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Josephine Myles

REVIEW:  Stuff (The Bristol Collection book 2) by Josephine Myles

REVIEW: Stuff (The Bristol Collection book 2) by Josephine Myles

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When Mr. Glad Rags meets Mr. Riches, the result is flaming fun.

The Bristol Collection, Book 2

Tobias “Mas” Maslin doesn’t need much. A place of his own, weekends of clubbing, a rich boyfriend for love and support. Too bad his latest sugar daddy candidate turns out to be married with kids. Mas wants to be special, not someone’s dirty little secret.

When he loses his job and his flat on the same day, his world starts unraveling…until he stumbles across a vintage clothing shop. Now to convince the reclusive, eccentric owner he’s in dire need of a salesman.

Perry Cavendish-Fiennes set up Cabbages and Kinks solely to annoy his controlling father. Truth be told, he’d rather spend every spare moment on his true passion, art. When Mas comes flaming into his life talking nineteen to the dozen, he finds himself offering him a job and a place to live.

He should have listened to his instincts. The shop is already financially on the brink, and Mas’s flirting makes him feel things he’s never felt for a man. Yet Mas seems convinced they can make a go of it—in the shop, and together.

Warning: Contains an eccentric, bumbling Englishman, a gobby drama queen, fantastic retro clothing, scary fairies, exes springing out of the woodwork, and a well-aimed glass of bubbly. Written in brilliantly British English.

Dear Josephine Myles,

When I briefly “met” Mas in the first book of this series, he was Jasper’s “friend with benefits” and I wanted him to get his own happy ending, after being disappointed that Jasper fell in love with Lewis.

I have to say that in the first chapter of this story Mas and I got off the wrong foot. No, it has nothing to do with Mas’ exuberant, drama-queen persona. It has to do with one very specific action which irritated me. You see, he decided to get a little something from his job and I could not quite figure out why. Was it an act of revenge for his boss daring to fire him? Was it an attempt to portray Mas as Jean Valjean (which failed for me right away, if that was the attempt, because no, he did not look desperate any more than anybody who just got fired from their job)? Of course it is devastating, but it was just happening, no devastating consequences could have occurred yet if that makes sense. Or did Mas just decide to take a little revenge on his job and his boss? Initially even though I was a little irritated- I did not allow myself to dwell on it because I decided that this was the first chapter and if this action of his would be in any way significant, it would be addressed later in the story. I am asking myself these questions now because having finished reading the story, of course it was important and no, I am not clear on what it meant and why it happened.

Mas’ attempt at shoplifting was halted through no fault of his own. He did not change his mind – his boss wanted to search his bags. He is being forced to leave the premises and pretty much run and hide from his former boss and as a consequence he stumbles upon Perry’s shop. He decides to wait there till his ex-boss is tired of chasing him. As you can guess, Mas likes Perry, decides that Perry needs a lot of help (which he does) and pretty much makes himself welcome eventually.

Because the first book dealt with hoarding, I at first thought that Perry was a hoarder too, because his shop was so cluttered, but I am not sure that this was true. I was actually agreeing with Mas that Perry was not really attached to the extra stuff; he just did not have energy and did not know how to manage the store properly. Perry says at some point closer to the end that he was depressed before Mas came along, and I would rather pretend not to hear that – because I would rather not to think that author wanted me to think that Mas made him *not depressed*. I do not want to sound negative about their interactions, because I actually really liked those interactions overall. Mas persistently drew Perry out of his shell. Sometimes I felt that he was a tad too pushy, but what mattered was what Perry wanted and it looked to me that Mas was exactly what Perry wanted and needed. I want to use the word *exuberant* to describe Mas once again.

Perry has issues with his rich family – some you would expect for the hero of romance novel to have and some not quite. Perry wants his shop to succeed, but he would rather spend his time making art and I love how this writer often provides unusual hobbies/profession for her characters. The art Perry makes is not the most common one (they are sculptures of a sort, but you have to read to find out what kind). Perry may be somewhat terrified about the changes Mas gently and not so gently pushes him to make, but I did not notice that he was really opposed to any of them, when push came to shove. I thought the changes made him happy and that included his sexual life. I guess this story offers some gay for you/ bi for you undertones, but Perry’s hesitations in this area were over so fast, that there wasn’t a lot of angst about it. I mean he hesitated a bit, but I thought when he ended up in bed with Mas that it was something he really wanted. And Perry never says that he is not attracted to women anymore, so I prefer to think of this one as “bisexual for you”.

