As a collection of short stories, this was a nice mix. It allows new readers to get a varied taste of what Somerville is capable of, and for free to boot! I read these out of order (skipping the first two then going back to read them, merely because of time constraints at the time). Two of the stories are merely a snapshop of a scene or a element of a man's life and are enjoyable but leave more questions asked than answered, which isn't a bad thing considering what they're made to do. Three of the stories are a medium length with enough time to develop a small plot and a few characters and evoke some powerful emotions. There is one long story, which is the first of the bunch. I break down my thoughts on them below. PS. A simple and yet lovely cover.
If I were ranking this story alone, it probably would have earned 3 stars. While I enjoyed Sean's perspective and Somerville's writing, there were a few things that didn't speak to me. One, while a fan of BDSM, there was one extended scene (the last one) that I had to quickly skim over because it's just not to my taste (that is no fault of the author). Afterward, Somerville amends any squiggled hearts (that'd be mine) and it's okay. The events fit with the characters and what the characters want/need, but it's a personal thing. Also, the narrator constantly uses more official/medical terms, which could be because he's a nurse, but I still blinked every time. (Odd how when you spend time in a genre it's the proper name for things that make you blink.)
Things I liked about this story include the writing, the characters (Tom and Sean are lovely!), and the little things that let the reader see how much they care without having to say it aloud. Sean's insecurities that are just under the surface but don't bubble up too often, Tom's protectiveness that never becomes overwhelming, their date out on the town and their first two scenes, one of which involves creative use of ginger. (You'll have to read to find out ;))
I was curious about the time period of the stories. I know they take place after 2001, but they feel like they belong in a more conservative realm. Of course, I'm not as familiar with London/England as I am with U.S. perspective on everything, so I'll plead ignorance (sorry). I suppose I assume that European countries are more advanced than us...
Tom and Sean
This story throws us into a time with Tom just before he meets Sean, when he is rather lonely, out of a bad relationship, and too busy working for a relationship. He accidentally meets Sean, who is nothing what he expects and he's perfectly happy with it. It was nice, after seeing how their relationship has progressed and how stable they are, how everything got started. One hot sex scene that indulges both their needs and hints at what more is to come.
A very short story focused around a rainy picture and an umbrella, the story mainly deals with the narrators frustrations over an umbrella he lost and the man he lost with it. The end left me wiggling and wanting more (in a good way), although I imagine nothing more will be coming of this. The narrator was fun and a little flamboyant, adding some light to a rather sad story...although there is always potential for a happy ending, isn't there?
Probably the oddest of the bunch, this one switches perspectives every so often as it follows a group of people who approach a man standing at a fire barrel. Although we learn little to nothing of the man, we see a varied bunch of people who he meets. A good study of humanity.
While this one toes the line of the classic dead-boyfriend trope, it was handled well and short, and sweet, enough that we aren't bored.
The Gift of Giving
This is my favorite, which may just show that I'm a sap for sweet Christmas stories. Regardless of my sap situation...we are introduced to our not-Scrooge narrator, who is alone for Christmas, like he is every year. A chance meeting at a museum leaves him curious about a handsome and artistic man whom he follows to a soup kitchen. While this story could come across as heavy handed, I never found it that way. The characters have clear motivations and are lovely and tender and hopefully willing to grow into their feelings for each other. I can imagine them having many happy Christmases in the future (you know, not to spoil you, but it is a Christmas story).
A funny and touching story in which a young playboy learns about love outside the bedroom. The story is light and humorous, never delving too deep but it is definitely romantic. It could be described as schmaltzy, but I think it's meant to be diabetes-inducing. At least, it worked for me.
The main character is a mix of knowledgeable/jaded and innocent; he knows everything about sex and nothing about love, except maternal and friendship. He's an interesting narrator, although he rubbed me the wrong way the beginning, partially because he came across as a little flat. However, once he started playing match-maker, I was more amused than annoyed and everything worked out.
This is worth the small price tag. Check it out!
This is a beautifully written piece that follows the struggles of two men during the Great Depression and the hope that can be found in the most desperate of times. I don't have a single thing to mark off against this story. It was moving and well written, and I loved the characters, but it didn't make me feel like I was shorted (as many short stories do). It ended when it needed to. It painted the time period, surroundings, and characters superbly, giving enough to let the reader see without cluttering the pages.
