I tend to like Merrow’s contemporary work best for the great comic timing and wit. Pleasures with Rough Strife is a historical Christmas themed story that’s decent but not enough to hold my interest unfortunately. One of the two narrators has a nice accent that grabbed my attention but overall neither character really came alive for me.
Philip is moldering away alone in his big house years after the death of his best friend and lover. On a particularly chilly day a boy is brought in after a nasty fall on the grounds prompting Philip out of his daze. Danny is the son of a dead groundskeeper and he lives with his overburdened mother and siblings. Danny’s family relies on poaching for food and Philip realizes the young man has a lot to teach him.
The story feels mostly told rather than shown as Philip slowly comes back to life after the death of his lover. The servants are a nice touch yet feel indistinguishable from each other as did most of the other characters mentioned. Danny feels too young and brash to be interested in the older man and although Philip isn’t that much older, comes across as world weary. I couldn’t see the two together and their chemistry feels forced and manipulated. Part of this is that the story drags some as it sets up Danny’s accident, Philip’s background, and slowly throws the two together.
When Danny finally makes a move, this feels awkward and artificial rather than natural. The following explanation makes more sense and the resolution to how the two will be together feels fitting to the time period. Unfortunately I just never connected to the characters nor really cared about their plight. Philip should be a sympathetic character mourning the loss of his lover while Danny is struggling under the weight of carrying his family at a young age. Sadly neither man really came alive for me and remained very two dimensional without the much needed depth and subtly. The writing and dialogue feels too dry and just becomes slow and telling for the most part.
Although I like this author quite a bit, this particular historical didn’t do much for me but perhaps others will enjoy it more. I look forward to reading something else of Merrow’s.