Title: Caught! (Shamwell Tales: Book One)
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 337 Pages
Category: Contemporary, RomCom
At a Glance: Robert and Sean are lovely together, and their story is just the right mix of angst and humor to make for a delightfully heartwarming romance.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Bow ties are cool . . . but secrets, not so much.
Behind Robert Emeny’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But then he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.
Sean Grant works in pest control, lives on a council estate, and rides a motorbike. Robert is an ex–public schoolboy from a posh family who drives a classic car. On the face of it, they shouldn’t have anything in common. Yet Robert can’t resist Sean’s roguish grin, and passion sparks between them even after an excruciatingly embarrassing first date.
Too bad the past Robert’s hiding from is about to come looking for him. His increasingly ludicrous efforts to keep his secrets are pushing Sean away—but telling the truth could make Sean leave him for good.
Review: Just to be clear, this is a review of the lately released revised version of Caught!, book one in the Shamwell Tales series by JL Merrow. Sometimes, there are characters that just click with a reader. Whether it be their voice, their personality, or just the story surrounding their lives, the author creates a person that sparks something beyond just being mildly entertained. Such was the case for me when it came to Robert Emeny. I am not sure what it was about this character that made me want to wrap him up in a hug, but he definitely got under my skin and I felt that I really got to know him by the end of this delightful story.
As novels go, Caught! was a breath of fresh air for me. A lonely schoolteacher in a small, quaint village, with the obligatory crazy neighbor and even wackier gal pal, is hiding from a past incident that has left him shattered and guarded. With more than just his heart at stake, Robert is reluctant to open himself up to a new relationship, primarily because it means revealing the horrific incident that led him to his new post, and that is something he is sure will end any newfound romance before it even begins. However, Sean Grant is not so easily put off by Robert’s reluctance. After making sure that it is not due to their different social statuses, Sean begins to woo Robert, and the two seem to be moving toward a real understanding and some potentially deep feelings for each other. But the past is a funny thing, and the saying that it often comes back to haunt us is a very real sentiment. So when Robert’s past shows up on his doorstep, and is not so readily explained away, Sean retreats thinking Robert has been lying to him. Unfortunately, by not sharing his past, Robert has now driven a huge wedge between himself and the man he has grown to truly care for—and may have lost for good.
What was so compelling about this story was the fact that Robert was very vulnerable in many ways, but kept it hidden so well from Sean. From his quirky bowties to his wanting to keep everything in its place, Robert desperately needed order in his life so that the frightening past was kept at bay. When he allows that veneer to crack and Sean to enter in, we experience a whole new level of intimacy with Robert—the reader becomes his confidant and, as such, often one felt like screaming at him to just tell Sean about the past, for goodness sake, and get it over with. As far as Sean goes, I was delighted that this was not a one sided story, but that in typical JL Merrow style, I learned more and more about both men in this novel rather than just the leading man. Because this author is masterful at creating fully fleshed out characters, I felt totally involved in their fates and invested in their relationship.
It wasn’t just Robert and Sean who kept me titillated but the community that surrounds them as well. From parents brawling in the schoolyard to fellow teachers and some wonderful parents and siblings, the entire quirky group provided more than their fair share of laughs in this cunning novel. Caught! is a lighthearted romance set in a sweet country village where new beginnings seem possible. Robert and Sean are lovely together, and their story is just the right mix of angst and humor to make for a delightfully heartwarming romance.
You can buy Caught! here: