Review: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by L.A. Merrill

MeanwhileRating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


David Marks, recovering alcoholic and erstwhile web-series director, is in deep trouble. He has just enough money to rent rooms at an idyllic ranch in southern Montana so he and his small cast and crew can film a spin on Lorna Doone (the book, not the cookies), but when he arrives he learns the ten single rooms he booked are really five doubles—awkward—and the WiFi, uh, isn’t. Without WiFi, they can’t live-stream their show, and then they’ll have to give back the money they were staked. Oh, and his writer-ex-girlfriend has jumped ship to write on a paying gig leaving his unrevised script in shambles.

It’s also clear that the reclusive writer who owns the ranch, Michael Sharp, is not keen on the intrusion on his privacy. That said, Michael’s an accommodating man, and he manages to get all of David’s crew settled and also work out a plan to restore internet connectivity. If only David had a script doctor…

Okay, so Michael gets intrigued with the project and tinkers with the script. David’s so smitten—with Michael as both a man and a writer, and they develop a rapport over the week. It’s all platonic, but it is tense. The live-streaming is going well and the show is getting great traction, enough that David might actually get more work, which is super gratifying. As are his late-night writing sessions with Michael. So, it’s especially problematic when a figure out of Michael’s past turns up to enforce a long-held grudge. Michael’s past isn’t pleasant, but David doesn’t want him to give up on his future—one they might could spend together.

The story had an interesting plot and good character development, for the most part. I liked David and Michael, though I often wondered how Michael shifted from the curmudgeon who barely opened his doors to this accommodating, generous benefactor he became. I also struggled with the role of the initial bad guy, who also flip-flopped in motivation with little cause. The secondary characters were somewhat interesting, and I liked Ronnie, David’s bestie—who had secrets of her own, too. The climax was a tad theatrical, but that wasn’t such a bad thing, considering it was a performance piece. I think the deep connection that supposedly developed between David and Michael was just a little hard to buy, for the short time-frame and platonic experience. Do not expect steam, folks. There is tenderness, but it’s all fraternal, and not a whit carnal. (David is an avowed bisexual, and Michael is out-gay, so that’s not why this book had no bam-chicka-wow-wow despite their “desires.”).

This is a novella in the States of Love collection.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

veronica sig

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