I can always count on this author to write a really British book. Wake Up Call is no exception in that. What is different in this book is that while I'm used to JL Merrow writing humorous and thus lighter fare, this book has a melancholy and painful undertone throughout.
First, there's Devan Thompson, a car mechanic, who's come to Porthkennack on the Cornwall coast to find someone he's wanted to meet all his life -
the mother who gave him up for adoption at birth
. He's decided that he's going to
track her down and ask her why she did what she did. Basically, he's planning to force the woman to give him a reason, without any thought to what may have led her to the decision
, so I wasn't really on his side from the start.
Still, Devan is a good chap, and this becomes clear when he runs into Kyle Anthony, who's lived in Porthkennack for a few months and already has a reputation as the town drunk, as he tends to pass out in inappropriate places. There's a reason for this - Kyle has been diagnosed with narcolepsy, but refuses to seek treatment, and hasn't even told his parents about the diagnosis. The condition has so far cost him his job as a barrister (that's English for attorney), his boyfriend, and he's built a bunch of walls around himself, needing nobody and no one. Or so he tells himself.
Devan makes no assumptions, even when told not to bother, with a sneer to boot, and merely stands guard over a passed out Kyle until the other man wakes up again. Attraction is immediate, and they begin spending time together. Devan's personality comes out in droves, and his compassion and easy-going manner have Kyle second-guessing his decision to keep everyone at bay and living life as a recluse in his house on the cliffs.
I'm not going to tell you the whole plot here - you should read this book and have the full experience - but I will tell you that there's humor and banter and very British English throughout the book, with interesting, complex, fully realized characters who both struggle with their lot in life and have serious doubts about what they might have to offer a partner - what with Kyle's narcolepsy and Devan's being a simple car mechanic. Their budding relationship is not smooth sailing, and there are instances when they both walk away in anger, with slamming doors and hurt feelings. Kyle came across as a bit whiny on occasion - while I understood his frustration with his condition, I didn't quite understand why a grown man would choose to hide himself away, instead of facing the issue head-on. I also lacked sympathy for Devan on occasion, especially when it came to his quest for answers, because it felt supremely selfish to me. It was only when he was given the true reason that he got some clarity on his motivations, and almost grew up before my very eyes.
There are supporting characters too, the most prominent being Ceri, a waitress in the local cafe, to whom Devan takes a liking and with whom he also starts spending time. She's an interesting character, cynical and blunt, but has her reasons for being that way. I liked her a lot - she didn't take crap from anyone, and she made Devan think. There's no romantic interest here for either - but they do become friends. Sort of.
The plot flows easily, and while the romance between Devan and Kyle is rather quiet and languid, there are passionate moments within as well. For the most part, the melancholy undertones persist, as Devan finds out more about
, and Ceri's backstory, and Kyle faces a decision on what to do about the narcolepsy.
The pace picks up a bit toward the ending of the book as Devan's little sister gets herself into a tight spot, and both Devan and Kyle rush to London to help out. This leads to Devan's doubts raising their ugly heads again which... well, you read this for yourself.
The primary location of this book was chosen really well - an old fishing village, with possibly pirates and smugglers in its history, with rocky cliffs and hidden tunnels, which now depends primarily on tourism to support its residents.
The ending felt a little rushed, especially since the subplot with Devan's sister was resolved so quickly, but we did get a fabulous epilogue, so I was happy with that.
Overall, this was a great first book in this series, and I'm keen to check out the others.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgally. A positive review was not promised in return. **