Title: Following Grandpa Jess
Author: TJ Baer
Cover Artist: Lee Ligon
Publisher & Buy Link : Bold Strokes Books
Amazon: Buy Link Following Grandpa Jess
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Short Novel
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Written with quiet charm, this gently quirky family and OFY story made me smile.
Blurb: Jess Madison has problems. His ageing parents seem hell-bent on belittling him in new and increasingly infuriating ways, he’s fallen for his best—and, unfortunately, heterosexual—friend David, and his grandmother has recently taken to climbing out on her roof in hopes of contacting the spirit of her late husband, the much-beloved Grandpa Jess.
All Jess wants to do is live his life and feed his goldfish in peace, but instead, he finds himself at the heart of a familial clash that seems ready to tear his family apart. With the help of his two younger brothers, uber-manly AJ and lovably weird Thomas, Jess sets out to reconcile his family, keep Grandma off the roof, and sort out the mess his life has become—with just a little help from Grandpa Jess.
This book was such a pleasant surprise. Although it brings familiar things to the table they are served with a simple and appealing charm. We share the story of this close knit if gently idiosyncratic family through the slightly confused but kind eyes of music teacher Jess. He is a very appealing character trying to cope with the everyday problems of real life. Here they are concentrated around the changes facing his ageing and increasingly vulnerable Grandma. This concern is used to develop other issues the family are dealing with. Jess is at an interesting point in his life; a young man coming into his own strength and beginning to look at his family with a more discerning and thoughtful adult eye, but still with all the affection of a child. I really enjoyed sharing his experiences.
Jess’ life becomes very complicated all at the same time, and the bottom line is that ‘ The Times They Are A Changin’ . His family is demanding his attention; with his Grandma trying to contact her late husband- the family wise man, through a seance, Jess is indignantly at odds with his parents over their attempts to use religion to straighten him out, his beloved, with health issues, younger brother is talking about sex and growing up, while his annoying older brother is just the same. Of most interest to Jess at this point is the fact that his best friend and long time crush, recently divorced David is acting deliciously out of character.
The two strands of the story- family and romance- are nicely blended together.The family relationships are effortlessly brought to life and the personalities concerned are all distinct, strong and well written. I thought David’s new interest in Jess was perfectly believable and enjoyable. Both main characters are primary school teachers and the responses of their colleagues cleverly reinforced this. David’s parents’ reactions were nicely considered and acted to expand Jess’ own experience.
I am refusing to use the word ‘whimsical’ at all in regards to this book as whimsy often leaves an unpleasant saccharine aftertaste, while ‘quirky’ can all too easily become strident and overwritten. Instead I will just describe this story as having it’s own peculiarly distinct and amusing atmosphere. Moreover it possesses a homespun, but not trite, philosophical appeal, as Jess has to make his own sense of the big issues including love, life and death. I found it a real pleasure to read.