Buy Link: Barging In
Author: Josephine Myles
Publisher: Samhain
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.75

Travel writer Dan Taylor has a new assignment covering boating holidays in a rented narrowboat he isn’t quite sure how to steer.  He spots gorgeous Robin Hamilton chopping wood along the water and is instantly attracted to the tattooed and pierced man.  Unfortunately, too much ogling leads Dan to run his boat right into Robin’s.

Robin isn’t thrilled to deal with an unskilled city boy boater, and is even less thrilled later in the day when Dan gets his boat stuck and Robin has to help bail him out once again.   He just wants to be left alone and has no interest in Dan or his article.  Yet the two men keep encountering one another and soon the attraction is too strong and they start a hot and heavy sexual relationship.

Both men know this fling will be short term.  Dan grew up poor in a small cramped house and he loves his independent and free lifestyle as an adult.  He enjoys lots of casual hookups, never committing to one man for long.  Dan quickly loses interest after a short time with other guys and figures a fling with Robin while on assignment will be be all he needs.

It felt like the start of one of his infatuations. Dan had grown to recognise them by now—this overwhelming interest in one particular man, which would last only for as long as it took him to shag it out of his system—no more than a couple of weeks. At that point, some of the gloss wore off the previously perfect man, and Dan would start to get bored and restless, looking around for someone new to divert him. The first few times he’d assumed that he’d fallen in love, but now he was older and wiser, he’d come to the conclusion that he just wasn’t capable of that. It was probably for the best, as he’d hate to get tied down like his mum had been with his dad. He wasn’t about to let an infatuation with one man—no matter how soulful his eyes were—wreck his perfectly happy lifestyle.

Robin isn’t looking for a relationship either.  He is still recovering from a terrible break up years before and is not ready to open his heart up to anyone.

He really didn’t want to fancy someone like Dan. Someone who was obviously such an unrepentant slut. He couldn’t go there, wouldn’t go there. No way. Not after what happened with Jamie. Blokes like that were way too risky.

But both men are surprised then to find that a week together is not nearly enough.  They form not a just a physical connection, but an emotional one as well, and as their time together draws to a close each man realizes he wants more than just a brief fling.  They now must struggle to figure out if and how they can be together for more.

I loved the way both men grew and developed in this story.  Dan starts out as a casual party boy, just looking to have some fun and sees Robin as another conquest.  He has no real appreciation for the boating life, not even bothering to really learn to steer his rented narrowboat.  As the book continues though, Dan starts to really see the people behind the boats.  His article and photos show the real stories behind the boating community, from the diverse population to their struggles with British Waterways.  As he gets to know Robin, he suddenly realizes that he doesn’t want to just go find another guy to hook up with and that he really does want a relationship and commitment. Yet he is terrified that he is not good enough for Robin and that he doesn’t know how to settle down with one person.  He also still struggles with his need for an independent space after growing up so poor.

Robin faces an even bigger emotional challenge.  When the book starts he is fairly surly and disinterested in company.  He is still reeling from the loss of his former boyfriend and not at all ready to risk his heart again.  He also isn’t completely comfortable out of the closet, which makes things difficult with the out and proud Dan. But his time with Dan helps Robin open up and learn to take the risk on love again.  He also is finally able to reconcile with his family who he has largely been avoiding.

I really loved this story and thoroughly enjoyed Dan and Robin.  I liked watching them grow both separately and together throughout the book.  I especially enjoyed how each learns to not hold back their true self when with the other man.  Robin finally finds someone with whom he can share the stories of his troubled past with his ex and with whom he can confide about his dyslexia.   Dan stops feeling the need to be always be the beautifully groomed perfect lover and to just be himself and know that is good enough. He tells his friend Tristan:

He just…just makes me feel free. I don’t have to try to impress him. Doesn’t care what I wear or earn or even if I’ve had a shower.” He snorted. “Dirty boy. Think he prefers it if I haven’t. He makes me laugh, Tris. He can be buttoned up so tight sometimes, but when he lets go, he’s so…” The right word eluded him. Trying to explain Robin’s contradictions made his brain hurt—or maybe that was still the cocktails doing their evil work. “He makes me feel safe.” He sniffed and gave a shaky laugh. “Takes control and makes me come so hard I see stars.

Their relationship felt so real to me.  So many stories would have ended after Dan’s week trip with a pat HEA.  But I love that the story takes if further as the men try to figure out how to make things work and whether they can find a way to combine their very different lifestyles.

I also really enjoyed the insight into the narrowboat world.  Myles shares that she spent two years living on a narrowboat and it is obvious from the rich detail she is able to provide into the boating world.  (In case, like me, you have no idea what a narrowboat looks like, here are a couple of pictures I found that might help.)  One of the interesting aspects of their lives are the restrictions placed on the boaters by British Waterways requiring them to move to a new area every two weeks.  This makes it hard for the boaters to hold down steady jobs, which in turn makes many in the surrounding communities resent them as “hippies.”

 © Copyright paul birrell and licensed for reuse 
under this Creative Commons Licence.

I thought Barging In was a wonderful story.  Great troubled characters who find a way past all their emotional baggage so that they can be together.  Hot couple that steams up the page.  Fascinating setting described in a way that makes you feel like you are really there. Wonderful writing that made me really feel what the characters were experiencing.  Overall, I thought it was a fabulous book that I strongly recommend.

P.S. Myles shared with me that she is working on a follow-up story that features Dan’s friend Tristan which I am thrilled to hear.  I loved Tristan and we get just enough of him in this book to make me eagerly anticipate his story.