Title: Cherry Pie (Mercury Rising #1)
Author: Samantha Kane
Cover Artist: April Martinez
Publisher: SK Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: Short Novel
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A charming romance set in a small town which left me with the warm fuzzies.
John Ford packed up his life a year ago and moved from LA to small Mercury, North Carolina after the death of his long-term partner. He’s been living in a kind of suspended animation, fixing up the old house he bought there, reclusive and alone. Until the day Connor Meecham appears.
Conn Meecham has returned home, only to find it isn’t his anymore. Someone else owns his mother’s house now. But Conn needs that house to find the man he left behind more than eight years ago–before the drugs, before prison, before his life derailed. Lonely, desperate, lost, Conn finds in John a kindred soul.
Mercury is a dying town. But John sets out to change that when he learns what it means to Conn. Through home improvements, sex, old friends, sex, misunderstandings, sex, and homemade cherry pie, John and Conn may finally discover that where they are now can be heaven on earth if they want it to be.
Mercury Rising Series
I’ve not read a book by this author before, but have heard good things about her writing. When I saw this new release at Loose Id I took the opportunity to give her a try. I’m glad I did because this book was just delightful.
The story follows John, a guy in his thirties who, after losing his lover, decides to up-sticks from California and move to a grand old house in Mercury, North Carolina. The plan is to spend some time renovating the house and enjoying his very early retirement whilst putting the past behind him. One day John sees a young man, Conn, hanging about outside the house and learns that the house used to belong to his family. Conn moved away from Mercury and got into some trouble, but he’s back now and wants to make amends with the town he abandoned. As an act of kindness, John takes him in as a handyman to help with the renovations but it’s soon clear that there’s an attraction between them too.
The highlight for me in reading this book was the portrayal of small town life in the Southern USA, and the blend of the older characters with their long family histories with the younger characters who are trying to forge out a life which breaks some of the traditions whilst still adhering to small town values. The fabulous character of Miss Priss epitomised the traditions of the town whilst the sheriff embodied some of the harsher realities of views on homosexuality in the south. Although John had been living in Mercury for a year it takes Conn’s appearance to bring John into the community itself and I found his utter bafflement at some of the things he gets dragged into quite amusing at times. It all happens in such an organic way that before he knows it he’s going to church and hosting impromptu gatherings at his house to satisfy the curiosity of the townsfolk. His resignation that his quiet and relatively private life will never be the same was a charming contrast to the loneliness of his life at the beginning of the book. I also liked that the author addressed some of the negative aspects of modern day small town life such as lack of jobs and the closure of the smaller businesses, it grounded me more within the setting than if it had been some idealised look at small town life.
Another aspect of this book which worked for me was the way that the two characters move on from their pasts. In many ways Conn is both facing up to the past he left behind whilst also trying to move on from what happened whilst he was away. The way he’s forced to face up to people he unintentionally hurt when he moved away suddenly is done at a gentle pace. There are no huge scenes with recriminations, but instead each time he meets someone from his past he has to deal with what he’s done. It’s not overly emotional, more a quiet intensity in his interactions with the characters, especially his old best friend, Toby, but I found it very affecting nonetheless. John, on the other hand, has run away from his past and is essentially hiding. He is forced to face up to his previous life in California as well as the painful relationship he had and then lost, through his relationship with Conn who is very different from John’s ex-boyfriend. The way that John struggled with how to cope with Conn and those differences was realistically done, and in the end it is John who grows most as a character.
I had a couple of niggles. Firstly I really disliked the character of Kristine, John’s friend from California. I can understand why she was brought into the book – as a sort of catalyst for John having to examine his relationship with Conn – but she was irritating in the extreme. In a book where I pretty much liked everyone except the Sheriff, her brashness and the way she spoke to John raised my hackles – which probably shows you how much I liked John! Another niggle was that I felt the last part of the book was a little rushed, mainly because the author hides a lot of things from the reader until the big reveal at the end. This was just too sudden and out of the blue for me and made the very happy ending slightly forced.
However, these niggles weren’t enough to spoil the story too much for me, mainly because I liked the other characters so much and found the small town setting utterly delightful. I finished the book feeling all warm and fuzzy for John and Conn – not that this meant that everything was resolved, just that I was optimistic about their future and happy that I’d taken their romantic journey with them. Those who are looking for a contemporary romance which is strong on character and setting can’t go wrong with Cherry Pie, and I’d highly recommend it.