Title: Loose Cannon (The Woodbury Boys: Book One)
Author: Sidney Bell
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 448 Pages
At a Glance: Loose Cannon is the shortest 400+ page novel I’ve ever read. Sheer perfection.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Released after five years in the system for assault, streetwise Edgar-Allen Church is ready to leave the past behind and finally look to his future. In need of a place to crash, he’s leaning on Miller Quinn. A patient, solidly masculine pillar of strength and support, Miller has always been there for him—except in the one way Church has wanted the most.
With his staunchly conservative upbringing, Miller has been playing it straight his whole life. Now with Church so close again, it’s getting harder to keep his denial intact. As they fumble their way back to friendship after so many years apart, Miller struggles to find the courage to accept who he really is. What he has with Church could be more than desire—it could be love. But it could also mean trouble.
Church’s criminal connections are closing in on the both of them, and more than their hearts are at risk. This time, their very lives are on the line.
Review: What happens when you take one streetwise and angry teenager, add a man eight years his senior, and then turn their unusual first meeting into a friendship? You get Edgar-Allen Church and Miller Quinn and the start of something really beautiful.
I’m going to tell you virtually nothing about this book because every word, every page, every brilliant chapter needs to be experienced without the flailing of one ecstatic fangirl ruining the story for you. Suffice it to say that after reading Sidney Bell’s debut M/M novel, Bad Judgment, I knew I’d stumbled upon a storyteller whose narrative voice and talent for revealing hidden little things which make a character real, as well as finding that elusive chemistry that exists not only between the people on the page but that builds and solidifies between those people and the reader, was significant. If Loose Cannon accomplished any one thing, it’s this: Bell proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will read every single word she ever writes.
Sidney Bell builds her characters into fully formed and multi-layered people with pasts and presents, and then she works towards building a future for them that readers can feel safe in investing every emotion in and pinning every hope on. Church? Well, his life has been supremely shitty, to be blunt—an abusive alcoholic father who has drilled Church’s every inevitable failure into him with his words; a mother who plays into the psychology of domestic abuse and of her abuser; and, on top of that, Church has a tendency to lead with his fists and suffer the consequences later. When Miller catches Church in his apartment, attempting to make off with his television, it begins a back-and-forth of Church showing up and then disappearing again, but Miller always leaving the window open for his lost boy. Miller becomes Church’s safe place to land when life on the street gets too hard. The one thing they have going for them is an easy banter that doesn’t always come naturally to Miller, and when Church finally confesses to Miller that he’s gay, it couldn’t have gone better.
Until it went worse. So much worse.
Miller’s family background isn’t an unfamiliar one—the dichotomy of a devout parent whose faith is grounded in caring so deeply about a person’s immortal soul that he’ll judge and condemn the sin of loving if that love isn’t between a man and a woman. For all his life, Miller had it drilled into him that homosexuality was unnatural and sinful and that it was a one-way ticket straight to hell. Miller spent his life around family who threw out homophobic slurs as a means of insulting his manhood. Miller grew up internalizing rather than externalizing all of that prejudice, though. He knows there’s nothing wrong with being gay. But there’s everything wrong with anyone thinking Miller’s gay. Least of all, Miller himself.
As Sidney Bell begins filling in the details around the opening scene of this novel, we’re introduced to Church and the crime for which he’s served a five year sentence. And soon after, we meet Tobias and Ghost, two Woodbury Boys who not only figured prominently in Church’s story but will continue to shine as this series moves forward, I’m sure—something for which I probably don’t need to declare that I’m chomping at the bit, in a daily internet-stalking-for-details sort of way.
When Church’s sentence is served and it comes time for him to start a new life—serving parole, becoming a productive member of society, keeping his nose clean—he loses one safety net but knows that in spite of what happened between them five years before, Miller will still be there to catch him. At least, Church hopes so. And God, thus begins such a beautiful and poignant love story that just… guh. Left me incapable of moving on to another book until I’d spilled out all my love for this one right here on the page. Church and Miller advance and then retreat, Miller tries and then fails, tries and fails more, and in the midst of it all is life doing its best to sabotage Church’s efforts to walk the straight and narrow. He just wants to be a better man than his father, just wants to be the kind of man who’s worthy of Miller, doesn’t want to live down to his father’s expectations. And Miller? Miller just wants to be the kind of man who isn’t attracted to Edgar-Allen Church. But if Miller won’t come to Church, Church will come to Miller.
Loose Cannon is the shortest 400+ page novel I’ve ever read. Anyone who’s ever read a book that feels as though the page count is growing rather than shrinking knows what a gift it is to get hold of a book that’s over too soon. This book was over far, far too soon. I fell so madly in love with these characters and their struggles and appreciated the realism Bell took the time to craft into their romance—the shame, the awkwardness of their first time together, the worries, the missteps, and finally, the acceptance that there’s nowhere else either of them belongs but with each other. Sheer perfection.
You can buy Loose Cannon here: