Title: The Little Things
Author: Jay Northcote
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Release Date: November 21, 2013
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 214
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review by Zac D
Review Summary: A sweet, well written book that left me with a warm old heart. Ordinary in the very best kind of way.
There are lots of things that brighten Joel’s life. His three-year-old daughter, Evie, is one. His close relationship with her mother, his best friend from university, is another. Joel’s boyfriend, Dan, adds spice to his child-free nights, and Joel is pretty happy with how things are.
Then one cold and rainy night, everything changes. Joel’s life is turned upside down when he becomes a full-time dad to Evie, and his previously carefree relationship with Dan cracks under the strain.
Meeting Liam, who acts as if getting hurt isn’t a foregone conclusion, shakes Joel to the core. Their attraction is mutual, and Liam makes no secret of how serious he is about Joel. But Joel is wary. He tells himself he’s keeping Liam at a distance for Evie’s sake, when really he’s protecting his own heart. Taking a chance on this new relationship with Liam may seem a small step—a little thing—but is it one Joel can take after losing so much already?
I really enjoyed this book. Jay Northcote has a distinctly plain way of writing, and bizarrely, it’s this that makes it wonderful.
The Little Things isn’t a typical romance (at least, not what has become typical for this genre) and one look at the cover tells the reader this ain’t a sweaty torso, growling sex fest book. Joel is the MC, a gay man who had a baby by accident with his best friend Claire. Ridiculous? Actually, no. My partner had a son is very similar circumstances, so I related to this plot line straight away.
After the birth of their daughter, Joel and Claire have remained close friends. Evie splits her time equally between the two of them, and they both manage to live their own lives around parenthood. Claire does whatever Claire does, and Joel has a kind of boyfriendish-lover-type thang going on with Dan. (19 yr old Dan. Yum.)
Then tragedy strikes, and Claire dies, leaving Joel to care for Evie alone.
Now this is where the book flags a little. The burden of Joel’s grief is heavy, and the day to day detail that follows was too much. Call me an ass, but after a while, I wasn’t particularly interested in how runny Evie’s nose was, or what she was having for dinner. Again. I got that Evie was Joel’s whole world, I just didn’t want her to be mine.
But, this is small quibble, and nothing a little skimming can’t cure.
The plot point is also where the romance kicks in. Sort of. But I really liked this part. I particularly appreciated that Dan wasn’t used as a scapegoat for the plot. It would’ve been all too easy to write him as a selfish cad, had him fooling around with other guys when Joel needed him most and create a cheesy conflict this way. But that’s not what happened, and actually, this aspect of the plot was one that affected me most. Dan did try to help Joel, and Joel tried to let him. It just didn’t work, and sadly, that’s life. Joel and Dan’s parting was really touching, (And, the hottest sex in the book came from these two. Just saying…)
Enter Liam, the hot pediatric nurse. Liam didn’t work quite so well as a character for me. It’s a tough call, because I could see who he was supposed to be, and I did like him, I liked him a lot. He just lacked…something. Maybe. I did appreciate the fact that he wasn’t a pushover. Joel’s grief did, naturally, turn him into a bit of an ass at times, and I loved that Liam called him out on it.
Staying with Joel’s state of mind, his reaction to his feelings for Liam was very believable. Even without his unfortunate circumstances, a new relationship, particularly one of those that becomes intense very fast, can be terrifying, so I found his freak out totally endearing.
There’s a strong raft of secondary characters in this book. I’ve mentioned Dan already. I really liked him. I’d like to see what became of him. He seemed to be a little lost himself, and I’d happily read his story.
Evie, the three years old, was exactly as you might expect, though her dialogue was far too advanced for her age. Perhaps this is the time proper sentence construction can take a break. Miranda, Joel’s sister, is a great character. Strong, female and with her own depth, I appreciated that she wasn’t used as a standard, caricature female trope. Good work.
The timeline of the book is something some may struggle with. Joel doesn’t end up with the object of his affection until quite late in the book. For me, this wasn’t a problem, but if you’re expecting a traditional romance, I would actually call this book an excellent piece of gay fiction. (and there’s nothing wrong with that) Also, I’m not an expert in categorizing books, so to be honest, what the hell do I know?! Whatever shelf I put this on, it’s an excellent book. My complaints are trivial, and most of them, I’m going to keep to myself. Quality writing is hard to find in this genre, and this is a quality book.