Review – Lovers Leap by J.L. Merrow

Lovers Leap coverTitle: Lovers Leap
Author: J.L. Merrow
Publisher: Riptide
Our rating: 3.5 stars

Publication date: February 29, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Contemporary
Length: 198 pages
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Review Summary: A cute story with one very sweet hero, but the other is so arrogant he’s hard to like. It’s funny without being laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Plot Summary/Description

Michael’s bi, and he’s visiting the Isle of Wight with a girlfriend in February. Tired of listening to her talk, he breaks up with her in the most insensitive way on Sandown pier. She pushes him into the sea and heads back to the hotel to trash his bags. He’s left to drown, freeze or charm a lovely local guy into helping him out.

It’s Rufus’s fifth birthday – yes, he’s a leap year baby, and only has a birthday every four years. So he’s 20, and is the mainstay of his dad and stepmother’s bed & breakfast guest house. When he sees Michael walking out of the sea, he’s smitten. But Michael’s only a temporary visitor, and doesn’t plan to come out to his mother back home.

Lovers Leap Review

I enjoyed the comedy, I liked the setting and I loved Rufus. His friend calls him Roo (as in the baby kangaroo in Winnie-the-Pooh) and it totally suits him. He’s a really sweet guy.

The problem is Michael. You know when your friend falls in love with some absolute tosser and thinks that because s/he loves him/her, that turns the tosser into a wonderful person and you should totally love him/her too? But you hate the bastard? That’s what happens here. We love Rufus and for some unfathomable reason, Rufus loves Michael, but that doesn’t make us love Michael. He’s arrogant and selfish, and Rufus’s affection is not enough to convince the rest of us that he’s a good guy deep down.

Michael needs to change in some major ways before he’s worthy of Rufus, and he doesn’t. He just keeps on figuring out what he needs to do to get what he wants.

J.L. Merrow often writes guys who are a little hard to like – e.g. Phil in the Plumber’s Mate series (link to Amazon), who used to bully Tom at school. But Phil is redeemed by maturity, guilt and the slowly developing relationship between the two of them, which isn’t without its up and downs. That feels a lot more realistic. In Lovers Leap we’re asked to accept insta-love on both sides, unexplained by anything except looks.

It’s hard to forgive Michael’s faults and to accept Rufus settling for him when surely Rufus could have found somebody so much nicer.

I enjoyed it all the same, because I love J.L. Merrow’s writing, but I’d recommend it for die-hard J.L. Merrow fans only. If you don’t know her work so well and want to read something set in her home territory of the Isle of Wight, I’d suggest picking up Wight Mischief (link to Amazon) instead.

Review – Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

Fish and Ghosts coverTitle: Fish and Ghosts
Series: Hellsinger #1
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: December 30, 2013
Genre: M/M paranormal romance
Length: Novel
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Review Summary: A must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Tristan Pryce’s uncle died and left him the huge and beautiful Hoxne Grange because he was the only one of the family who could see the ghosts that used it as a stopover on their way to the next world. His other aunts and uncles, not surprisingly, want to have Tristan certified as crazy to get their own hands on the house, so they call in Wolf Kincaid, the CEO of the paranormal research team Hellsinger Investigations, to prove there are no ghosts at the Grange.

Wolf’s looking forward to showing Tristan up as a fake, but things don’t turn out that way. He’s not as crazy and a lot more attractive than Wolf’s expecting. Then Wolf’s team’s activities unleash the ghost of a serial killer in the grounds, and not just their hearts but the Grange and even their lives are in danger.

Fish and Ghosts Review

So right off, I loved the premise here. Haunted house, reclusive hero, friendly ghosts. Other things I loved included Tristan, who is troubled enough to be interesting without being angst-ridden. Wolf is a good partner for him, if a little less developed. Rhys Ford is an excellent writer and I like her style.

Tristan and Wolf are two appealing characters and there is a good tension and fun dialog between them. Some of the ghosts are lovely – Jack the dog and Heather the cook are too sweet for words (although a little research might have prompted the author to give her a different name – Google’s telling me ‘Heather’ didn’t become popular until the late 19th century, and cooks were always called by their last names in England anyway).

On the subject of names, at first I thought the name Wolf was too cheesy to be bearable, but I forgave the author when it turned out to be short for Wolfgang – almost. Because then you’re left with the question of whether it sounds like ‘volf’ or ‘woolf’. I’m sure there’s a rule in all those ‘how to be a writer’ books about not giving your characters hard-to-pronounce names…

The main characters do have a bad case of insta-love. Initial hostility set up by the situation dissolves almost on sight. Wolf forgets about his client’s interests and takes Tristan’s side. Tristan, who has preserved his virginity until now (why?) suddenly decides this is The One.

The sex scenes are long, maybe too long for some readers. However, they’re not just acrobatics, they do develop the characters and the relationship, so even readers who usually skip these scenes might appreciate them. If you like M/M sex scenes you’ll love them.

In summary, Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford is a must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house. Since it’s the first in a series, I’m hoping the relationship between the two MCs will develop at a deeper level in the next book. I’d like to see more of Tristan and the ghosts, and less of Wolf’s staff and family. But I’ll certainly be looking out for more from the Hellsinger ghost hunting team.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the fish in the title, it’s a play on the old saying, ‘fish and guests stink after three days’. Because that’s how long the ghosts stay at Hoxne Grange…

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