A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: A Brit-flavored story of finding one’s balls.
Book one in The Arches Series
Dumped by his partner, Matt isn’t looking for love. Once he meets Gabe at the gym, he finds a friend as well as a lover.
After he is dumped by Milo, his long-term partner, Matt retreats to his bed, only to be scared out of his wits by two policemen breaking into his house, checking to see if he is still alive after being alerted by a nosy neighbour.
The last thing he expects is to meet one of the policemen a few months later at his local gym. Gabe makes it obvious that he is attracted to Matt, but Matt is still getting over his break-up. To his surprise, Gabe isn’t deterred by Matt’s reluctance, and promises to be friends until Matt is ready for more.
Then Matt’s world is turned upside down by Milo’s return, begging a bed for one night. One night turns into a week and Milo doesn’t move off the sofa. Although Matt still has feelings for Milo, he realises he also has feelings for Gabe, who is more than a friend, and waits patiently to be a lover.
There’s not much to spoil after that blurb, so I guess I can speak freely. The story turned out to be more fun than I feared after a slightly off-putting beginning.
Finding your MC huddled in bed, sniveling for days on end over a breakup isn’t a really auspicious beginning, and I wanted to kick Matt a good one. Hurt, yeah, but this was flat out self indulgent. Seriously, he was holed up in there long enough to prompt a worried (Matt spells it “nosy”) neighbor to call the police. Which might be the biggest favor anyone ever did him, aside from scummy Milo walking out on him.
Matt took the breakup hard, even though there’s very little to show that Milo was ever a kind or loving partner, and even two months later, he’s barely willing to entertain the idea of Gabe being interested in him. Of course, when your first meeting is “cop finding not-dead body holed up in rancid bedroom,” there’s still that first impression thing to get over.
Matt “wanted to prove to Gabe that there were times when he didn’t smell like the arse end of a donkey” when they first meet at the Arches, a gay gym that looks like the planned backdrop for a series of stories. Odor keeps cropping up, some mentions work better than others.
Gabe’s willing to go for friendship—he’s really a too good to be true sort of guy, aside from a tendency to go toppy without provocation or invitation, which Matt does learn to utilize as he gradually comes out of his funk. He’s also the resident kicker of asses, figuratively speaking, which Matt needs in large doses after Milo starts weaseling his way back into Matt’s life. Gabe’s more alive on the page than Matt is, and it’s a little bit of a mystery what he sees in Matt that draws him so strongly.
Milo thinks Matt’s a decent meal ticket though, and like the camel under sticking his nose under the tent wall, starts oozing his way back into Matt’s life. Since Matt’s backbone is a good grade of cooked spaghetti, he might just manage it.
The story is well enough written and the character growth is strong enough that I was willing to read through to find out how this resolves, because the initial impression of Matt as a sad sack wasn’t particularly enjoyable. If Gabe hadn’t kicked his butt into a better approximation of a human with a spine, I wouldn’t have found much to like about him, but as it was, I could believe in Matt getting his act together and the two of them as partners with some sort of equality.
Luka, the gym owner, is an interesting secondary character with a lot of potential conflict, and I like the notion of the gym as a nexus of stories. I’m certainly willing to read the next one.
It’s embarrassing to admit that my opinion may be colored by this being my third book in a row where a POV character can be mistaken for a particularly helpless damsel in distress, and that I might have felt differently had I come upon this one cold. My rating is half a star higher than my first inclination, to try to compensate for this bias. 3.25 stars