Title: Life on Pause
Author: Erin McLellan
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 289 Pages
At a Glance: Would I recommend this one? Absolutely I would. It was original, funny, sweet, and an overall fun read. Despite my misgivings, I’m glad I read this book.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Niles Longfellow is a nerd, and not the trendy type of nerd, either. He wears a historically accurate homesteader costume to work every day, has a total of one friend, and doesn’t know how to talk to guys. So when he gets a flat tire and the hottest hipster ever stops to help him, all Niles can think is that he’s wearing his stupid cowboy getup. Normally, Niles feels invisible to other men, but he’d take that invisibility any day over Rusty Adams seeing him in suede and fringe.
Rusty moved to Bison Hills to help his sister raise her daughter, and nothing is more important to him than that. He’s also fresh off a breakup, and isn’t prepared for anything complicated. But then he meets Niles. Rusty sees Niles as more than a clumsy, insecure guy in a costume. He sees a man who is funny, quirky, and unexpected.
Nothing about their connection is simple, though, especially the lies and insecurities between them. Niles doesn’t know if he can trust Rusty with his heart, and when Rusty’s sister decides to move away, Rusty doesn’t know if he can stay behind.
Review: Life on Pause is Erin McLellan’s second outing for Riptide Publishing, and I actually enjoyed it even more than I did her first book, Controlled Burn, which I also liked. That’s not to say that this book is perfect—there were a few things that had me a little frustrated—but, overall, the premise was great, the characters were engaging, and the writing style was easygoing and enjoyable. There were those moments during the middle stretch, where I wanted to sort of gently thump my head on the table. But, there were also a few things that I really, really loved.
Niles Longfellow was absolutely one of the things I loved. At times, he was also one of the causes of me wanting to thump my head on the table…Buuut, I adored him. Niles loves his job at the Bushyhead Homestead in Bison Hills, Oklahoma. And he’s really great at it, too. He is totally in his element when he’s teaching a group of kids, talking about his heritage, or doing one of his demos. When he’s at work, wearing his historically accurate homesteader costume doesn’t bother him or make him feel nerdy. But, when he ends up with a flat tire on his way home, and attracts the attention of Rusty Adams, the choir director at the town’s middle and high schools, being seen in said costume is ridiculously humiliating. Rusty didn’t mind it, though! He found pretty much everything about Niles attractive.
He probably shouldn’t imagine strangers naked—it wasn’t exactly polite—but not every queer man he met had such long legs. Or chaps.
I also liked Rusty’s character a lot. He’s sexy and fun and, like Niles, he loves his job very much. Even though working alongside his ex-boyfriend, Todd, who is his accompanist, can be weird at times, Rusty adores teaching the kids, doing the arrangements and rehearsals for the concerts, and that he gets to impact so many lives in the small town he has grown to love more than he ever thought he would. Another endearing and wonderful thing about both Niles and Rusty was how much they each loved and treasured their families. As the blurb says, Rusty moved to Bison Hills with his sister, to support her when she needed to distance herself from their parents’ disapproval, and to help her raise her daughter. Rusty pretty much thinks the sun rises and sets on his niece, Margo. I loved this line so much…
And Margo was a girl after his own heart. She loved Johnny Cash and Ella Fitzgerald and show tunes, and he loved her like his heart would split to pieces because of her smile.
Niles is back living in his parents’ home, his childhood home, because he couldn’t stand the thought of being away from his dad after losing his mother. So, after college, he moved back in to the house so his dad wouldn’t be alone, and to make sure he took care of himself. Now, though, it’s Niles who’s alone, as he recently had to put his father in a nursing home after having suffered multiple strokes. So, still grieving his mother, and feeling less and less hopeful that his father will recover, Niles’ life is basically on pause because he is afraid to change his parents’ house, no matter how much he realizes it’s time to start making it his own. And, he really does want that…wants to make it “the type of place where a nice man might want to spend time with him.” It broke my heart how stuck he was, though.
All his grief, his stasis, his insecurity – it built and built until it felt too big to overcome. It was like his feet were stuck in cement and he was too afraid to break free.
Niles’ insecurity was the center of the conflict in the story. And, unfortunately, was also behind the crux of the issues I had with the flow of the book as well. I get where his insecurities came from. And, I hate how people like his asshole co-worker, Denny, and his occasional nameless, faceless hookups have turned him into such an insecure mess. But, it was dragged out in the story to the point that I got really frustrated and even angry with Niles and his behavior. The story became fairly repetitive and whiney at times. In fact, both Rusty and Niles pissed me off in turn, when they each had a stint of blowing the other off and not returning phone calls or texts. In my opinion, there was a lot of drama for drama’s sake, and situations that did not need to escalate or become as dragged out as they were. It may be worth noting that this same type of issue was the reason I didn’t love McLellan’s Controlled Burn as much as I’d hoped.
All of that being said…yes, the middle dragged a bit and was somewhat repetitive, but it wasn’t to the point that I ever became so annoyed that I considered putting the book down, or just couldn’t take it anymore. There was far more that I liked about Life on Pause than didn’t, and I’d much rather talk about those things. 😊
Another absolute win, and perhaps my favorite person in the book next to Niles, was Niles’ best friend, Victor. I. Loved. Victor. He was so good to Niles, and constantly boosted him up without ever coming across like he thought Niles was pathetic in any way. He was completely amazing and outrageous, and McLellan’s characterization and descriptions of him made me want his whole story so bad. I would read a book about Victor in a heartbeat. And this line, when Victor was telling Niles he’d come help him redecorate the house, slayed:
“We’ll make your bedroom look like a Hogwarts common room and get a glass display case for your sex toys. It’ll be awesome.”
A couple of other quick thoughts…First, confident Niles, who we got to see a lot of in the last quarter of the book, was sexy as fuck. I wish we’d gotten more glimpses of him sooner than we did. Second, there is a hate-sex scene at about two-thirds of the way in, and, you guys, ohmygoddddd. It’s on fire. And, finally, the end was goooorgeously romantic, and I loved it. I swooned suuuper hard at both Niles and Rusty during the final chapter(s) and the epilogue. Incidentally, I had a musing right after I finished reading, that this author should maybe try her hand at a novella. I think she could write a really great novella-length story. I can’t help but wonder if the longer book format makes her feel like she needs to draw things out needlessly, and if the things I’ve found problematic in both of her books would have been non-issues if they weren’t allowed the space to get away from her. I dunno…Like I said, just some thoughts.
Would I recommend this one? Absolutely I would. It was original, funny, sweet, and an overall fun read. Despite my misgivings, I’m glad I read this book, and look forward to reading more of this author’s work. I so hope she writes Victor’s story!!
You can buy Life on Pause here: