Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Deanna Jamroz
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 04/08/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance, Mystery/Thriller
Only a few months from his fiftieth year, Nikolas is feeling a distinct wobble in his formidable certainties. Aleksey Primakov appears to have become irrelevant. All he needs, therefore, is to be dragged into an adventure with Devon’s answer to the three musketeers. How many times can he tell Ben and his moronic friends that a mutilated body buried on Dartmoor has nothing to do with them? But not only does this desecration slowly become their business, it cuts to the heart of the life they have created together. It’s just as well, perhaps, that generals never do actually retire…
~ EPIC LOVE ~
Like many of the books in this series, this one begins with the likes of Nik and Ben encountering an unexpected happening, all while they’re trying to navigate what’s going on between them. Because, ya know, it’s never simple with them. I had to remind myself that this was ‘just’ a book, that this wasn’t actually happening. Right now. In the real world. Yup, Wiltshire’d sucked me in once again.
Them. A unit. A singularly operating organism. That’s how Ben and Nik are, it’s how I think of them. This is also the way they are finally, finally admitting how they feel about and behave with each other. Ok, that’s not right, they’ve done that for awhile now. What’s different is, they are voicing, out loud, to one another, this reality they’ve shared for a number of years now. This is a major theme of this story.
As is the fact that they are a forever thing. No matter what they say, or obsess over, or do, or ignore, or try to pretend or anything else. They are forever.
Course, they have taken their sweet ol’ time in, not just admitting but, sharing this with each other. Ya know, with those word type things again.
If he were forced to be truthful, which was a ridiculous concept to begin with, Nikolas would confess that Ben not liking his new plan was the main part of its attraction. Fortunately, no one would or could lever this truth from him, so his fiction that he was doing what was best for Molly Rose would be the one he’d present to Ben.
That’s what one calls a nutshell, as in ‘that’s it in’.
~ shaking my head with a smirk on my face ~
Nik, will you ever learn? These kinds of plans don’t work because, ya know, Ben knows this, too, even if it takes him a minute to realize it and catch on. He’s getting quicker mind you. And, granted, not working out bit is sometimes a good thing, but still.
The main struggle, the big nemesis in this story is what’s kind of not working between Nik and Ben. Fear, on both sides of this singular coin of a relationship. The thing is, they both feel it and are, of course, the cure for it. They’ve experienced the worst the world has to offer, so I understand the fear.
Then again, truth has its moments and shines through:
Nikolas studied Ben’s beautiful eyes carefully as he made his next move on the board. “I’ve been thinking…” He trailed off at the long, theatrical eye roll this received and laughed, dripping down to kiss Ben. Sometimes even he and his carefully laid plans and strategies for deception were entirely undone by the genuine depth of love he held for Benjamin Rider-Mikkelsen.
I’ve never read eight books into a series, with a lone couple, in a longterm relationship, at the center of everything, and still felt compelled to read more about them and their life. To watch them working on that life, together. Thinking back on everything Nik and Ben have experienced, and survived, I can’t help but put their relationship into the epic love category. I mean, we don’t even need a category. These two just are who they are and there’s no one else like them.
Tim and Squeezy play major roles in this story. The scenes shared by these two, or between Nik and Squeezy, or Ben and Tim, or Nik and Ben and Squeezy, or – you get the picture. We see even more aspects of everyone’s personalities through all of these interactions and I loved every minute. An alternate title for this book: “Four unlikely but oh-so-perfect-for-each-other mates ramble around Dartmoor, showing their friendship and love for one another, while unknowingly rehearsing for an upcoming comedy gig”.
Squeezy, my man, this goes especially for you. Wildly underestimated, you’ve been. The truth you speak, especially to Nik, is vital. I think I might even love you a little.
The physical chemistry between Nik and Ben should never be underestimated. It’s alive and welllllllllllllllllll, my friends, alive and well.
Ben assisted him to his feet with a little glance that made Nikolas’s pulse surge pleasantly. It was love, that was unmistakable; it was recognition of the unique bond they shared which was proved as much by Nikolas’s wading into the fray on Ben’s behalf as it was in other, gentler moments; but it was also a quirk of amusement at something, which Nikolas didn’t understand but enjoyed just as much as the other things – Ben was allowed to laugh at him, it had been a long time coming.
Ok, that’s not really steamy, but it gives you an indication of the level at which Nikolas’s thinking is often operating. It’s one of the things that makes this book unlike any of the others in this series in some ways. This is Nikolas’s heart and mind and body in love with Benjamin Rider-Mikkelsen.
This is also the most humorous of all of the books so far. I lost count on how many times I laughed out loud, especially during the scenes involving all four of the guys. Cleverly tucked into these humorous conversations are many of the attributes they all share on some levels: silliness, kindness, maturity (I know!), inappropriateness, blabbermouth-y-ness, stubbornness, bravery, and yes, love.
About two thirds of the way through, it hit me like a rock right to the middle of my forehead: the title and what it means. It makes all the sense. All of it.
As usual, Wiltshire includes some true surprises that you can’t see coming, not even a wee bitty bit.
In the end, though, it all leads to… that epic love. 😉
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
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