. Little people.

A world full of baby photos. Adorable infants. Blonde girls. Middle Eastern boys. Happy families. Kids cuddling teddy bears.

Would he make it to Owen before he developed diabetes?

“Hullo, luv,” said the matronly woman at the desk. She smiled up at him sunnily, revealing large teeth, slightly protuberant eyes, and a suit that dated back to the seventies. “Can I help you?”

He felt the beginnings of sugar shock just looking at all of that maternal goodwill.

“Uhm, I was looking for—” “Owen!” she crowed. “And you must be Malcolm. We’ve heard so much about you!” She pitched her voice to one of the hidden back rooms. “Owen, your boyfriend’s here. And you’re right. He does look like a snake that swallowed a lemon!”

Malcolm was shocked out of his irritation. “I do not.”

Owen’s throaty laughter emanated from the room, followed by Owen himself. “You do too, Mal, and you know it. Come on back. Thanks, Emmaline. I didn’t want to miss him.”“

Oh, I don’t think you could do that, dearie. He is very good looking, just like you said.”

Owen winked, his sweet brown eyes wicked under the fall of hair. “You don’t think I would have stayed here if he’d been homely, do you?”

I loved that interchange, it tells us so much about Malcolm and Owen.  Despite being out of his comfort zone, Malcolm has travelled into the *shudders* lower income region of the city just because he wants to see his lover. And Owen has already been filling in his new coworkers (and friends) on Malcolm, enough so that they recognize him before he introduces himself.  Lovely dialog, lovely and funny setting, and memorable characters all in one great scene.

Everything about City Mouse rings true, from the slow fumbling towards a real relationship that speaks of permanency to the authenticity of a tour through the many sections of London.  Owen and Malcolm do not have an easy time making their adjustments to their new status although Owen has more experience than Malcolm.  But Owen too has his own insecurities about his new situation.  A phone call or two to his Mom helps but only so much.  I do love his mother, she is such a great character of her own, she almost needs her own story.  But Owen never comes across as “too good to be true” to me.  He knows his limitations and Owen also realizes how much personal “loosening up” Mal needs to do before their relationship can grow.  Realistically, Owen hopes that it will happen but he is never quite sure that it will.  Again, a lovely testament to the writing skills of Lane and Voinov.  We believe in this relationship and the men involved because they are so real.  That “realness” makes it easy to engage the readers affections and keeps them connected throughout the story to the end.

City Mouse clocks in at 160 pages, almost twice the length of Country Mouse, and the longer story length was necessary to more accurately portray the relationship dynamics in play after the grand romantic gesture is done.  I don’t think a shorter version would have let us see into all of the problems and issues that had to be resolved before the boys could settle down realistically and happily in London together.  But time and type (and two wonderful authors) gave us exactly what Owen and Malcolm needed.  We get the joy and fun of watching two great endearing characters fight, cook and love their way to a more authentic relationship.  One that has a far better chance at succeeding than the point that we first left them at.  And that makes this book a real winner for me, and hopefully for you as well.

There are some scenes with a mild bdsm content.  Those readers uncomfortable with bdsm sex scenes should not have a problem with the content here.  It is mild and does contribute to some very hot love making between Owen and Malcolm.  Grab the fans, you will need them.

Pick up Country Mouse and City Mouse and have yourself a wonderful time.  Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

Country Mouse

City Mouse

Cover Art by Jordan Taylor. The cover is adorable although the model is not exactly what I would expect of Malcolm.

Book Details:

ebook, 160 pages
Published March 18th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 9781626490 (ISBN13: 9781626490055)
edition languageEnglish
original titleCity Mouse
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/city-mouse
seriesCountry Mouse #2
charactersMalcolm Kavanagh, Owen Watson
setting London, England