I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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I can always count on Jo Myles to write a very British book, and this first one in the Bristol Collection has all the usual charm and style I expect from this author.
Jasper, he with the dull librarian job at the university and the unfashionable somewhat dowdy clothes, is a hoarder. Of books, magazine, newspapers, pamphlets - anything printed, really - and the immense collection in his house is preventing him from really living his life.
The book gave some great insights into what it must be like to live with this disorder (and it is a disorder, let's face it), and how it can impact a person so very detrimentally.
Intellectually, of course, Jasper realizes that he has a problem - unable to use most of the rooms in the house he inherited from his mother, he is cognizant that one day, and likely one day soon, one or more of the stacks of books and other printed materials will collapse and bury him. And yet, he cannot stop himself from bringing home ever more material, because he cannot allow books etc to be just thrown away. His home is a prison, more or less, but he just cannot stop. Even when he tries to remove a single book from his house, his mind simply shuts down and refuses to cooperate. Anxiety is trapping him, in more than just one way.
In a moment of clarity while in the clutches of an anxiety attack, Jasper reaches out to a brother-sister declutter/organizer team and soon meets Lewis and Carroll.
Lewis knows Jasper from long ago, when they were both in still in school, even though Lewis was a few years behind Jasper. Nursing a crush way back when, Lewis still feels the attraction when coming face to face with Jasper.
Jasper remembers Lewis too, and the admiration he had for the younger, but out and proud boy a few years below him.
At 30, Lewis still lives with his parents, dealing with unhappily falling in love with men he wants to change, and a bit of a shopping addiction, which explains his usual lack of funds and having to live with his somewhat eccentric mum and dad.
But attraction is burning brightly, and if it weren't for the dilemma of not dating a client, and Lewis' history of falling for men not good for him, he'd be climbing Jasper like a tree. As their relationship begins to change from a business transaction to friendship to lovers, some of Lewis' demons make him doubt and question his feelings and his motives, and he tries to set boundaries time and again, and breaches every single one himself.
Jasper is a complex and flawed character, full of shame for his hoarding, not willing to allow anyone into his home because of the hoarding, which has cost him what few friends he had, with occasional one-night-stands with his fuck-buddy Mas (he of book 2) the only real human contact he has. It is immediately clear how very lonely Jasper is, and how deeply he yearns for friendship and love. He's shy, but kind, and also has a bit of a backbone when pressed, and I really adored him. I wanted him to get help. I wanted to hug him.
It was fascinating to watch this story unfold. It's pretty quiet and sedate overall, and the romance between Jasper and Lewis grows ever so slowly, which made perfect sense within this plot, but you can see with every passing day how much stronger Jasper gets, how he and Lewis work not only on cleaning out the clutter but also on chasing away their respective demons.
A beautiful story, complex characters, a great supporting cast; this is a book definitely worth your time.
** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of a re-release tour for this series. A positive review was not promised in return. **