A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A sweet love story about starting a family and the people who will do anything to keep you from happiness.
Jerry McKenzie is a reclusive and antisocial artist, quite content to ride his horses and work in his studio, keeping to himself. It’s not any kind of life for a child, and when Jerry finds out he’s been named his orphaned nephew’s guardian, he panics. He doesn’t know what to do with a child and isn’t sure he can give William the affection and the love the boy so desperately needs.
Then Jerry meets David Loewenberger, the new teacher William becomes immediately attached to, and he starts to see how they could make a family together: a family to replace the one William lost, a family David had given up on ever finding… a family Jerry never knew he wanted.
Good to Know Series
William Baldwin Pruit III has just been informed of his parents deaths and that he’ll have to leave his only home, the Swiss boarding school in which he has spent the last five years with very few visits from his parents. Jerry McKensie, an artist whose works are widely becoming known and who is an impatient reclusive man, is suddenly saddled with his only remaining cousin’s ten year old son. He hadn’t even known that William had been born, as they were his only family and they have never kept in touch. Now, he is faced with the first real responsibility in his life. In his late forties, Jerry has never really committed to anything, much less been responsible for another person. It’s not William, he just knows that the boy would be better off in a foster home than having him as a guardian. What does he know about raising a kid? He offers to take William for a “test drive” for a few months to see how it will work out.
David Loewenberger is to be William’s teacher at his new school. He has been teaching for nearly twenty years and it is the passion of his life. The men in his life certainly aren’t the passion, at least, if they are — his passion has been misplaced. David seems to choose the worst men to date and he finally realizes just how bad it is when he walks into his home to find his boyfriend Sampson pounding into the ass of a twenty year old blond twink. Sampson doesn’t even stop when he sees David, just continues until he’s finished and David has thrown all of his clothes out of the window. Not only has Sampson left him now, but all his boyfriends had, and before that his whole family had disowned him for being gay and cut him off from their money.
David goes to visit William at Jerry’s ranch the week before William is to start school to get to know him and his new “Uncle Jerry,” and finds that not only does he adore William, with whom he can speak to in French and German, but Jerry is special as well. He’s crass, rude, a real asshole, but sexy as hell. Though he comes off like a prick, there’s something tender there as well. It isn’t long until Jerry and David have found themselves in a deep tangled mess of emotions, expectations, and hot sex. They’re starting to form a family. But when William starts to brag about how much he loves his teacher Mr. L and how much he spends time at their ranch with him and his Uncle Jerry, there are more than a few parents and teachers who come out of the woodwork to start a crusade.
I really enjoyed this book, though it had some problems (more on that later). I found the characters compelling. We really get to know David and Jerry in this book, and largely, the meat of the plot is devoted to them — their struggles, their fears, and each trying to do the right thing by William, whom they are both starting to love as a son. Though it tends to lead to a lot of angst, I really enjoy when the two characters get into it with each other, by which I mean that they actually work through their problems on the page, in the scene, with dialogue and actions. So many authors seem to gloss over this part of the plot and then explain it later with exposition. DW Marchwell did not do that here, which means that we got to see the gritty emotions that David had trying to figure out how to do right by his students, Jerry, and William, and we got to see how Jerry reacted to that. It did make the story somewhat angsty, but no more than I could handle and it was never overindulgent. I found William to be incredibly sweet and sad. I felt for him so much — how confused he was, and how scared. The first chapter is written from his point of view as he finds out about his parents dying. He wonders why he isn’t crying, because he knows he’s supposed to when people say things like that. I was sad that we never entered his POV after that and a bit confused why we did in the first place if we were never to revisit it. Also, as the story progressed, William drifted out of the picture a lot. He was always there, in the background, but other than one event, which ultimately didn’t seem to bother him much at all, the book never addresses his difficulty in acclimating to his new life. It seemed a little too perfect to me that he would not have any problems with his new life. There is a sequel to this story, though, which I know starts only a few months after the ending of this novel, so that might be something we visit in An Earlier Heaven.
I was a little confused as to why Social Services would show up to tell Jerry about William and his parents’ death with William there, ready to move in. I can’t believe that they would give Jerry no notice or that there would be no prior legal issues to deal with becoming a foster parent. There were also several instances (I counted at least 3) of redundancy of information and plot. For instance, David can apparently do something pretty special when Jerry is topping him (ah ah, no peeks! you have to read to find out about this one), and he tells him and surprises him with it twice. The same thing happens in another sex scene in which David has a major ear fetish and can get off just by Jerry licking his ears. It was really hot, not matter how I’m making it sound, but when David told him about his fetish twice and the second time Jerry was surprised again, I was a bit put off and pulled out of the narrative. There were a few instances of time jumping, once when a few weeks to a month went by, and I had to go back later and find out where the gap was. It was in the middle of a chapter with just a gap and no explanation. There was also a bit of head jumping, which bothers me, but wasn’t too difficult to deal with.
There are some sloppy things in the book, which if cleared up would make this a much better read. However, these things aside, the book was excellent. Though set on a ranch part of the time, I wouldn’t classify this as a western, even though there is quite a bit of horse riding and such. The focus of the story is really with David and his struggles with the parents, teachers, and school board, which was different from what I felt the blurb conveyed, which makes the story seem to be from Jerry’s POV. Also, to you Wave, Tam, and all of you Canadians — DW Marchwell is a very proud Canadian himself, as I could from some little one-liners here and there in the book 🙂
Despite my pet-peeves and a few sloppy bits, I would recommend Good to Know.
I will be reviewing the sequel to this book, An Earlier Heaven, recently released by Dreamspinner Press, Monday, December 27.