And I always love how Josephine Myles writes sex scenes; it just tells me so much about the characters. This book is no exception.

“So yeah, he’d done this enough times to know the drill, but nothing about Perry felt familiar. It wasn’t that there was anything unusual about his technique. He was currently kissing down Mas’s chest, and he had the feeling he was in for another blowjob attempt. Hopefully – for Perry’s sake- a more successful one this time.
No, it wasn’t in what Perry was doing so much as in the way he was doing it. There was passion there. Extreme, wild passion, but Perry kept it under a knife-edge of control. Yet Mas could see it dancing in his eyes, feel it in the way Perry clutched him with barely restrained violence. And yet, despite all this, Perry was treating him with consideration and respect, rather than letting rip and taking what he needed.
Mas had never before felt simultaneously desired and cherished to that degree”.

I did think that Mas was a little delusional in thinking that he fell in love with Perry after a week of knowing him, but I could see how he was ready to hold on to somebody as kind as Perry, so it was not the worst Insta!Love scenario I have ever read about.

I liked the disagreements between them too – it made sense for a new couple, made sense in light of Mas’ insecurities, and I liked that none of those disagreements resulted in a prolonged break-up. One took I think a day and another an hour or so? I thought that the substance of the last disagreement was annoying though, 

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

because that’s when Perry learned about Mas’ shoplifting attempt from his former boss. Maybe someday somebody can educate me about why so many romance characters fail to share that vital piece of information with their beloved which would prevent said beloved from getting annoyed at them? In any event, of course Mas would not share it with Perry until the subject came back to bite him.

What annoyed me was that Mas had the nerve to get upset Perry because was upset. Granted Perry goes a little bit overboard with blaming, but the bottom line is Mas never, not once says that he is sorry for trying to shop lift and that made me think about his reasons again. I sincerely hope that Mas shrugging off the incident is not because he thinks it is ok to steal from a big company because I hate that attitude. In general, when I am happy with how the character is written, I have no issues with fictional thieves even if they steal stuff as a career. But usually characters like that own what they do, they feel it is their job and in fiction that can be tons of fun. Mas just seemed to be happy about his ex -boss not being able to press charges. It made me scratch my head.

Anyway, I was of two minds about that accident. On one hand I was glad it was resolved fast, on the other hand, I wish Mas would give more attention and consideration to Perry’s concerns, because face it Mas, you attempted to steal stuff and your ex-boss gets the credit for stopping you and you do not get the credit for changing your mind or ever feeling guilty about it. Own it one way or another IMO.

I also wanted to mention that Lewis and Jasper appear several times throughout the story to play “oh we are happy, so happy”, give sage advice to Mas and be his friends. I was kind of annoyed, because I did not really feel Lewis had much room for giving sage advice and thought that the opportunity was lost to show Lewis doing a little bit of soul searching before he goes to get his Ph.D in psychology, because as those who read the first book know Lewis slept with his patient. I was actually really happy in the first book to read Lewis’ hesitating about him continuing to be a counsellor because he was wondering whether he went into profession because he really liked manipulating people. I mean, I get that this book is not their story, but they made enough appearances in the book that I thought at least some attention could have been given to them as well.

Grade C+

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REVIEW:  Merry Gentlemen by Josephine Myles

REVIEW: Merry Gentlemen by Josephine Myles

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’Tis the season of goodwill to all men…even the one who dumped you.

Riley MacDermott’s ambitions are simple. Managing the annual Bath Christmas Market—which involves long hours in the cold and a whole lot of hassle—will secure the promotion he needs to afford to move out of his noisy, top-floor flat. Where not even his balcony is safe from an aggressive herring gull.

The last stallholder he expects to see is his ex. Riley never recovered from their break up, and five years on the old chemistry still sparkles. So does their habitual head butting.

Stan never wanted to leave the love of his life, but the pull of the woods was too strong—and Riley was firmly planted in the city. Reconnecting is painful, but Stan still jumps at the chance to stay with his old flame during the Market. And damn the consequences.

