“You know you’re in love the moment you can touch the stars without reaching.” ― Melisa M. Hamling
Summary: After coming out to his girlfriend of nine years, Mark has packed his life into boxes, ready to step out and experience his new life as an honest gay man. When the movers come to pack his belongings into the truck, Mark can’t help but feel the connection with the muscular young Jamie, and a bit of flirtatious banter leads to the promise of a casual hook-up later that week.
As Mark settles into his new flat, minutes from where Jamie is living, the two embark on a casual affair that neither believes could ever go anywhere. But as their time together increases, and their feelings start to deepen, what are both men to do when the no-strings-attached encounters they promised start to become something more? Could something so casual stop being “nothing serious” and start being the thing they have been searching for all along?
Review: This is Jay Northcote’s first story published under the prestigious Dreamspinner Press, and I for one was very impressed with the English author’s debut offering. The story is wonderfully constructed, a three arch splendour that pulls at the heartstrings and has you rooting for the success of the two clueless protagonists. As a hopeless romantic, I liked reading a story that gave me romance, good sex, minor obstacles and a happy-ever-after that wasn’t defiled by clichéd hurdles to get there.
As the story opens, we find Mark at the precipice of his new adventure, cutting ties with the life he was hiding in and ready to step out into the world as a gay man, unsure of what to expect. This storyline alone was one that gripped me from the start and had me enthralled. How would he cope? Would he know what to expect? In a wonderfully written prose, the author set up the back-story perfectly, and as if by magic, as Mark readied himself to move on, what he was moving on to appeared in his house to lead him away. The descriptions were so well written, I was right there with the men in the quaint little town in Gloucester, England, moving from one house to another right with Mark.
Mark himself was wonderfully portrayed, a real novice in his new world, and it gave him a youth that brought his age down to match that of his new love interest. I loved the, way that Jamie guided him gently into his first same-sex sexual experiences. Mark’s enthusiasm with Jamie’s conscientious and gentle treatment of the newbie made the heart melt. Northcote clearly has a fantastic grasp of the romance genre, leaving me filled with warm tingles from reading, not just escalating sexual heat, but tender warmth as well. The sex was really descriptive, and very hot, but not overly pornographic. Just the right amount of sexy was employed to great effect. Whoever said the English were only known for their stiff upper lips, clearly never read a book penned by Northcote. We now can list other stiffnesses to that list.
This novella was also written from split perspective, which allowed the reader to understand the motivations as well as the crescendo of building emotion between the two men, whilst simultaneously voicing the concerns they shared that stuck in their throats; words unsaid for fear of losing what they had built and come to treasure.
This is one of those remarkable stories that wasn’t burdened with too much external interference, instead opting to focus on the flourishing romance and the involved parties’ own emotional baggage. They provided their own conflict in spades, issues and self-esteem pitfalls cropping up left, right and centre. Let’s face it, that is the most realistic thing in a new relationship; we are our own enemies. No one needed to be stuffed in the back of a tinted-windowed van or be the victim of human trafficking. They came to the table with their own issues, and thus, to me, they were real and true.
One small thing I will address is that I am not sure of the reaction of the ex-girlfriend in the story. Within quite a contained timeline, I might have expected her to be a bit more resentful that her ex of nine years didn’t even finish moving out before moving on. But you know what? It didn’t harm the story one bit. It was a reaction I think most people would wish they could have in the same situation, and so I liked it. It endeared me to all characters, and saved the connection Mark and Rachel had clearly built in their years of fighting the losing battle of their relationship. As an aside to that, Jamie’s family also served as a wonderful compliment to Jamie’s character. It was impossible not to see how he became such a great young man with such a close and supporting family.
A very British story from a very British author, I see a glittery future ahead for Jay Northcote. This book ticked all the right boxes, and I am very excited to see more from the author and her upcoming works with Dreamspinner Press. From a young lad from Blighty, I give this little slice of Brit-romance a really well-deserved 4.5 stars.