Today I’m reviewing A Bowl Full of Cherries by by Raine O’Tierney. It’s a nice, medium length holiday story at about 214 pages. There are a couple of warnings in this for past bullying about weight, present weight issues and body image issues. There’s no violence or gore though. I admit I broke into this one earlier than I meant to. I bought it and convinced myself I was just going to set it aside, and then somehow about five minutes later I had it open in my kindle and was humming God Rest Ye Marry Gentlemen as I flipped pages. I may have taken a break to turn on the Youtube Christmas carols. I have a general rule I like to keep to with holiday stories…don’t start them until at least November and don’t read them after February, but I couldn’t help myself. There’s just something about the joy of the holidays that I never quite get over and any book that has some holiday spirit in it gets points from me. (I’m also that person who likes to watch those horrid Hallmark Channel holiday movies, but keep that one under your hat. I like to pretend that I’m not a huge sap who will happily watch an eight hour Elf marathon, that is until I’m doing it.)
Let’s take a quick look at the blurb.
Porker, Fatty, Tons-of-Fun: Crowley Fredericks has heard it all. He’s dropped a lot of weight since his high school days, but he’s still a big guy, and the painful words and bullying follow him. Rejected—again—because of his size, Crowley is starting to think that maybe love just isn’t meant for huskier men.
Averell Lang and his twin are so different they might as well not even be related. So when Rell’s brother brings his roommate home to snowy Susset for the holidays, Rell expects the worst—another uptight, pretentious hipster. What he discovers instead is Crowley. Nerdy, fascinating, attractive, Crowley. Rell never expected to look at a man this way, and what he sees in Crowley Fredericks is something he didn’t even know he was looking for. If both men can overcome their hang-ups, they might unwrap more than presents this holiday season.
One thing I have to say I don’t like about the blurb is that it implies Crowley doesn’t like Tyler because he’s a “pretentious hipster”, but having read the book I don’t think that’s really the case. He sort of accepts Tyler the way he is, takes the good with the bad.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the cover, although I pictured Averell looking a bit different than that. In my head he was a little darker, a little thinner. I love original art covers like this one.
I love these characters. They are so well rounded and realistic I wouldn’t be surprised to meet them at a party. Crowley is a larger guy, not skinny, “real sized” who has serious body image issues and has been bullied on social media before. It has likely kept him from dating before the point where the story opens when he most likely could have. He’s also described lovingly– his beautiful curls, his eyes, ect.– by Averell Lang the other main character in the book.
There was just so much to love about this swift, sweet romance. Rell is Crowley’s best friend Tyler’s twin, and I like that there was no hint that Crowley might have liked Averell because he was secretly crushing on the twin. Something like that just wouldn’t have been good in the book.
I also love the tease for Tyler’s story because we get the idea that Tyler is seriously flustered by the fact that his twin could just fall for someone of the same sex without having major angst meltdown about it. That actually reads true to the story too because of the type of person Rell is. When we open on him in the story he has just spent some time trying to “live off the land” in the mountains (though he didn’t actually succeed at it), and he’s the type of person who bounces from job to job because he’s trying to live his best, most authentic life.
I really enjoy the brotherly distain between Averell and Tyler in this book. The twins take to joyfully hating each other with gusto, even though they’re essentially the opposite sides of the same coin. Tyler is a hipster and abhors anything “inauthentic” as such, but he’s furious with his twin who just wants to authentically be himself. They’re so similar they just can’t see it, and I love it that it’s the source of some playful and not so playful ribbing.
The sex in this book was fantastic as well. It was just the right mix of emotional response and physical description to really give you a good idea of what was going on. It was entirely absorbing, and I wanted it to happen for them. Sometimes I’m not ensnared by the sex in a story, it’s just wash, rinse, repeate, and I guess nothing completely insane happened sex wise here, but it was just written so earnestly that I was hooked.
It was authentic.
Speaking of authenticity, Crowley has body image issues and he doesn’t eat properly. He’s trying to lose weight and sort of going about it the wrong way. I like that this isn’t the HUGE angst train it could have been. It didn’t de-rail the story. This author has a really good sense of how to handle tough issues with tact that doesn’t flip the whole story and make it about that issue.
Also, I loved that Geek Bonding happened in this book. Averell and Crowley became fast friends on the basis of card games, online games, and general geekery—including music archive knowledge. I loved it. As former secretary of the Fantasy Gamer’s Club at my college, nothing could have made me more pleased. Geek love is true love. (And no one gets as excited about anything as a geek in love.)
The Few Things I could Find to Maybe Bitch About:
These guys were anal virgins before each other and the sex takes off like a shot. I was okay with that. Like, I’ve had stuff up there. You can relax and get with the program fairly quickly, but there was a no lube scene. No lube scenes that aren’t with seasoned anal sex veterans or that don’t hurt the characters always send my bullshit radar screaming at full volume. Pre-cum as lube. Can it be done? Yes. Comfortably? Not with virgins, in my estimation. It kind of pulled me out of an otherwise sweet and scalding hot reunion scene where Crowley and Rell are brought back together after several days apart in which Crowley isn’t really sure he’ll ever get to be with Rell again.
I was very sad when this book ended, and it stops on a tease for Rell’s twin Tyler’s book (sequel bait!). It was teased for THIS holiday season, but a quick little facebook exchange with O’Tierney (Where I gushed about the book because let’s face it the thing was so damned cute.) let me know that it’s in the process of being written now and probably won’t be out until the next year.
Cue the sad panda noises.
I’m going to check out some of her other books in the meantime.
If you enjoyed this review and would like to see others as they shape up friend Ki Brightly on Goodreads.
Yulian Volkov is an entrepreneur and lone werewolf who hates the city. At a pack meeting, he learns the only member he’s attracted to is being expelled for crimes unspecified. Yulian strikes a deal with the pack leader to allow Rolly Witten to live on his farm and work in his Meadery. Although enjoying handsome Rolly’s company, Yulian must tread carefully, since Rolly doesn’t trust him and the pack doesn’t acknowledge homosexuality exists. Meanwhile, Yulian stealthily courts Rolly by teaching him the value of his wolf side.
Rolly, who’s known he was gay since he was a teen, has accepted a life of solitude—and a life of crime. He has no desire to relocate. Yet Yulian’s trust in his ability to do honest work builds his confidence. As life is settling well for them, Rolly learns a friend from his old pack had a crush on him, and he’s torn between returning his friend’s feelings or pursuing the budding relationship with Yulian. But that’s not their worst problem. Assassins are trying to take out both wolves, and they need to figure out who wants them dead or all the trust and happiness they’re building together won’t matter.