Above All

Title: Above All
Author: Jane Elliot
Cover Artist: Chris Downie
Publisher: Manifold Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (272 pages / 65,000 words)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by jeayci

Review Summary: Riveting story with one abrasive character and one badly damaged one, who manage to build a believable and satisfying relationship.

Blurb: When volatile genius Dr Jasper Swinton accidentally hits a homeless man with his car one night in a seedy part of town, he finds himself taking responsibility for the man’s recovery in a very personal way. Before long, Brian has become such an integral part of his life that Jasper doesn’t know how he’ll ever begin to manage without him – until the day comes when he has to …

Review: I stupidly started this right before bed, thinking I’d read a few chapters and then sleep. Hah! I ended up staying up much too late to finish it. I also laughed a lot and was glad no one was trying to sleep next to me.

I really enjoyed the characters and the slow build of their relationship. I also really enjoyed some of the secondary characters. Jasper was abrasive, obnoxious, and lovable. He did some pretty stupid things at times, but that fit perfectly with his genius character. Geniuses, in my experience, are often incredibly stupid about some of the most surprising things. I found his difficulty understanding or relating to people believable and endearing. He didn’t seem capable of dissembling, except perhaps a little to further one of his various revenge plots.

I enjoyed his revenge plots to an extent, but after a while they began to seem a bit much. Perhaps that was intentional, to show us that Jasper didn’t understand when it was appropriate to stop, but I think I already understood that and yet the revenge bit kept going and going and going. There was some great humor around it, but again there were times when it felt like too much. I wanted to say, “I get it already, can we get on with the story!”

Brian was a great foil for Jasper, and tried to keep his revenge tendencies at least moderately under control. Brian was a great character, so strong and capable and so damaged by what life had dished out. I ached for him while respecting the hell out of his inner strength. I thought it was wonderful that though Jasper helped Brian to heal, there was additional healing Brian needed to – and did – on his own.

Well, not exactly on his own, as he did it with the help of various friends and professionals, some of whom provided great additional depth and context. There was no Magic Penis in this book, neither to heal Brian nor to turn either guy magically gay, and I appreciated that greatly. What I didn’t appreciate quite as much were the machinations involved in getting Brian that help. Or, I guess it would be more accurate to say I didn’t appreciate how (or why) it was all kept secret from Jasper.

I loved the pace at which their relationship developed and how they explored together how to be with another man for basically the first time. Neither was gay for the other, as it was made clear they’d each been attracted to – or tried NOT to be attracted to – men before. But what they felt for each other was compelling enough to be worth exploring and pursuing, even if that meant facing some internal taboos. Their awkward first kiss and fumbling (and sometimes painful) sex was wonderfully and unusually realistic for a romance novel. Here’s a great quote that gives you a lot of insight into the story and characters:

“I told you earlier that we’ll figure this out, and we will, but it would be counterproductive to attempt advanced techniques before we’ve mastered the basics. Stop trying to rush this, Brian. There’s a difference between efficiency and recklessness.”

This time the pause was shorter and when Brian spoke, he sounded amused. “I can’t believe you just used the word ‘efficiency’ while discussing sex.”

“The scientific method is an all-purpose tool,” Jasper said haughtily. “Just because the populace is too ignorant to take advantage of it doesn’t make it any less useful.”

Despite the slow, realistic development through most of the story, the end felt a bit rushed. While it made sense to me that once things started coming together for Brian they’d all happen pretty quickly, it felt like it was a bit too crammed in at the end. For all that I wished the revenge plots had been a bit less drawn out, I wished Brian’s resolutions had been a little more so. I think it would be difficult to enjoy this story if you don’t like Jasper, but if you do it’s a riveting, humorous, enjoyable book.


  • This is another of those what Sirius Said moments, I loved this one very much. Very individual characters and the writing flowed…..real pleasure. The quote you use in your excellent review is so good. I thought the guy’s reaction to sex was really well thought out.

    Thank you.

    • That’s such a common and handy phrase, I think we need to abbreviate it: WSS. 😀

      Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for letting me know! 🙂 I’ve noticed a few of my friends on Goodreads and I are almost always within one star of each others’ ratings (with a few rare but notable exceptions). I’m beginning to think perhaps that’s true for you, Sirius, and me too. 😎

  • I loved this book Jess, I think it is a five star read for me. I really loved Jasper and totally agree with Wave’s description of this character. Our boss definitely has psychic abilities, she can describe the character in the book she has not read and do it accurately 😀 .

    I did not mind Jasper’s revenge plots at all, I mean it is definitely his character flaw, but as long as such flaw is consistently shown, I am okay with it, I thought his good qualities were much more than not so good ones.

    And yes, I found them funny too, I was very impressed as to how the writer managed to inject humour into such serious subject. Loved Brian too, thought they had wonderful connection and really really loved the slow exploration of the relationship even if sometimes it involved one step forward two steps back.

    Not sure what you mean about rushed ending? I am sorry, that came out wrong. What action did you think was rushed? The reinvestigation or something else? Just curious.

    Thank you. One of the best reads this year for me 🙂

    • I’m so glad you loved it! 😀 I prefer to think that my reviewing capabilities are so outstanding, I gave a clear sense of the character. But if you prefer to think Wave’s psychic, I won’t argue. 😛

      By rushed ending, I mean that once things started to come together for Brian it was all boom, boom, boom, done. I guess I’d have liked to see it happen over a few more pages, get to linger in the experience of it a bit, get a little more detail on exactly how it worked and how they felt about it and responded to it… does that make sense?

      I dunno, maybe it’s just a sign that it was a great book and left me wanting more. 😆 Or I’m just weird… :nuts:

      • Heh, your reviewing abilities are never in question for me :-). It is just I am amused when imagining that our boss has supernatural abilities 🙂

        Oh, I have to clarify about the ending and I guess if the answer is too spoilerish, could you email me? I was not sure what many things are happening for Brian, you know?

        I mean his case was reinvestigated, but what else happened just at the end? I thought other changes for him started to coming together slowly enough starting from the middle of the story. Am I confused?

    • That should actually say “Amazon Buy Link”. There is already a link for the book to your website. All of the books reviewed on this site contain a link to Amazon if one is available. I’ll make that clear by changing the wording of the link.

  • BTW the best M/M book that I have read so far about a homeless man finding love is A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan. If you haven’t read it I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s angst filled as you can imagine but I loved it. 😀 It was Isabelle’s debut novel. The review is on the site.

    • Yay, I can finally open this page now! :hurrah:

      I loved the dialogue and humor in this book, and hope you do, too. Your description of Jasper – intelligent but full of himself, flawed but with redeeming qualities – is perfect. So, yup, sounds like you’ll enjoy him. I look forward to hearing what you think. 🙂

      And yes, I read and loved A Note in the Margin, and probably should have mentioned it in my review. Because I certainly went into this story remembering that one. But by the time I got into it, I’d sort of stopped making the comparison and forgot to mention it because they’re really such different stories. I’m curious if you’ll agree…

  • Jess
    What a wonderful review. As you will have gathered 😮 I LOVE books that have humour sprinkled throughout to relive tensions between the MCs. Humour, if done well, makes the dialogue leap off the page.

    Jasper sounds like a character I would love – intelligent but full of himself, flawed but with redeeming qualities. 🙂 I’m definitely taking this book with me to GRL. Thank you for this review. 😀


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