Author: Harper Fox
Publisher: Carina Press
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
It’s not the breaking up that kills you, it’s the aftermath.
Ever since his longtime lover decided he’d seen the “heterosexual light,” Matt’s life has been in a nosedive. Six months of too many missed shifts at the hospital, too much booze, too many men. Matt knows he’s on the verge of losing everything, but he’s finding it hard to care.
Then Matt meets Aaron. He’s gorgeous, intelligent and apparently not interested in being picked up. Still, even after seeing Matt at his worst, he doesn’t turn away. Aaron’s kindness and respect have Matt almost believing he’s worth it–and that there could be life after Joe. But his newfound happiness is threatened when Matt begins to suspect Aaron is hiding something, or someone…
This was the first book by Harper Fox that I read, nearly four years ago, just a few dozen books into my m/m addiction (which has now topped seven hundred books in five years).
Back then, I didn’t know about writing reviews (although I am a writer by profession). I just emailed every author to thank them for their book. At first it seemed intrusive, and then I realized how much authors appreciate hearing from readers who enjoyed their novels and were, possibly, moved by them.
That’s how I got to know Harper Fox. “Life After Joe” is how I became a Fox groupie.
This is not a long book, and indeed many of Harper’s novels are not long. But it is dense, richly written, and every page offers something new and fresh and moving.
The premise is simple: Matthew, a twenty-six year old medical intern in Newcastle, UK, is surviving the aftermath of being left by his longtime partner—and friend since childhood—Joe. He is not handling it well.
I was struck, on this re-reading, by the parallel to the narrative in the recent novel by Liam Livings, “And Then That Happened.” Both of these books deal with a first love, started young, gone wrong. But where Livings’ novel focuses on a mutual waning of love, and the desire to hold on to something in spite of the evident truth; Fox’s book presents a more wrenching scenario. Joe has left Matthew to marry a woman, having secretly carried on an affair with her for two years. The sudden devastation of such a revelation establishes a very different tone than the slow, sad death of a relationship.
What struck me immediately in Fox’s writing is her beautiful, literate power of description, which gives exactly the right amount of information about the setting—a vivid sense of place that is a key characteristic of her books. Without belaboring or over-describing things, she gives the reader a cinematic sense of where the action happens. Similarly, Fox lets you know what her characters look like, but again without over-doing it. And, of course, she drags you into her protagonists’ hearts and minds and souls. Clear-eyed and precise, she delves into motivations, emotions, sorrow, joy, fear.
At this relatively early stage in my m/m reading habit back in 2011, I had not quite realized the various formulae inherent in m/m romances, nor had I become a connoisseur of the subtleties that separate the great writers from the merely good ones. In re-reading, however, I recognized that the expected and inevitable sex scenes in Fox’s books are never perfunctory or gratuitous: they always are rooted in an emotional turning point in the story. They are necessary to move the book along. They are not there to titillate, but to engage.
What makes readers of m/m romance so faithful to the genre is the ability of authors to surprise us, to be fresh and insightful in their plots and in their writing. As I’ve said before (mostly to critics), m/m romances are like landscape paintings. They may all appear to be the same, but each one is different. Each artist brings her own touch, her own gifts, to every landscape. A good work of art is different from a mediocre one based on the level of skill the artist applies to the canvas. Harper Fox paints among the best romantic landscapes in the world of fiction today—and, in my opinion—that extends far beyond the confines of romantic fiction.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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