Monday, September 3, 2012

Lis’ Review: Coming Home by M.J. O’Shea

M.J. O’Shea
Coming Home (Rock Bay, # 1)

Dreamspinner Press, April 9, 2012 | 230 pages

Author’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here

Dead broke and newly homeless, Tallis Carrington is on the walk of shame to end all walks of shame. Back to Rock Bay, where he’d once ruled as high school aristocracy with his band of jocks, and tormented a freshman named James Barry. Until a scandal reduced his family's name to little better than a curse word. He needs a job, and fast, so he can put the town in his rearview mirror once again. But the people of Rock Bay haven’t forgotten him, or the kid he used to be.

The only person in town willing to overlook his less than stellar reputation is Lex, the new coffee shop owner, who seems to despise Tally based on his reputation alone. Tally is desperate, so he takes the job, not understanding Lex’s hot and cold routine until he discovers that his gorgeous boss isn’t the newcomer he thought, but the very same kid he used to torture in school. Now he’ll pull out all the stops to prove he was never really the jerk everyone thought him to be. And if he can win Lex’s heart, the rest of the town should be a piece of coffee cake.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Facing the Past, Drama, Small Towns, Teasing, Bigots, From Enemies to Friends/Lovers

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames


Reviewed by Lis:

We all know what it’s like to be teased. Some more than others. Some cases (a lot) more severe than others. At some point you even meet those who tormented you again, some in passing or some in a working capacity (as did I). Hell, some even apologize. We were all different people in our teens. However, in the case of M.J. O’Shea’s Coming Home meeting your former tormentor is taken to new levels.

When reading the blurb for this story I was instantly intrigued. You’d have to be a damn good person to help out the person who tormented you during High School. Where in real life, the story is usually one-sided – you never quite understand the motivation for people to tease you – in Coming Home you also get to see the other side.

Tallis Carrington is down on his luck and not just a bit, but a whole lot. Out of a job, out of money and out of a home, he does as the blurb suggests: the walk of shame to end all walk of shames. He returns home to the one place he vowed never to go back again. Once he was the High School star and golden boy, adored by many. His father’s indecencies put an end to that and he and his mother moved away. Now he returns home to his grandmother, because he has no other place to turn to.

Lex or James Barry as his full name is, was the one to fall prey to Tallis tortures while at the same time harboring a crush on the guy. It’s taken Lex a long time to get over what happened in High School, but he did and at the same time he’s made a name for himself as an openly gay man in a small town. He’s the owner of a successful coffee shop, but in desperate need of an assistant at the shop. Most parents won’t let their kids work at the shop, because let’s face it; being gay is contagious after all!

While it’s Lex first instinct to refuse, Tallis argues his case well. “People change. Even me.”

From here on out the real story starts, because for a while Tallis doesn’t know who Lex really is and while Lex is set to hate Tallis, the man really has changed and turns out to be not only a good employee, but also a good friend. It’s not surprising that something grows between them, even if they both deny it and give it the “friends with benefits” tag. Tallis isn’t going to stay anyway, is he?

The characterization for Coming Home was well done. It was in no way shallow. If you have a story where the main themes are: ‘facing your past’ and ‘from enemies to friends’, it has to be well worked out to be believable and the author did a wonderful job on that part.

The one thing that caused a bit of a bump was the second half of the story where after Tallis and Lex become more than friends with benefits, Tallis meets up with his old best friend, the most bigoted man in town and also the one he never quite liked and really didn’t like once he returned to town.

Even during High School, Tallis claimed never to be the person he put up for everyone. He even had a more or less secret life with his boyfriend in another town. Yet, he meets up with Brock again for the sake of helping a friend out, he almost falls back in his old pattern even to the part that he starts ignoring Lex. He claims it’s to help Drew out and facing his demons, telling Brock he’s gay, yet the execution of it fell a bit short. Tallis becomes too much of the old person he was, the one he hated and never wanted to be again and after everything he’s faced and lived through, that was just a bit hard for me to swallow.

Overall Coming Home is a good, solid, contemporary story that is not too heavy, but has the right amount of angst and drama to make it just right.

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