Title: Sam’s Reviews
Author: Jan Irving
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary m/m, light BDSM, mystery/ suspense
Length: Novel (176 pfd pages)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: Because he can’t walk anymore, Sam thinks that he’ll never be able to act out his need for sexual dominance again, until Tall shows him that a man in a wheelchair can still be man enough .
The Blurb: As the holiday season draws near, Sam Masterson, a former marine who is now in a wheelchair, has more holiday unspirit than spirit going for him. He owns a building where a lot of misfits make a home and his neighborhood is threatened because of a shiny new development going up. He heads uptown to speak his mind to the man behind the monstrosity. Architect Tall Hollander is not what he expects — tall like his name, but sexy and up front about finding Sam attractive.
Sam also has other pressures — a brutal thief known as The Bruiser is haunting the area, he has sole custody of his vulnerable nephew Joe, and his latest gay romance has just been rejected because it’s too “unrealistic.” So Sam escapes into fantasy, the only place where he finds the passion he hungers for. That is, until Tall decides to use his creativity to spark his holiday fire.
Sam Masterson had literally shot his feet out from under him by a land mine in Afghanistan. He has been drowning in self pity for a while when the mugging of his grand-aunt forces him out of his self-inflicted misery. A few days before christmas he finds himself saddled with the responsibility for his eight-year-old nephew Joe and his grand – aunt’s businesses, a yarn shop and an old tenement building. But the neighborhood seems to be falling to pieces around him and his nephew is underwhelmed by Sam as his new legal guardian. On top of that, Sam’s latest novel has just been rejected, so his new choosen profession as a writer of gay romances seems to be a dead end. Sam feels utterly out of his depth, a failure in every aspect of his life, and so he resorts to fantasizing – mostly about sex, for he hasn’t had any in a very long while and can’t imagine anyone wanting him, a cripple, the way he needs to be wanted.
It takes a hole in the wall of the yarn shop, caused by a caterpillar from the nearby construction site of a shiny new apartment building to propel Sam back into action mode. Determined not letting himself be intimidated by the high-and -mighty developers, Sam sets out to have a straight talk with the man he holds responsible, architect Trevor “Tall” Holland. What he gets, though, is a breathtakingly gorgeous man who not only promptly sets to fix the damage, but also makes it very clear he finds Sam attractive and the wheelchair doesn’t make the slightest difference to him. The mutual lust between the two men is immediate, although it takes a bit of persuasion on Tall’s part to make Sam acknowledge it. Only when Sam finally lets himself in on Tall, he comes to realize that his life might have changed drastically, but he is still the man he was before.
I liked this book very much, although I can see why others may be of a different opinion.
On the one hand, there was the character of Sam, who I liked very much. Sam is a marine with all his heart, he personifies the whole romatic glory of being a marine, the honor, the fierce protective instinct, the doggedness once he’s set on achieving a goal. He is the perfect soldier and a leader of men – except for the fact that he’s in a wheelchair, which in his own eyes makes him a poor copy of the man he wants to be. Still, once he’s needed – by his grand-aunt, by the tenants of his grand-aunt’s house and especially by his nephew Joe – Sam does what he has to in order to get the work done, no matter how. Sam needs to be in control, in his life as well as in bed, and the latter poses an even bigger problem for him since he figures that no other man would willingly submit to a man in a wheelchair. So when beautiful, successful, independent Tall indicates to Sam he would like nothing better than submit to him, Sam can’t buy it immediately. But once Tall has won him over, Sam seizes the opportunity with both hands. Sam has also a little bit of a cruel streak sometimes, a certain ruthlessness which in my opinion betfits a marine and lends plausibility to his dominant nature. He’s a rounded, multilayered character, not necessarily endearing but true. The author’s skill managed to give Sam a very distinctive and deliciously sarcastic voice.
We see Tall only through the eyes of Sam, the first person narrator, and so Tall is necessarily less elaborated, but still a well-drawn character. Drawn to Sam by instant attraction, Tall is willing and able to see through Sam’s many layers of self-protection, the grudginess, the forbidding snarl, the wheelchair right to the man behind the mask. Tall is the very example for a pushy bottom, he’s the one who courts Sam, who initiates the next move, and who ushers the relationship forward faster than Sam would have gone. I liked this about Tall, that he went about what he wanted with determination. He’s his own man in every way despite his need for submission, able and willing of taking care of himself. Still, he was also willing to adapt himself to Sam’s smaller way of life, which made his submission all the more believable.
Some of the secondary cast were also wonderful characters, particularly Joe, at times so precocious and then again, so childish and cheeky, just right for a kid who didn’t always have an easy life, or Audra, the cunning, goldenhearted matron. There was Tall’s sister Erin, pain-in-the-butt teenage princess, there was Mel, Sam’s fiercely loyal employee, and all the other inhabitants of the old house, a colorful backdrop for Sam’s and Tall’s story.
On the other hand, there were parts of the plot which didn’t quite do it for me. The way Sam’s opponent, Stevenson, acted in regard to either Sam’s book and the holiday parade were too over the top to be plausible, much less realistic. The same is true for the reaction Audra’s tenants showed to Sam’s book, which, after all, is a gay master/slave fantasy romance. Even in the most open-minded community you’d expect at least one or two people taking offense to such a theme. But no, everybody is extraordinarily supportive and helpful, which is simply too good to be true. And of course there had to be the holiday miracle, which was sweet and positive, but regrettably convenient.
Another constant niggle for me were the lenghthy passages out of Sam’s book which kept interrupting the actual storyline. They always threw me right out of the flow, especially because they were sometimes inserted without any warning. I couldn’t decide if the author meant to mirror the budding relationship between Sam an Tall with the one between fantasy lord Gunnar and his slave Jia; if so, it didn’t work all to well. I get it that these excerpts were there to depict Sam’s state of mind at the time he had written them, but they could have been drastically shortened and still fulfilled their purpose. On the other hand, Sam’s “channeling Rock” episodes where he fantasizes about the main character of his other novel, a super-marine, worked a lot better for that matter; and it didn’t hurt that those parts were so hilariously overdone they read like right out of a bad porno.
All in all, a well-written story that had rounded characters, a nice storyline, funny and sweet moments, an adorable eight-year-old boy, several queer customers, lots of colorful yarn, breathtakingly hot sex, emotion – filled love and some pretty dispensable snippets of a fantasy book. Think this menu will be to your taste? Go for it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.