Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues #1) by Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Older MCs, British Town, Melancholic, Humorous, Contemporary, Series
Length: 290 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.
Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.
Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.
Michael May is forty, divorced, bi (not out) and he’s having both professional and personal upheaval. He believes in the British justice system. He loves helping people, and to him being in the Met. Police allows him to do that, but he cannot stand another missing person. Another dead body. Another life lost. Just like the last particularly heinous case.
The victim was a fourteen-year-old girl. Quite dead. By the look of her, she’d been dead a couple of days. Her wrists, where she’d been chained to the radiator, had melted into the metal. Stacey Merriweather: ran away from home after a family argument over her grades at school, failed to return.
After losing it with the suspect of this latest crime, May hands his notice in to the Met. He knows he’s barely keeping it together and can’t keep going the way things are. That he hit a suspect cements it for him. He has a good partner in Jenny, but that’s not enough. The ghosts of his own past and present, his father combined with the reality of his job, are closing in on him. No longer married, no children, no one that he feels an attachment to, and not able to be ‘out,’ Michael retreats back to his home town – Trowchester – and the house that was left to him upon his father’s death. He struggles moving into the house and the reader is let into some of his fears and resentment. The tragic loss of his mother. His father’s abusive personality – anger, nastiness and cruel jokes at Michael and his mother’s expense – are very real and raw to him still. The house has an aura he finds hard to handle.
The bedding clearly hadn’t been aired since his father’s cancer was diagnosed six months ago. It smelled of damp and dust and mildew. Worse, it smelled of wariness and cruel laughter. It tightened around him like a fist.
So he plans on staying in a barge out the back – the house is on a river. The thing is, someone has set up home there and he doesn’t want to scare them away. He’s especially empathetic once he finds out it is just a young girl squatting there. It could have been him at one time, he thought about leaving on more than a few occasions when he was young.
Michael wants to gut the house, do it up and sell it on, but he becomes interested in fixing up the barge out the back. He’s handy and this is a good project for him for a multitude of reasons. Enter Finton Hulme, the proprietor of the local quirky and quite wonderful bookshop. He has the plans at his store for building/restoring a barge.
Finn came to Trowchester to find a new life. His partner, Tom, died five years ago. It occurred at the same time Finn was facing charges in London for being a fence. It’s a source of sorrow but Finn is nothing if not a pragmatic man. These days he runs a legit business employing a young gay lad who comes from a dodgy local family. When Michael comes into the book store they know he’s ‘filth’ – a cop – but whether he’s active or not is unknown. Both Finn and Kevin are wary but Finn is also attracted to the brutishly well-built but seemingly lost Michael. Finn flirts with Michael, filth or not, he is hot and Finn likes what he sees. That Michael has a barely contained anger but an inherent kindness about him is an aphrodisiac Finn simply cannot resist.
There is a very lovely romance at the heart of Trowchester Blues. Alex Beecroft wrote two interesting (and in many ways) diametrically opposite personalities very well. Where Michael believes in the police, in justice, in being honest, Finn is nervous around police, mistrustful of them, deflects questions and dances around the truth. Michael is darker and more swarthy, Finn is blonde and slight. That they are in their forties was well handled. The rules of engagement change emotionally as we get older. We become more set in our ways and the clingy, needy nature of romance is not the same as first love or coming-of-age; and while this is romantic, it is beautifully age-appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, they are both smitten and they both love the sexual contact as well as the human contact that their burgeoning relationship brings, but they have pasts that sculpt and scare them as well.
Apart from their is it isn’t it relationship, Finn becomes entangled with an old contact and a book, an abbot’s psalter, that causes him trouble and threatens to put him back where he doesn’t want to be again. He likes his respectable life now but he gets involved for some morally ambiguous, if not noble, reasons. What will Michael do if he finds out? He knows Michael will not tolerate anything but honesty. Once Briggs enters his life with the psalter, so do some painful twins who finish each other’s sentences and actively try to persuade Finn to fence some goods for them as well.
And Michael has the young lass living in the barge, Sarah, to contend with, trying to help her but not scare her away. He also has dealings regarding common land with his neighbours, the Lis, whom his father had not been terribly… tolerant of. So there are multiple threads in the book, including Finn’s fellow book club friends and their interest in his new love life.
Apart from the crime scene at the beginning of this book, which is quite graphic and sets the tone for Michael feeling as he does, Trowchester Blues is a gentle, kind book. The town of Trowchester is a lovely backdrop to the narrative of the story and the characters. This is my first contemporary read of Alex Beecroft’s, every other book of hers I’ve read has been historical. Some writers can’t mix it up so well. But no need to worry, Alex Beecroft is nothing if not a superb author, no matter the style or time. The writing is strong, heartfelt, sweet, funny, sombre, romantic, sensual and engaging. The (huge) rebellious streak in me identified with and adored the rebellious streak in Finn. His class, wit, flare, and concerns were perfect. I felt for Michael, could relate to his mood so easily, wanted to hug him at times and slap him on occasion. I liked how much both Michael and Finn cared for others. And honestly, it was just nice to spend time with a realistically drawn older couple. Oh, and the humour. I found myself snorting out loud, totally relating to thoughts and actions and dialogue. I loved the fact that this book, set in England, is kept British and not Americanised. Thank you! I noticed that there are two more books in the Trowchester series and I intend on reading them both. 4.5 Stars!
Finn smiled at him, reaching up to turn down the collar of his coat and smooth it evenly over his shoulders. Louise used to do that too, and it brought a lump to his throat to be tidied up by Finn’s quick, clever hands. It felt like love.
But Finn looked pensive afterwards, his eyes downcast.
“It’s been a while,” he said, “since I had someone to fuss over. It just… ” He gave a rueful laugh. “Brought back memories.’
“For me too.”
They stood smiling at each other for a little while, Finn’s hands clasped in Michael’s while the textures of their lives ran together around them.
ARC provided in return for an honest review