Title: Play it Again, Charlie
Author: R. Cooper
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Play It Again, Charlie Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Rating: 5+ stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A piercing, gut-wrenching study of two men who learn how to communicate the love they have for each other–one gripping, difficult encounter at a time.
Blurb: After an accident left him broken in body and spirit, Charlie Howard retired from the police force to teach at a community college. Life has taught him that he’s unlikely to get what he wants, so he’s stopped asking. Instead, he hides from the world in the apartment complex he manages. After all, no one can leave him if he doesn’t let anyone in. Will, a sexy, classic-film-loving twink, moves into the apartment across from him and—to Charlie’s surprise—makes it clear that he’d like nothing more than to hole up with Charlie and get kinky. Will has no problem expressing what he wants in bed or out of it, but he’s never dated anyone long-term, and Charlie isn’t sure Will’s ready for anything serious. Charlie is a serious kind of guy. He wants Will and everything a relationship could mean, even if he doesn’t have any experience in that scene—even if that makes him vulnerable. As they grow closer, Charlie realizes that it’s time to start asking for what he wants, and if he wants to be happy, he’ll have to risk everything and ask Will to stay.
Review: Oh dear. I have walked around this review for four long days. Gnawed at it, worried over it, written and re-written it until in absolute frustration I almost asked poor Wave to let me take a pass. Almost.
This book is not easy. You will no doubt see other reviews that tell you that the first person narrative, the free flowing dialogue, the constant old movie one-liners and references make this a very difficult novel to read–to find a rhythm too–a groove that lets you fly through with ease. No, easy could never describe this novel–not by a long shot.
However, if you stick with it-if you overlook the stuttering cadence of the story, oh dear reader, then–well then you will have experienced one of the most beautiful stories I have ever had the privilege of reviewing.
“If you want me to be around, just ask.” He’d be there, in a heartbeat, if at all possible.
“I…it was quiet without you.”
“Quiet?” He loved the way Will angled his head as he considered that, though he didn’t understand how uncertain Will could still be. “That’s a bad thing?”
Charlie nodded, grateful once again when Will seemed to get it. “A very bad thing.”
Charlie, a forty-something ex-cop turned professor leads an almost reclusive life. Nearly killed by a drunk driver, now in near constant pain and bearing a limp, Charlie manages an apartment complex and takes care of his family, his Nana, his–well, everyone. Charlie takes care of everyone–but who takes care of him? No one–not until Will comes along.
Over ten years younger, a hair stylist–excuse me, colorist, Will springs into Charlie’s life, spouting old movie one-liners and rarely standing still long enough to have second dates. Forget about long term commitment–that is simply not in Will’s repertoire. Until Charlie…quiet, wounded, self-effacing Charlie changes everything. And the fear that change provokes in these two men threatens to derail the relationship before it can even get started.
From here the novel begins the most comprehensive, compelling character study ever to grace the written page. By the end of this novel you know exactly what makes Charlie tick. You understand that losing his lover after his accident left behind a damaged man–one who viewed himself as hardly worth the trouble it takes for another person to even acknowledge his existence, much less offer to take care of him–be his partner.
After finally acknowledging that he is drawn to Will, Charlie decides from the very beginning that Will will walk away one day–that there can be no future–so Charlie never asks for one. Instead he hides his heart, his life, his needs and by doing so actually pushes Will away–effectively living out a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“It had been made clear over the years that he was too much trouble to demand effort from anyone else, even at his best. He was a pushing-forty something community college professor with an obvious limp and a family that took up most of his attention.”
So Charlie pushes down his needs, his lust, his love…all the while giving Will lots of space to leave–because if you’re Charlie then obviously no one would want you, would want to stay. My heart just broke for this man. He was so certain of his own inadequacies that he never once sees what Will does–a man who is strong, who is worth every ounce of effort.
And what about Will? A drifter whose only anchor is a sister who allows him to crash at her place when he needs a bed. He lives dangerously, much to Charlie’s despair. Sex is a means to an end–a mindless flirtation. As Charlie points out, no one hears Will–no one listens to him, understands his needs and Will deserves so much more. And Charlie is desperate to be the one to give it to him.
For pages and pages, we watch these two men fall more and more deeply in love…without ever uttering the word or acknowledging it’s presence in their lives. They dance around each other, have hot, tumultuous sexual encounters and never, ever really communicate their needs, their desire to have more–be more than a fly by affair.
And the heat and angst that R. Cooper pours onto the page is astounding–riveting–breathtakingly beautiful.
Play it Again, Charlie is not an easy read–you will have to work, particularly at the beginning, to follow the dialogue and the thought processes that are Charlie’s inner speech. But, dear reader, this novel is so worth that effort.
The story is a simple one. Boy meets boy. They dance. They love. They nearly lose what is most important. But the way this encounter plays out. The passion and heat that sparks off of each page. The quiet moments of a budding friendship…of beginning love. Nothing could be finer. Nothing could be more beautiful.
I give you Play it Again, Charlie by R. Cooper. A five star read. And I invite you to come and join the dance. I think you will have the time of your life.