As the weeks pass, the two grow closer than ever. But despite scorching sex and cozy intimacy, they both know they face a cold and lonely future. Unless one of them can compromise.
Warning: Contains sex in a shed, a seagull with a grudge, glamping, awful Secret Santa underwear, misuse of an Abba song, and as many wood-related puns as the author thought she could get away with.

Dear Josephine Myles:

As blurb indicates, Riley and Stan meet each other again at the market. Stan left Riley five years ago. Basically Stan likes to live closer to nature and Riley needs crowds, civilization, needs to be among people in order to thrive. But Riley clearly was not able to forget Stan and when he’s drunk, he constantly talks about him to his best friend, he keeps the pictures, etc. In other words Riley is not over his ex. It is also apparent that Stan is not over Riley – very soon after they meet again they have a passionate sexual encounter.
And while they stay together while the market is taking place, but they know that it is going to be over soon unless they can compromise.

I liked Riley – I liked his ambition and his drive, and I adored his fights with the seagull (you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean). Later in the story I decided that his fights with the seagull, while very funny were supposed to be a metaphor for nature winning over civilization, and that annoyed me in light of other issues I had. I felt bad for him not being able to forget his ex, but at the same time I was wishing that he would get his groove back and moved on.

And although I have to say that while I rolled my eyes a little over both men staying away from each other for five years with neither of them taking the first step (it was just such a tiresome m/m cliché for me), I liked that believable reasons were given for them to stay away from each other. I am not sure if I buy it completely, because Stan could have come to the market a year after he left, or even a few months after he left instead of waiting until five years had passed and all the same events could have taken place. But at least credible reasons were given for the separation and at least they were apart for five years and not fifteen. I read a story a while ago where the guys were apart for fifteen years and of course they were only thinking about each other, but meeting again was out of the question for some weird reasons.

So, I appreciated that in this case the narrative gave me some help to suspend my disbelief. I also liked that while Riley could not forget his ex, he tried to form other relationships and was not sitting around crying and falling apart. Riley concentrated on his professional career after he and Stan split up and when the story begins as blurb states he is managing the market in hopes of obtaining a promotion.

After a somewhat terse meeting sparks fly between Stan and Riley, but nothing has really changed – Riley is a people person who needs crowds and civilization, and Stan needs wilderness to carve things from the trees. Well, Stan really lives two hours away from where Riley lives (yes, two hours, five years apart) and they have cinema and Internet as he says at some point, but there certainly does not seem to be many people in the town where he lives and it is much closer to nature.

I thought the reason for their breakup and the main conflict between them was very natural, very well done – I mean how often do we see this in life, when two people love each other a lot, but want different things from life. Sometimes they compromise in order to be together and sometimes love is just not enough.

I cannot say that I liked Stan much – not because he was some horrible person and not because he left Riley (surely it was better than the alternative at that point). [spoiler] No, I really disliked that he rejected even a possibility that in order to stay with Riley he would need to compromise as well. Riley wanted them to try visiting each other, perhaps make an attempt at some sort of long distance relationship, but Stan decided that it would be too painful for him. I hated that Riley ended up sacrificing it all in order to be with Stan and Stan just took it without giving anything back. I admired Riley’s creativity and his ability to find ways to attract people to them in their new life together, but that was all Riley’s doing without help from Stan. Riley spent time thinking about how to make their relationship work. What did Stan do? He did not even apologize properly for his role in the breakup after Riley apologized. Because saying “if that’s what you need to hear I am sorry” is not a proper apology in my book. There is a conversation near the end of the story in which they agreed that they would take holidays together and go to civilization, but for me it was just not enough: when they tried taking nature holidays back when they were together Stan was not happy, but he expects that it will be enough for Riley this time. I also have to admit that I really disliked the message that what Riley did and have was not important just because Stan was living closer to nature. I like nature and love holidays like that, but being a child of big city I would not want to give up civilization for more than a month or two. So I guess I felt like my feathers were ruffled a little bit too ?. [/spoiler]

This story has a very small cast of characters, so besides Riley and Stan the only two secondary characters which were relatively well developed were Riley’s best friend Janine and his boss Rita. But I really cannot even say much about them – they were mostly serving the story. I wish Janine especially would have more agency – while she is portrayed as a competent worker, I still felt that she was mostly there cheerleading for Riley.

Grade C.

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