Merry Gentlemen by Josephine Myles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Cute, fun, and lots of campy singing. What else does a holiday novella need? Myles is a great author and she’s once again delivered with this entertaining and enjoyable story about a city-slicker who falls back in love with his country ex. The two may live seemingly very different lives but the power of love wins out. The characters are adorable and the story reads incredibly fast. There’s enough minor action and witty dialogue to keep the pages turning. The ending is a bit optimistic and overly simplified to be believed but I like the concept of love winning out anyway. I especially appreciated the touch with the cranky gull.
Riley is working his way up the city council ladder and has agreed to be the market manager during Bath’s yearly Christmas Market. It’s a stressful and often thankless job but Riley is determined to preserve and get a promotion at the end. Together with his trusty sidekick and elf, Janine, Riley heads off to greet the stall owners and comes across his ex, Stan. Stan is the only man to ever break Riley’s heart and he’s never gotten over him. Stan is much happier in the isolated country doing his woodworking while Riley is a campy, city lover. The two seem like opposites but their chemistry may not be the only thing they have in common.
The novella is a quick read with mild action and a lot of fun scenes. Right away Riley charms with his disgruntled interaction with a city gull and this never lets up. From preening in inappropriate fashion to spreading joy in a Santa suit to stripping in a Merry Balls thong, Riley is a bundle of energy. He clearly thrives off interactions with others and loves the attention. He also loves Stan, a more taciturn man that feels caged by the hustle and bustle of the city. Stan and Riley have considerable chemistry and there’s definite love in their quieter moments as well. It’s clear the two still love each other and want each other but feel trapped but opposing needs.
Here I think the novella did a great job characterizing both men and showing who they truly are at the core. They simply are different people that want and thrive off different things. Riley is not the camping type while Stan really does yearn for the simplicity of the woods. The story does a reasonably good job of showing how the two make it work but I think this is more of a fantasy wish than reality. Perhaps the story did too good a job showing their differences because I never really believed they could make it work as a couple. They simply want different things.
This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book though. It’s well written with clear British flair that I really like. The dialogue is witty and entertaining and there are a multitude of secondary characters to flesh out the story. The gull especially is an inspired detail. I probably wouldn’t read it again because I just couldn’t buy into the ending but I really enjoyed it regardless. The pages flew by and I was sad to say goodbye to two such charming and delightful characters. As always I look forward to more work by Myles. I’ve yet to read a story I didn’t like by her.