The Particulars: Contemporary romance, M/M, Riptide Publishing, 2013, In Print
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Sarah Lyons (Riptide's Editorial Director) pressed a print copy of this book into my hands at an RWA conference (um, Atlanta 2013?) and said something along the lines of "I know you don't read a lot of m/m but you must read this." Or something like that. In true Wendy fashion I had every intention of reading it back then and....yeah. Then the book came out, it got a TON of attention, the hype happened and then....the dissenting voices. Being less than a newb to m/m (at that time) I just didn't have the energy to wade into the fray. Plus - hype. It freaks me out.
The Review: Ash Winters is a writer - something of a literary wunderkind, although his last book was a crime novel (it was well received by the by). He's also clinically depressed, suffers from bipolar disorder, has spent time committed in a hospital, and has tried to kill himself. So yeah. Ash has issues. He also has friends, although his relationships have been complicated by his mental illness. To that end he has forced himself to attend a stag party at a local club for one of said friends when he meets Darian Taylor who is so far the opposite of Ash it's almost absurd. Darian is from Essex, with his orange spray tan and aspirations to be a model. Ash starts to think of him as a "glitter pirate." Lots of flash, seemingly little substance, but holy hell - he wants him. Just looking at him Ash wants him. And for reasons that escape just about everybody - bubbly, positive Darian seems to want Ash.
What we have here is your basic opposites attract romance. Ash is the guy who lives in his own head, consumed by his illness. Just about everything in Ash's life is a struggle. There's a scene where Darian shanghaies Ash into making a grocery store run and to watch Ash struggle with this, for what is for most of us totally mundane, task is heartbreaking and exhausting.
As much as Ash is in his own head, Darian is the guy you want to be BFFs with. It's not that he's stupid or simple or even superficial. There's depth to Darian, he just doesn't wear it on his sleeve. Darian is all about taking care of his beloved nan, his friends, fashion, fun; he's the model of positive living. It's not that Darian never gets sad or upset or even angry - he just doesn't waste needless energy on letting those things weigh him down.
Parts of this story are quite funny, in a dorky book nerd sort of way. Ash has a new book out that's doing well so he decides to call his agent, Amy.
I rang Amy, so she could congratulate me and I could congratulate her and to confirm my attendance at the proposed readings, signings, and interviews. And possibly the Edinburgh International Book Festival next year, an occasion I thoroughly despised. I always seemed to get stuck next to the new Martin Amis. As if the old one wasn't bad enough.Yeah, I'm a librarian - but seriously, I laughed until I fell out of my chair after reading that.
The most emotionally touching parts of this story, for me, came at the end. Inevitably (because, like duh) Ash ends up stepping in it big time with Darian. I mean rips his heart out, stomps on it for a while, and then shoves it back into his bare hands. Which means we, dear readers, get a grovel scene. A really, really good one. Because after Ash screws up (and boy, does he screw up!), he has to admit some hard truths to himself and when he finally does? Will he be too late to win back Darian?
But, alas, I did have some quibbles. Like I mentioned, Ash is a writer, words are his life, and boy howdy does our guy get wordy (yep, first person point-of-view). This story is very, very wordy in parts. I started imagining the author gazing at a Post-It note stuck to his computer monitor that read: If 5 words are good, 20 words are better. Sometimes this wordiness is great, lyrical even, and the prose melts your heart. Other times? It could have been dialed back a notch from exhausting.
Also there's the small matter of our Essex boy, Darian. Vernacular folks, we haz it. Darian has problems with the letter T and he hasn't met an H he couldn't drop. For example, instead of "thanks," we're reading "fanks." Instead of "think," we get "fink." Honestly it takes a while to get used to and like all dialogue written in the vernacular (Scottish historical romance authors, I be lookin' at you...), it can be hard to pick up a flow or rhythm to reading those sections. I liked the story and really liked the romance despite this writing choice - but I could easily understand some readers getting highly annoyed and throwing up their hands.
Quibbles aside, I really enjoyed this story quite a bit. It didn't pass my OMG Must Reread This Someday test, but it's still a good solid read and I loved the romance. As a character study it flipped most of my switches, and as a romance it hit most of my favorite sweet spots. Sarah was right - I had to read this. I'm kinda sorry now I didn't sooner.
Final Grade = B+