Title: Adam and Holden (Men of Smithfield #4)
Author: LB Gregg
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary romance, mystery
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A fabulous end to the very enjoyable Men of Smithfield series. In and Out manages to skilfully combine humour, pathos and reflection as well as providing a sympathetic hero with a mental illness.
Former television sensation and renowned world explorer, Holden Worthington, is held prisoner by crippling agoraphobia. When a sexy young laborer arrives to set his property to rights, a ray of light glimmers in Holden’s dark and narrow world. A grisly discovery throws the two men together, and Holden finds his world turned inside out by his inappropriate longing for his awkward, young employee, Adam Morgan, and by a threat growing around them both. All of Smithfield believes Holden has something to hide, and Adam is determined to bring everything–including Holden Worthington–into the open.
In and Out is the fourth and final book in the Men of Smithfield series by LB Gregg. I’ve enjoyed all the books in the series so far, but I have to say that this one will probably turn out to be my favourite as I found both heroes to be completely delightful.
The book opens with our hero, Holden, ogling the new hired hand, Adam. Holden had a successful career as a travel writer, explorer and television presenter before he was outed on live TV by his ex-lover and friend, not only as a gay man, but as a writer of steamy gay porn novels. In disgrace and crippled by agoraphobia, Holden hides away in the family pile in Smithfield writing his travel cookery book and generally living in fear of a re-occurrence of the media-fuelled days following his outing. When Adam discovers a body in the compost heap, that fear becomes a reality as he battles with sarcastic police offers, intrusive TV cameras, Adam’s lawless brothers and the local Catholic priest in order to try and regain some of the peace and quiet he craves. Alongside this, Holden is also fighting his attraction to the much younger Adam, acting as mediator to his brother and soon-to-be ex-sister in law, and providing shelter for his back-stabbing ex.
As you can probably deduce from the above plot summary, there’s a lot going on in this book. There are a whole host of different characters who populate the pages of this book, and whose own lives directly affect Holden, our first person narrator. When we first meet Holden he is a rather lonely, and perhaps pathetic figure. He’s only 40, but due to his illness cannot leave the house. Thus he spends his days pottering around his huge house, swapping snidely affectionate remarks with his ageing housekeeper and helping his womanising drunkard of a brother up to bed each night. The arrival of Adam proves to be a catalyst for change and, just as the book is set in spring and contains images of renewal and hope, Holden slowly changes as the book progresses, as circumstances and the gentle prodding of Adam begin to help Holden overcome his illness. The portrayal of Holden’s agoraphobia was compassionate and realistic. I thought the mix of Holden’s frustration at his limitations and his fear was handled well, and those readers who long for a sympathetic character with an illness of the mind can’t go wrong with this book.
Before Holden gets to the end of the book, he has to go through an awful lot of inconvenience, deal with many difficult people, be accused of murder and have his whole life turned upside down. Throughout the whole experience, Adam is there offering a whole lot of support in a quiet and unassuming manner. I liked that, although Holden feels a little guilty about the age gap between them (Adam is 24), the decision as to whether Holden should act on his attraction to Adam wasn’t made into too much of a big deal. There’s no angst or pages of soul searching, it just happens and Holden accepts it and then can concentrate on the other crazy stuff that’s happening to him. I think it helped that Adam is generally a calming influence on Holden. In fact they are opposites in many respects: Adam is quiet, thoughtful and has a condition which means he has difficulty understanding humour or sarcasm; Holden is witty, charming and relies on humour to diffuse a situation or hide behind. Because he has to be very literal with Adam, that strips away some of Holden’s protective layers and allows him the luxury of honesty and straightforwardness which means their affectionate feelings for each other develop quickly. Despite this I felt that the feelings that develop between them were genuine. It’s not just lust – although there’s plenty of that, as well as intense sexual tension – but also that there’s respect between them which leads to deeper emotions.
Many of LB Gregg’s books are packed with humour and funny situations. This was perhaps the most serious book I’ve read of hers. That doesn’t mean that the book totally lacks humour, far from it. The whole situation with Holden and the sheer number of different characters gives the book a slightly mad-cap feel on occasion, and the way that Holden lurches from one situation to another reminded me of those shows like The Phil Silvers Show or Abbot and Costello, where one problem would be partly resolved only to have the next character/problem arise until a final showdown at the end. There are also a number of comedy lines which had me snorting with laughter. Having said that, there were many quiet, reflective moments in the story too, such as when Adam takes Holden out for a drive, the first time he’s been out the house in two years; or the moments when Holden remembers his dead brother. This mix of pathos, humour and quiet reflection appealed to me, and shows a depth of maturity in the writing that perhaps was missing in her earlier books in the series.
I could go on and mention a whole lot of other things I liked about this book, such as Holden’s relationship with his brother, housekeeper and friend Tony (the hero from the first book Gobsmacked); or that the mystery was satisfying; or the way that the town of Smithfield and its residents play just as much of an important role as the main characters. However, you’ll have to discover that for yourself, or this review will run to several pages!
All that remains to say now, is how much I enjoyed In and Out. It was a fittingly super end to a very enjoyable series.