This is a must read. It is the funniest and most endearing novel I have read in a long time and a 5 star beginning to this new series.
Author: J.L. Merrow
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
You can run from the past…but the past runs faster.
Shamwell Tales, Book 1
Behind Robert’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job teaching in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.
Sean works in pest control, rides a motorbike, and lives on a council estate. On the face of it, he shouldn’t have anything in common with Robert’s bow-tie, classic-car style and posh family background. Yet Robert is helpless to resist Sean’s roguish grin, and a rocky, excruciatingly embarrassing start doesn’t keep the sparks between them from flaring.
Despite Robert’s increasingly ludicrous attempts to keep his past where it belongs, his past hasn’t read the memo. And soon his secrets could be the very things that drive Sean away for good…
Robert aka Rob aka Mr. Emeny aka Mr. Enemy aka Emsy is the unlikely main character of this fantastically funny story by Jamie Merrow. Unlikely because although young he acts older, he is posh, unworldly, eccentric, and unsure and wears bow ties all the time. I kept thinking Matt Smith’s Dr Who. He’s a bit of a buffoon in fact and it did take a while for me to warm to him because of his many eccentricities. However, what I didn’t take into account was his beautiful heart and the hilarity that seems to follow him. He is now the very clever teacher at the local Shamwell primary school teaching 6 and 7 year olds.
The other main protagonist and love interest is Sean is a rat-catcher from the local council estate and stand in father for his sister’s two ginger twins, Wills and Harry. Just the names the author has given these two seven year olds should have warned me I would be snorting and laughing a lot. Sean is a lovely character, but I took a while to warm to him and I think it might have been snobbery on my part! I hate to admit it, but the fact he didn’t pronounce words correctly and lived on a council estate influenced me and shocked me. Luckily J.L. Merrow takes no prisoners in her battle to have you fall for her characters and fall I did.
For instance a seemingly innocent text exchange between Rose, his teacher friend, and Robert, which sums up their differences in such a funny way,
Mission accomplished. Badgers @ 8 tonight.
Her reply was somewhat cryptic: TFIF. Jst rmmbr: YOLO.
I sent back: Translation, please?
Her response wasn’t much better. Lrn txtspk, FFS. DDAIWD.
I gave up.
It is further emphasized when Robert accidentally calls up an obviously bookmarked site on his computer,
Gentlemen’s Relish dating website – their motto, Huntin’, Shootin’ and Cottagin’.
I think that was the second time I snorted my coffee. Robert’s attempts at cookery definitely had me snorting the coffee again and her description of trying to get dough to fit the corners of a rectangle tin is so true! I also loved this book for the accuracy of English village life, if sometimes exaggerated for humour,
I discovered that, should I need to consult a policeman, there would be one available from two until four on a Tuesday afternoon. Hopefully the criminals would take note and time their activities accordingly.
In our village it’s a large police caravan that is maneuvered into position once a month, a Wednesday I believe. Additionally rural descriptions,
…where cotton-wool sheep grazed in fuzzy felt fields.
I made my Husband jump when I screamed ‘fuzzy felt’ from the bed as he cleaned his teeth in the bathroom. Who could fail to sigh at?
Dotted around the fields were spinneys of gnarled trees whose Autumn clothing brought to mind the burning bush of biblical legend.
It is wonderfully romantic in places and so endearing as Robert, although no innocent, is used to people who are familiar by shared background and upbringing. Sean overwhelms him with his attitudes and simple warmhearted nature. Robert doesn’t know how to deal with the strength of his own feelings towards Sean and this leads to some wonderful phrases such as,
It was grounding, somehow, as if his very down-to-earthiness could tether me, keep me flying away unchecked in a puff of embarrassment.
This thought follows another hysterically funny moment in which I made Mr. Jansen again jump at my very loud laugh. I just have to mention a few moments that cause more snorting, laughing and jumping from poor Mr. Jansen. The mention of a ‘candlewick bedspread’ haven’t met that phrase since the times when I had one. The School Carol service in the village church could have been a scene in a ‘sit. com.’ and I was nearly crying with laughter. Mr. Jansen just said ‘it’s that book again isn’t it.’ More laughter for Robert’s problems with the decorations including difficulties putting the Angel on top of the school’s Christmas tree,
For something with wings, it was showing a marked affinity for plummeting to the floor.
This novel about Shamwell village, and Robert and Sean, also contains such an array of brilliant secondary characters. From the amazing Rose to next door neighbor Hanne and the children with associated assortment of parents.
I wanted to keep reading about Robert’s life in Shamwell and as this is Book 1 it looks like I shall have my wish. Though, if Book 2 is as funny as Book 1 my Husband might end up a nervous wreck!
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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