Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
WhenTobias “Mas” Maslin loses both his job and his apartment on the same day, he is at loose ends, especially when the security guard from his old job is chasing him down. When Mas ducks inside a nearby store as refuge, he is shocked by the cluttered and cramped, but incredibly fascinating, store filled with vintage clothing. The shop is a total mess, but Mas sees the potential right away for what it could be with a little love and attention.
Perry Cavendish-Fiennes inherited the shop and is trying to make the best of it, but Perry kind of lives in his own world and has no idea how to manage the day-to-day demands of running the store. He would much rather work on his eccentric art than deal with pricing and organizing, and as a result, Cabbages and Kinks is so overstuff and full of clutter that it is almost impossible to shop there. The store is losing money like crazy and Perry has no idea what to do about it.
When Mas offers to help manage and organize the store in exchange for a place to stay, Perry is sort of bewildered but agrees. Mas is pretty much a force of nature, full of energy, constantly talking, and barreling on ahead when he gets an idea in his head. And Perry is so shy and uncomfortable with interaction in the real world that he finds Mas fascinating and impossible to resist, even as he is kind of terrified by the whole thing. But as it turns out, Mas has an eye for figuring out just what the store needs, and in no time he has totally transformed Cabbages and Kinks into a proper clothing shop.
On the personal end, Mas and Perry find themselves unlikely friends and eventually lovers. While Perry never really saw himself as gay, he must admit he hasn’t felt much attraction for women either, except for the prostitute he visits regularly. And when he is willing to give it a chance with Mas, it turns out that the two are a perfect match. It is not all smooth sailing though. Mas is wary to fall too deep with Perry. He has a tendency to fall in love with men who just want to use him and pretend to care just to get him into bed. As much as he likes Perry, he doesn’t want to fall into the same old pattern of needing a man who doesn’t want him in return. And for his part, Perry has no experience in relationships and is just trying to navigate his way through the complicated situation with Mas. Not to mention that Mas’ past is not totally behind him and threatens to ruin what they are building. Both men must trust one another and take risks with their hearts if they have a hope of a future together.
Stuff is the second book in Josephine Myles Bristol Collection and gives us the story of Mas, whom we meet briefly in the first book, Junk. There we see Mas as Jasper’s sweet friend with benefits, a relationship that ends once Jasper starts seeing Lewis. That is just another example of the pattern in which Mas often finds himself — falling for a man and hoping for a real future, but ending up being just the guy to have around for some fun in bed. Not that he doesn’t enjoy that and has no problem with some hookups. But it is hard when his heart keeps getting involved and no one seems to want him long term.
I love both Mas and Perry and really enjoyed the opposites attract element of the story. Mas is just a force of nature. He talks constantly, is always a whir of activity, and seems to never let things get him down for long. When he has an idea, he just wants to go with it. He is social and the life of the party. Perry, by contrast, lives a very reclusive life alone in his store. He is totally out of the loop of modern life, barely socializes, and is nervous about any kind of change. Mas is exactly what Perry needs to shake him up a little and get him out of his rut. And Perry turns out to be a solid presence in Mas’s life, creating a place for Mas to focus his energy and really caring about Mas in a way others have not.
One of my favorite parts of the story was watching the transformation of the shop. When the book starts, it is a total mess, and slowly we follow along as it gets cleaned out and turned into something really special. I loved all the detail of the vintage clothes, the old decor items, and the way that Mas creates this beautiful place out of the chaos that was once there. I found it really interesting and so much fun to watch.
I did find the conflicts a bit lacking for me here. First, the main conflict seemed to focus around the fact that neither man felt very confident in their relationship or was willing to risk his heart. It just felt a little vague to me and never quite had a clear resolution, just somehow the guys moved past it. The other conflict is two pieces from Mas’ past that come back at the very end of the story after being largely absent for the rest of the book. It just felt a little thrown in to have it come out at the climax and then be quickly resolved.
But overall I really enjoyed this one. I loved Mas and Perry and found them such a fun couple. I love opposites attract stories and especially love a good geeky hero so I really liked these men together. And I really loved following along as the shop undergoes its transformation. So I fun story and one I liked a lot.