Title: Out! (Shamwell Tales #3)
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Page Count: 322
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 1 flame out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?
Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.
His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.
Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.
Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax adviser clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.
Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.
In the third book in the Shamwell tales, we come back to Patrick, who was introduced in Played! as the poor chap who broke his ankle playing cricket and had to be replaced in the Sham-Dram’s production of Mid-Summer’s Nights Dream
Patrick is active in the community, works for the non-profit SHARE which raises money for adults with disabilities, lives with his eclectic Mother, and came from a somewhat broken home which has definitely influenced his outlook on life.
Bring in Mark. Closeted Mark. Mark has just quit his job as a powerful tax consultant for big companies, packed up his rebellious teenage daughter, and moved to Shamwell. He’s struggling to be a single Dad – heck, he’s struggling to just be a Dad – while putting any thoughts of a boyfriend on the back burner. For being an “older” guy (39) he’s somewhat naive.
When Patrick and Mark meet at the Shamwell Spartan’s Club, it’s attraction at first sight. And that’s one thing I really appreciated about this book. It came across as less “insta-love” and more, “I really want to get to know you better”. Patrick, being a tender 25ish, doesn’t care about the age gap. But therein was character flaw – lack of world experience. Mark’s been out in the work force, understands that everything isn’t always black and white, and that there are ramifications [in choice of partners, in job choices, in families, in marriage..] That life isn’t so cut and dried.
I appreciated how the book incorporated several aspects of gay life that aren’t necessarily discussed – the “it didn’t work” marriage, children from the marriage, and being closeted to your own kids. Mark’s daughter Fen added a dynamic plot line that really demonstrated how hard it can be.
While I also enjoyed the strong moral aspect and discussion of people trying to bilk the system from two disparate view points (nice to know it happens elsewhere in the world!), this topic brought out what I didn’t care for in this book – Patrick jumping to conclusions. One, it felt strongly of Sean from Caught! and two, a huge immaturity that would be a frickin’ turn-off to just about anyone. I wanted to think, that to a 39 year old raising a petulant 14 year old, dealing with multiple temper tantrums would be a total deal-breaker.
I have to admit, I would totally love to see a follow-up to this. I felt the plot arc ended a bit abruptly, and I would like to see the generational-gap relationship with kid explored further. Where would Patrick and Mark be in a year? What issues would they have to balance? How does Fen fit in? How does the ex-wife handle the relationship? Does Fen ever get a cat? All interesting topics, I think.