I love JL Merrow’s sense of humor and even if this hadn’t been highly recommended around the blogsphere I’d want to read a book titled “Stroke to His Cox.” Yea I’m a perve but so are you so get this short delightful story. The writing is clever, witty, and full of innuendo and rowing terms. The characters are funny, entertaining, and like to twist the usual stereotypes on their heads. For a short story this packs a punch and leaves you wanting more of whatever Merrow wants to offer.
The premise is that Dave is the cox for some unnamed English rowing team. He’s been harboring a crush for the stroke man, Archie, which comes to fruition after they win a major race. The story is told from Dave’s first person perspective and he’s funny, sly, witty, and incredibly provocative. He describes the power of being the smallest man on the river yet he commands the attention and obedience of his crew. The writing is very evocative as Dave talks about the rush of being the man in charge, of the coiled muscles leaping to action, the ambiance of the crowd and the excitement of the races. That energy is easily translated to the page and sweeps the reader up into Dave’s world, on the edge of their seat waiting to see if the boat will win.
I have to confess that I know nothing about rowing and even though the story attempts to give some information about the positions and basics of racing and bumping, it kind of flew over my head. I still have no real understanding of the sport but that’s ok because the dialogue and banter between the crew while Dave attempts to keep his *ahem* “feelings” in check is delightful and more than enough to compensate any lack of understanding. The various men joke and tease each other with a kind of ease that comes from a bit too much comfort. There is a nod to the latent elitist commentary from privileged English sons but this is handled well with humor and a deft touch.
The setting is somewhat vague – somewhere in England – yet the flavor comes across throughout the book. From the writing to the language, dialogue, and deliberate use of rowing terms during the sex scene, this short story stands out as something fresh and different. It’s easy to see why it’s been so well received and I can join that group and recommend this. You won’t be disappointed.