Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barging In by Josephine Myles

Barging In by Josephine Myles
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, GLBT
Length: 219 pages

When the boat's a rockin’, don't come knockin’!

Out-and-proud travel writer Dan Taylor can’t steer a boat to save his life, but that doesn’t stop him from accepting an assignment to write up a narrowboat holiday. Instead of a change of pace from city life, though, the canal seems dull as ditchwater. Until he crashes into the boat of a half-naked, tattooed, pierced man whose rugged, penniless appearance is at odds with a posh accent.

Still smarting from past betrayal, Robin Hamilton’s “closet” is his narrowboat, his refuge from outrageous, provocative men like Dan. Yet he can’t seem to stop himself from rescuing the hopelessly out-of-place city boy from one scrape after another. Until he finds himself giving in to reluctant attraction, even considering a brief, harmless fling.

After all, in less than a week, Dan’s going back to his London diet of casual hook-ups and friends with benefits.

Determined not to fall in love, both men dive into one week of indulgence…only to find themselves drawn deep into an undertow of escalating intimacy and emotional intensity. Troubled waters neither of them expected…or wanted.

Product Warnings
Contains one lovable tart, one posh boy gone feral, rough sex, alfresco sex, vile strawberry-flavoured condoms, intimate body piercings, red thermal long-johns, erotic woodchopping, an errant cat, a few colourful characters you wouldn't touch with a bargepole, and plenty of messing about on the river.

Who knew there was an entire subculture living a gypsy life aboard long, thin boats on the canals of England? Or that some of them were so darn sexy? Josephine Myles treats us to a peek through Robin Hamilton's reluctant romance with Dan Taylor, travel writer and terrible noob long-boater in Barging In.

The erotic wood-chopping we are warned of brings Robin and Dan together – literally, with a collision and snarling. From this inauspicious beginning wonderful things bloom. Dan's out, footloose, and interested, but Robin's slower to open up; his character is revealed in beautifully done details of his life, his boat, his tattoos, and eventually, his heart.

The small every day things like getting from one end of the boat to the other become real terrors for a novice who's not comfortable with water; Robin drops his gruffness in small chunks, opening up to Dan, teaching him practical things and what it's like to be truly cared for. Each man has his own pain, revealed in his own time. Flaws and fears surface slowly, one step at a time, and we can see each man getting help from the other, all while watching the calendar tick away the brief time that was all they expected to have. Robin and Dan both have tiny thoughts of a future, followed by learning the art of compromise to have anything at all. Spattered with details of life on the canals and rivers, their story swings from hope to despair and back, several times. There's a lot of sex in this book, but it does drive the plot.

The pacing lurches a bit – the first two thirds of the book cover one short, intense week, but the next third encompasses a month that both seems too long and in a few respects like not enough; the time doesn't seem to match the calendar or pace of certain real world transactions, but that may also reflect my imperfect understanding of how both winter and money are managed in England. An occasion of over-telegraphing of what is to come then fails to follow through, hiding an unexpected personality transplant in a pivotal secondary character. That character was a great deal more likeable afterward.

But I love Dan, whose free spirit begins to liberate Robin from the shell he's built, and Robin, who forces Dan to think, and I want them to be happy together. If they don't like the place they're in, they don't have to wait two weeks for British Waterways to roust them, they'll lead each other to a better space. 4 Marbles

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