by JL Merrow, contemporary (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-501-2
It seems like author JL Merrow really likes tales of buggery set in the invigorating airs of Cambridge, as Muscling Through is yet another story set in the city for all seasons. There is yet another Cambridge professor who just loves his banana splits, but the author has a musclebound chav as the protagonist.
So yes, we have Al Fletcher and Prof Larry Morton boinking happily after Larry realizes that Al is the sensitive and enlightened kind of chav. Of course, there are issues, but they stem mostly from the differences in our two men's social classes. Issues like homophobia, which you'd think run rampant especially in the streets where Al came from, are neatly swept under the rug. This is, in other words, a story that makes Billy Elliot look deep. Oh, and don't forget that every scary muscle-bound tattooed meathead is hiding a sensitive side. In Al's case, he cooks - wonderfully.
The neat and tidy box in which this story exists in gives it a rather unrealistic feel, but I don't mind, really, as this is a short story where it's best that the author doesn't get too ambitious. I'm just pointing this out for readers who may mind. For me, this is a pleasant story with moments of unexpected humor which arise from Al surprising everyone, including Larry, by breaking meathead stereotypes. Occasionally the author slips up and makes Al's first person narration tad too flowery and wordy for a man of his background, but this doesn't get in the way of my pleasant enjoyment much.
Muscling Through is a fluffy and feel good story. I don't have any problems recommending this tale, but do take note that some degree of suspension of disbelief is needed to enjoy this story,
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