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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Scrap Metal - Harper Fox One of the most genuinely romantic Romances I've read in a loooong time.

As I noted, snarkily, in an earlier update, the story takes the time to let the two characters get to know one another and shows this reader why theirs is a forever love story and not just the case of sexy parts fitting together well.

Although he grew up on the picturesque Seacliff sheep farm, Nichol has spent the last few years, happily at university, studying linguistics and enjoying life that is anything but rural. Now he's back at Seacliff, dealing with all the things that animal husbandry entails: broken machinery, mud, too-stupid-to-live sheep, and trying to stay one payment ahead of the creditors. All this under the grumpy eye of the family patriarch, his grandfather, Henry. The reason for his return? His brother and mother have been killed while on holiday in Spain, leaving Henry alone to work the farm.

On the proverbial dark and stormy night, Nichol hears the sound of glass breaking, and in a somewhat out-of-character show of macho, grabs a gun and runs out to the barn to face the intruder. The intruder is a young man named Cameron (Cam) who is on the run from the Glasgow mob. For all Nichol's bluffing with the gun, he's really not inclined to violence and something about Cam makes Nichol put aside the gun and let Cam stay the night in the barn.

The plan is for Cam to be gone in the morning, but if that had worked out, there wouldn't be much of a love story. To keep Cam around, Nichol cooks up a story that he is an agricultural student who has been assigned an internship at the farm.

Cam's past, however, still looms ominously in the background. He tells Nichol that he was the mob leader's bookkeeper, but as the story progresses, it turns out he is possibly guilty of a much darker crime.

What struck me about Nichol and Cam's story was that despite being about two male romantic leads, it struck a lovely balance between sexy and sweet. While many of the heterosexual romance I've read go to great lengths to show that real men think raunchy thoughts, all the fucking time, about the heroine, Nichol's internal dialogues regarding Cam are more sensual than outright "drooly." Nichol is still a guy. Given a chance for a blow job from his ex-boyfriend, he takes it. (I like the acknowledgement that a romantic protagonist's physical needs don't end the instant he meets his true love.) But he isn't going about his day with a perpetual boner for Cam. (Seriously. If romance heroes where that randy, they'd be in agony. Like the warnings on Viagra: "If erection last for more than four hours....")

Best yet, the smexy scene is delayed, and the narrative follows how Cam settles into farm life, his talents (good with mechanical things and accounting), a perfect compliment to Nichol's muscle and nurturing tendencies. Both men are tremendously likable in a "Yes, real men do have feelings" kind of way.

Folks, I'm married to a sensitive, nurturing man. Who also can fix anything mechanical; know guns, motorcycles, and do all things manly. Consequently, stereotypes regarding the male inability to feel or show emotion piss me off. Perhaps because Scrap Metal is a gay romance, the narrative is given more leniency in depicting a nuanced version of masculinity. I dunno, but it works for me.

Also love that Cam is an artist; works in metal, no less!

The angst is strong with Scrap Metal, wrapped in themes of justice, redemption, family, death and hope. Initially, I thought I was going to hate Harry, Nichol's irascible grandfather. He was cut from the same stuff as Josephine's grandmother in Looking for Alibrandi (Melinda Marchetta) and I have no tolerance for emotionally abusive family relations. But instead, I ended up loving the old man as the author skilfully revealed the loving man beneath the hard exterior.

Cam and Nichol are both basically decent men, but Cam carries a shit-ton of guilt from his past, and Nichol, on learning about that past, is put in an odd position where he has to reconcile the person he knows, with someone who may have committed a terrible crime. Because the two are obviously so made for each other, it's easy for me to understand why Nichol might want to put aside the crime, treat it as something that happened to someone else.

Recommended for romance readers who, like me, are tired of love stories that are glorified anatomy lessons. Not that Scrap Metal doesn't have sex scenes. It does. But they favor sensuality and emotion over the usual grunt and thrust, and are hotter as a result.

Will be looking for other titles by this author.