Title: On Days Like These
Author: Christiane France
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella 24k words (89 PDF pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: What’s an author to do when writer’s block strikes and his muse doesn’t seem to be coming back? Go on a fun romp through the Italian countryside.
When burned-out mystery writer Mark Salvatore asks to borrow the old family home in the hills near Genoa, Italy, for some much needed R&R, he envisions a blissful summer enjoying the warm sun, hanging out with the villagers, eating homemade Italian food, and drinking the local wine.
After a frustrating trip via Paris and Nice, however, Mark finally arrives in Santi Fiori in the rain to find the house has been trashed. Chickens and ducks from a nearby farm have taken possession of the living room, and there’s a naked man asleep under a pile of blankets in the bedroom.
Tony Wheeler is English and says he’s in Italy on business. He also tells Mark that his car has been stolen, and he’s waiting for his clothes to dry and the weather to clear before he can walk to the village to inform the police. For all Mark knows, Tony could be a drifter, a drunk, or just about anything. And just hours earlier, Mark heard news of a bank robbery where the thieves got away with the loot.
Immediately, Mark’s creative processes go into high gear when it comes to the sexy stranger. Milan is less than a hundred miles north, and Santa Fiori is just off the main Milan-Genoa highway. What if Tony Wheeler is just an alias? What if he’s one of the thieves, hiding out in the hills until the heat is off? And what will Mark do when his fierce attraction to the mystery man starts to get the best of him?
I was pleasantly surprised by the latest offering by Christiane France. As the blurb said, successful author Mark Salvatore had been burning the candle at both ends, writing endlessly to meet numerous deadlines without a break. Now the bill has come due and his creativity has gone MIA. His sister suggests a vacation in the old family home in the hills near Genoa.
Unfortunately, the trip is a disaster from the start and when Mark arrives in Santi Fiori, he finds the house is a shambles and that someone’s been sleeping in his bed. Once over his initial shock, Mark recognizes his attraction to his squatter, Tony, and the sparks fly between them. What follows is an interesting trip through Mark’s mind as his creative juices start flowing again and he spins a story centered around this sexy stranger.
I don’t usually expect much from a book of this length, but Ms. France manages to give us enough character development to make us care about Mark and especially Tony, who has a back story that makes his character very sympathetic. These issues help raise this above just a simple novella. The relationship between Mark and Tony doesn’t seem rushed, despite the book’s length, and develops at a good pace, with a believable HFN ending. They don’t actually have sex when they first meet as we’ve seen many times, but instead it happens when it helps advance both characters’ development, rather than just being gratuitous. Overall I enjoyed On Days Like These as an interesting look at an author’s overcoming his worst fear – writer’s block.