My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I generally like Merrow’s work and this is no exception. In fact I found myself enjoying this so much that I wanted to read it again when I was done. The story is definitely a gentle romance with barely any sex scenes but I liked that choice. This allowed the author’s great writing and excellent dialogue to shine. The tension in the story is easily resolved and relies heavily on connecting with the main character and believing his reasoning. I found myself swept up in the protagonist’s quirks and behavior and would have happily read about his antics for much longer. He’s definitely one of my favorite characters I’ve read in fiction and I’m not a Dr. Who fan. Anyway I think this will definitely go over well for those readers that enjoy gentle romances with a distinctly British flair.
The set up is rather basic; Robert Emeny is the new primary school teacher in a small rural village. He’s trying to rebuild his life after an untrue accusation of inappropriate behavior sent him reeling from his previous, much more exalted position. Having sworn off men after his ex left him in the wake of the accusations, Robert is trying to live a quiet and perhaps unnoticed life. However he can’t help eyeing the uncle of two ginger headed troublemakers. Although Robert’s attempts at courtship aren’t quite what anyone would expect, he manages to snag, then lose, then snag, then lose, then snag once again the handsome uncle. Now if only Robert can figure out a way to stop losing the man!
The plot revolves around Robert and Sean trying, somewhat slowly and awkwardly, to actually have a relationship. There’s not much tension or any real problems preventing them except of course Robert’s awkwardness. I found the key to enjoying the story was to enjoy Robert’s antics. He’s a great character and his quirkiness had me falling in love with him far before I even knew what was happening. His precise accounting of time had me smiling every single time it came into play. His love of bow ties going to the extent that he wears some he doesn’t like so they don’t feel bad kept amusing me. The fact that his young charges call him Mr. Enemy and any scenes involving young Charlie really were adorable. His truly ridiculous need to hide his past because he’s convinced no one will believe him does stretch the boundaries of believability but the writing is so good that the scenes are actually true to character. There was only one scene where I thought Robert acted out of character but it was an important step to reconciliation so I could let it go. Otherwise I was delighted by how well the entire cast of characters was written. They all feel real and worthwhile, but more importantly each has a purpose.
I never felt as though there were throwaway characters, the closest to that is the boys’ mother, but they all blended in so well with the setting. Merrow is clearly British herself and her books usually have what I think of as a distinctly British flair. They’re written as if everyone knows the slang and culture. I love that about the story, although I did have to look up some things that I didn’t know, and I always feel so immersed in that setting. I like that the author doesn’t take time to explain basic concepts but instead blends them organically into the scene so their meaning is usually obvious. Combined with the characters I greatly enjoy reading, I found myself engrossed for large stretches of time without realizing it.
Although I’ve gone on about how great Robert and the secondary characters are, I should touch on the love interest, Sean. He’s a fine character and a good foil for the fussiness Robert exhibits. I found Sean to be less compelling as a character and he probably wouldn’t hold my interest on his own. He’s a good juxtaposition for Robert but also engaging because he accepts and even encourages Robert’s eccentricities. Sean has the habit of stomping off angry sometimes but that’s clearly his way. Hopefully the two men will eventually figure out how to conduct a relationship with a bit more ease and stability. Seeing as this is the first book in a new series, I’m excited to see where it goes. While I always like Merrow’s work, this will definitely count as a favorite.