Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Let me just say I adore everything about this story. The first person narrator is charming, lovely, heart warming and it would take a real hard hearted person not to appreciate his genuine personality. The story isn’t perfect and the narrator tells you the story as if this had happened a long time ago and he’s telling the reader how things came to be. The tense also changes sometimes from present to past but honestly these are all incredibly minor qualms that don’t stand a chance against such a truly wonderful story. I recommend this easily and think fans and readers will love this story.
The story begins with Al talking about his relationship with Larry and how the two met. At first everyone thought it was just sex between the two but Al explains how they met, dated, moved in together, got married and lived happily ever after. The plot is a basic boy meets boy and they fall in love theme. There’s a slight misunderstanding along the way but it’s a small bump in the road for these two. What elevates the story from so many others are the characters and above all the excellent and compelling voice of the narrator, Alan.
Alan is a physically big man, tall and imposing with a scar near his mouth that twists his smile. When Larry first meets Al in a dark alley, Larry is so scared he nearly can’t walk. However Larry soon discovers that Al is a gentle giant with surprising artistic talent. The two may seem like opposites with Larry an educated art professor at Cambridge but they fall in love easily when they discover they actually have a lot in common. Al’s voice is so distinctive and endearing that he captures your attention right from the start and never lets go. Al knows he’s not as smart or as he says, as clever, as other people. He knows he doesn’t always get the jokes and he’s slow to understand things but he’s got a good heart and loves to take care of Larry.
Listening as Al explains how he met and fell in love with Larry is hypnotic. It’s engaging, interesting, and heartwarming. Sometimes it’s tinged with sadness but more so with the kind of emotion that tugs at your heart strings. I simply adore Al and love his relationship with Larry. Al is gentle, caring, sweet, and he’s intuitive. He’s not as smart or as quick as Larry but Larry falls in love with the person he sees. Sometimes Al doesn’t understand why Larry loves him but he’s certainly happy anyway. When Al tells the story of some experience over their time together, his perspective is so unique and different that it makes the mundane special and interesting.
The book does have a few stumbles. The story is entirely told to you from Al’s memory so there is very little showing. The writing does try to show within the telling but it still comes across as a story you’re listening to rather than experiencing. Also the tense tends to change from present to past and back again while there are a few editing mistakes. Also some of the secondary characters could have been slightly more fleshed out however these are all extremely minor concerns that should not affect your enjoyment.
Especially when considering there are so many more positive things to mention. There is the wonderfully vivid and crisp Cambridge environment. From beginning to end the book feels British in a natural, totally unforced way that breathes new life into the story. Likewise the subtly included is quite masterful. The writing allows the quiet moments to speak volumes even among the numerous extremely hot sex scenes. There is enough explicit sex to satisfy without overwhelming the story and these scenes are definitely not to be missed. Overall there are so many things to recommend this story I can’t recommend it enough. I quite simply love this gem of a novella and hope everyone else does too.
7 thoughts on “Review: Muscling Through”
I’m trying to read reviews of this through my fingers (even if I’m not spoiler averse). I’ve heard so many good things and have pre-ordered so looking forward to it.
Isn’t it out already? I really loved this one…
Umm, maybe? I was sure I bought it in advance and they haven’t sent me a notice yet, but maybe I should go to … Samhain? It could be sitting there waiting for me.
For some reason I thought it was out on the 12th but I guess it’s not til the 19th. So almost!
One of the best books this year. Incredible story – simple, yet so heartwarming.
Great job on the review Kassa.
I noticed you gave this one 5 stars as well so glad you enjoyed it so much as well! I really do like Merrow’s work…