The blurb for this story doesn't do it justice. Here we are introduced to Julian and Mr. Talk, Dark and Grumpy. I was also under the impression this was a short story (I missed the word count and the use of the word "Tale" in the title made me think short story for some reason). Still, I trusted the author and the blurb enchanted me enough to give it a try.
I enjoyed this story, although it felt like two parts of one story as the first half "fixes" Julian and the second half "fixes" Zachary. To that end, I was expecting something different to happen than what did, but that's my fault for assuming. In the end I was pleased with how everything figured out and the path that was taken to get there. A slow, sweet romance that is perfect for a nice lounging read.
The kems (ferret-like creatures that have a physical presence, but are capable of vanishing into their host's body) are absolutely adorable. I'd re-read this story again on their presence alone. Each kem, like each host, has a unique personality and that personality does not always mesh with their host. Not much is explained about them, because people don't seem to know anything much about them. It doesn't really matter much for the story. Their presence is enough.
The pace at which events progress and information is revealed works to slowly build the characters, both their background (and baggage) and also their evolution into the characters they are at the end.
While the length and pace are a little slow, I feel for the story being told, it was appropriate, as sudden changes would seem uncharacteristic. While not an action-packed story, it rests on its own merits and is very nice for a mellow day's reading.
The kems and Leo bring a wonderful flavor of character to this story with their playfulness and plotting nature. The serious nature of the two main characters and their relationship is balanced by these other characters, lightening tense moods and raising the spirits of the main characters. They almost play the part of children, helping action along, making mischief happen, and otherwise goofing off.
This is may be something that only bothers me, but this toed the line of "the rich man swooshes in to rescue the poor man." It's not that type of story, although there are definitely elements of it (mostly at the fault of pushy Leo, who I loved). Still, if rich men getting what they want annoys you, even if it helps the not-quite-as-rich, consider this a head's up. However, I don't think it will bother most people.
The nature of this story does not lend it to a fast pace, and parts in the middle dragged a little. Worth reading, but this isn't the story to turn to if searching for an action-packed novel.
Be sure to check out my other reviews on my blog.
A lovely follow-up story to the first, this novel has the same delightful kems, some return characters, plus new characters and more action. Although the character development isn't as in depth, the quicker pace gives good character growth in a shorter amount of time.
Despite some of the heavy topics dealt with in this novel, this isn't an overly emotional story, as the weight of the matter is balanced out by the strength of the characters. I found this to be a charming tale with charming characters and an overall warm feeling throughout the story. A good tale for curling up with on a relaxing day.
Sometimes writing is so good you cannot help but notice the poetry of the language. Sometimes it's so bad you cannot help but notice the bumbling language. This writing is so natural that you do not notice it. You float along the words that carry you through the story. The writing is good, strong and consistent, but because the story demands it, the writing becomes secondary, letting the characters and the plot blossom.
There is a relatively simple, but enjoyable plot that allows some action and heated emotions to bleed through while dealing with the larger events, but the main characters aren't stars or heroes, just characters like you'd expect to happen in real life. I like that the plot almost seems to happen around the characters rather than to the characters and much of it is outside their control. In addition, the simplicity of the plot allows the reader to focus on the characters and relationships.
Spen and Daniel's dynamic brings a certain level of comfort to the story, as they both come across as being very human in their reactions and emotions. Spen is trying to be a good guy and a good friend, while Daniel struggles to not be viewed as a victim or a charity case while not wanting to push Spen away too far, since he likes the guy. As with the previous novel, I like that the romance isn't rushed but developed over time. This allows us to get to know the characters and let their relationship come across organically.
Oddly enough, despite this story having a stronger element of “rich man swoops down and saves poor man,” it bothered me less here. Maybe because the poor man did need saved and it wasn't on a purely financial level. Maybe it's because I have a giant soft spot in my heart for Leo. Maybe it's because Daniel needs to be saved so very much and I'm a romantic. Either way, be warned that money is used not to solve problems, necessarily, but definitely to make life peachy-keen. However, the events surrounding the use of money to solve problems is secondary to the main story and isn't really a weakness in my estimation.
Although there were very few (to no) weaknesses in this story, it also lacked anything to really blow me away and impress me, thus keeping it from a 5-star rating. However, it's a good, solid tale that's well written, plotted, and developed.