Title: Hard Tail
Author: J.L. Merrow
Publisher: Samhain
Length: Novel

Buy Links: Amazon

Rating: 4.75

After his losing his job and having his marriage end, the timing is perfect when Tim Knight gets a call from his brother Jay.  Jay has broken his leg and needs someone to run his bike shop while he recovers.  So Tim heads over from London to Southampton, staying in Jay’s house and taking over managing the shop. There he meets the adorable, shaggy, incredibly clumsy Matt Berridge who does the bike repairs.

Matt and Tim hit it off right away, spending all day working alone together and forming a great friendship.  So great that Tim finds himself falling for Matt, a problem with big complications.  First off, Matt lives with his boyfriend Steve, so he is not available.  But the even bigger problem is that Tim is quite firmly in the closet.  We are talking door barricaded, underground bunker kind of closet.  Basically his fears of coming out have caused him to pretty much bury that side of himself, never acting on his homosexuality, or even really accepting it in himself.  So much so that the marriage that is ending is with his wife Kate, not another man.

But the more time Tim spends away from his old life in London, the more he begins to reevaluate what he really wants.  Having grown up in Southampton, Tim realizes he misses the place and never really enjoyed being an accountant or living in the city.  He decides that it is finally time to think about what he really wants out of life.

Tim’s journey is helped along by the timely visit of two customers.  Those of you who read Pricks and Pragmatism will recognize Luke and Russell who stop by the shop.  Although Tim is a bit surprised to find himself confiding in Russell, he works up the nerve to ask about coming out, and Russell suggests he use his time away from London to try being out, away from the people he knows at home.  So even though he has no expectations with Matt, Tim decides it’s worth trying to get out there a bit.  He checks out a local gay bar, even getting a bit of experience with a man.  He starts to realize that he really can do this, and he really wants to stop hiding himself.

Despite his attempts at meeting other people however, Tim realizes his heart firmly belongs with Matt.  And when Matt’s relationship turns dangerous, Tim finds that he not only wants to help Matt, but to stand up to Matt’s boyfriend, even if it means coming out in public and finally admitting what he has tried so hard to hide.

Hard Tail is another fabulous story from J.L. Merrow.  I just loved the wit and tone of the book.  Tim is a great narrator, full of self-depracating humor and wry observations as his life suddenly moves into an entirely different direction than he had once expected.  He has such a great journey into self-awareness as he accepts that the life he was living was not at all what he really wanted, finally working up the nerve to claim some happiness for himself.  Merrow does a great job making his experiences seem so real and showing the tiny steps Tim takes until he realizes that he can in fact do this and he can have what he wants out of life.

Although the story is about Matt and Tim’s relationship, the primary focus is on Tim and his life changes.  We get a great sense of his family and how his experiences led him to where he is in life.  Tim’s brother Jay has always been the wild one, constantly getting into trouble, injuring himself on crazy adventures.  As such, all of his parent’s attentions have been focused on Jay.  They coddle him, pay his expenses, fuss over him.  And Tim is sort of the afterthought, the one who can take care of himself, who never does anything interesting, who is always sort of disappointing.  With that family dynamic, it is easy to see what Tim fears coming out.  So he buries that part of him, hoping if he just ignores being gay it will sort of go away.  It isn’t until he meets someone worth coming out for that he is finally able to open himself up to the idea.

The book does a great job with Tim’s wife Kate.  It would be so easy (and all too common) to make her a horrible shrew of a character.  But she is a lovely woman stuck in a marriage that isn’t working.  Tim totally understands why she wants to leave him, and so do we.  And Merrow does a nice job of showing her pain and anxiety, wondering why the marriage wasn’t working and blaming herself.  So we can be happy for both of them for finally finding joy in a relationship with someone else, and the two remain close friends.

Matt has his own journey throughout the book.  The blurb sort of spoils it, but I won’t go into too much detail here.  But Matt’s relationship is not all that it seems on the outside, and he must work up the courage and the confidence to realize that he is worth a lot more than what he is getting.  So when both men finally work through their issues and end up together, it is so wonderful.  They are both so happy and sweet together as their love blooms.  It makes it even more rewarding to see them get their happy ending.

What I loved about Hard Tail is that despite the very serious issues the guys are dealing with, the book never feels heavy or angsty.  The writing is lively and amusing, but at the same time we really get a sense of what the guys are going through. I think Merrow creates a great balance that makes the book so much fun to read.  I really enjoyed Hard Tail and would definitely recommend it highly.

J.L. Merrow will be here today to talk to us more about Hard Tail.  She has a great guest post about bringing major characters back as minor characters in another story (yeah for Luke and Russell!).  J.L. also has a great giveaway for a lucky commenter on her blog tour, so be sure to stop back by!