Rating: 4.75 stars
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Robert Emeny came to Shamwell looking for a fresh start. After losing both his boyfriend and his job, Robert has settled himself into a life he enjoys in the small town, teaching young kids at the local school. It is not as posh as his past teaching job, but Robert loves working with the kids and is happy with his new life, even as he is determined he is not interested in another relationship.
When Robert meets Sean Grant, the gorgeous ginger uncle of two of his students, his feelings on dating begin to change. Well, of course he first needs to figure out that his friend Rose is trying to set him up with Sean, not that she wants Sean for herself. And Robert needs to stop scaring Sean off by putting his foot in his mouth when they are trying to get to know one another. But after some fumbling along, Sean and Robert finally find their way and despite his painful past, things seem to be looking up for Robert.
But keeping secrets can often damage a relationship, and Robert is wary about sharing the story of his past with Sean. After being dumped by his ex when he learned what what happened, Robert is fearful of the same thing happening with Sean. As the relationship begins to grow between the men, however, Robert begins to realize that he either needs to come clean to Sean and have faith in Sean’s feelings for him, or he may just lose the man to the secrets he keeps.
Oh, I do so love J.L. Merrow’s writing and Caught! captures so much of what makes her books so wonderful. She immerses us in the fabulous British setting, gives us quirky, but lovable, characters, and a healthy dose of humor along the way.
So first off, I totally adored Robert. He is just so adorably dorky, just the right balance of uptight and odd along with sweet and clever that makes him totally endearing. Robert is the kind of guy who knows five different kinds of knots for his tie (and wears a bow tie almost every day). He can tell you how many pairs of shoes he owns and precisely how long it takes to walk to the local shop. Robert is smart and posh, but not stuffy and snobbish. He babbles when he is nervous and sticks his foot in his mouth. At the same time, he is sweet and charming and so good with his hellion little charges at school. Robert is so wonderfully eccentric that he doesn’t even realize how odd he is most of the time. I really couldn’t help but love him.
Sean is the perfect match for Robert in that they are total opposites yet somehow work. Sean is gorgeous with his red hair, leather jacket, and motorcycle. He is a doting uncle to his wild nephews, helping his sister care for them while she is in cancer treatment. Sean works in pest control, a decidedly blue collar job, but he loves what he does, despite his occasional sensitivity about how Robert and his family may perceive him. The two seem like they should never work, but somehow they fit perfectly.
As I mentioned, one of the things I love about Merrow’s writing is her great humor. This story made me giggle quite a bit, whether it is Robert’s fumblings, the wild behavior of his students, or most especially, the snappy comments by his friend Rose. She is the perfect foil for Robert — feisty, bold, and always speaking her mind. She is his confidant and the one that helps him get his head on straight when dealing with Sean. Here they are in the lunch room at the school where they both work:
She held out a plastic tub and a fork that look like it had come from a picnic set. “Go on, take it. I’ve got another one for me.”
I took it, not without reservations. “Is there some conspiracy among the women of the village to feed me up?”
“Yeah, we discussed it at the last naked sabbat. We’re planning to fatten you up and roast you on a spit at the next solstice. Everyone’s looking forward to it.”
The story cracked me up quite a bit and just has a really fun, light tone I really enjoyed.
Merrow really deftly handles the issue of the secrets in Robert’s past. We learn enough about what happened early in the book that we can understand Robert’s hesitancy about sharing his story with Sean. As the book continues, the tension begins to build, as the closer the men get, the more Robert worries about Sean learning what happened. And the more he tries to hide things, of course, the worse it gets. Just as I was about to get frustrated with Robert for not just telling Sean already, we get the perfect scene where it Robert’s fears are explained and make total sense. So Merrow really unfolds this issue nicely, and I appreciated the way it is resolved between them. (I also really liked how Robert’s issues with Sean are sort of paralleled with circumstances with his old friend Fordy. It is really nicely done).
So this was one a big hit for me. I loved Robert and Sean, loved Rose, and loved the humor. This book really combines all the things I love about Merrow’s writing and I couldn’t put it down. Caught! is the first in the new Shamwell Tales series from Merrow and I can’t wait to see what else is in store. Definitely recommended.
Cover review: I love the cover too. Just perfect!