Reviewed by Carissa
SERIES: The Bristol Collection, Book 1
AUTHOR: Josephine Myles
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: 351 pages
BLURB: Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.
When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.
Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.
What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.
Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.
Junk: where a sexy librarian hoarder meets a shopaholic clutter-cleaner with (over)commitment issues, and falls promptly and fully head over heels. What’s not to like? Well except the fact that our sexy hoarder, Jasper, is one false move from being buried under his hoard of books and newspapers. Or that clutter-cleaners with therapist leanings, like our Lewis, might just let morals get in the way of his happily ever after. It’s nothing that can’t be conquered, but can these two, and all their issues, fit into a house that’s packed to the brim with books, papers, and a secret that not even death can bury? Only time and love can tell.
I knew from the moment that I read the blurb of Junk that I was going to like this book. Even discounting my love for the books of Josephine Myles, this truly sounded like a unique story being told. Yet, hoarding?–the supposed province of crazy old bats with hygiene issues and more cats than could ever be healthy–how could that possibly lend itself to a good ol’ gay romance? Turns out it lends itself superbly. Not just because Jasper and Lewis make my knees go weak, or that my inner anglophile has a girlish fit every time I read a book set in the UK. No, this book actually has the audacity to have depth of character and plot. And I love it.
I love that these character–all of them–exist in three dimensions. It would have been enough to find two protagonist who are more than just top and bottom, domineering or shy, but we got so much more. Jasper and Lewis were great characters to come to know, but Yusef, Carroll, Mas, and of course the clothing free, free-speaking, parents of the Miller twins were a joy to read about. Feeling like you could actually come across these people, if you take a quick (or not so quick, for the poor residence of sunny cali, like me) jaunt up to this English town, was a wonderful feeling. The more I found out about these characters the more I wanted to know (if not exactly see–the only people I want to hold naked conversations with are those I’ll be tying to my bed later on). I am also hoping Myles might be feeling benevolent and will give Mas his own happy ending–because seriously, that bouncy, sassy man has some serious depths that need to be plundered…er…discovered by the right man.
Jasper is a hoarder, but not a pushover. He has a strong will, a working love life–well, he at least is getting some, if not from the right person, or in the right way–and the determination and courage to go after what he wants. Be it a solution to his overwhelming hoarding problem, or after the reluctant clutter-cleaner that came to save his house and ended up claiming his heart, he is willing to take the steps to get it. Yes he has doubts–and plenty of dithering about before he forces himself to change–but he does make those changes. He does go after his man. Even if said man made me want to whack him with the stick even as Jasper lulled him in with his, ah, carrot.
Lewis has pesky ethical issues, and unfortunately I can’t say that they are wrong. Not even if they almost cock-blocked the happily-ever-after. Lewis does have commitment issues–in that he comes to them way too fast and way too hard–so it is perfectly reasonable, and probably much healthier, to insist that they know that this is what they really want. Both of them. Did it bug me? Of course. I am a hopeless romantic that would happily live in a world of love at first sight and forever. But I am also an unrepentant realist and hate when things come too easy to my heroes. Make them strive for it, make them work hard for it…and then let them declare their undying love as they fall into each other’s arms.
There were so many little moments in this book that made me smile. Zombie flirting in the cafe (a proven method of convincing your desired other that you are the perfect partner is to show just how useful you would be in a zombie apocalypse). Decorative fountains that were so much more. A brother and sister who reminded me quite a bit of how my sister and I act whenever we are in the same room (she’s the pretty one, I’m the smart one. And most likely the dead one if she ever reads this!). Yet for all its face splitting smiles and lighthearted nudist oversharing, there was real depth and insight into to the problem of hoarding.
These people don’t just have a problem throwing things away. It is much more complex than that. They can’t let go of what they have because they either feel that no one will love it like they do or they are sure that one day they will need it, use it, or turn it into something better and new. But after a while the sheer weight of stuff, of time, of guilt, build up around them, and make even the thought of trying to move stuff out, impossible. It does keep piling up, too, because it is hard to pass up that one last book, that one last set of knives. After all, what is one more in the grand scheme of things? Then one becomes ten, becomes fifty, and then three rooms are forever closed to you because gravity won out over haphazardly placed piles of stuff. This was Jasper’s world, and it is no wonder that even thinking about the task before him made him cringe in horror.
And Jasper’s big secret? Well you’ll just have to find that out on your own, ‘cause I can only deal with so much heartache. I don’t need to go and break your heart as well–I’ll let Myles and Jasper do that for me. But I will say, that while I got hints of it along the way, it still hurt to hear. Maybe it was the combo of wine and late-night reading, but to see what Jasper had put on him, what he had to do, and then having to live with it every day after, it about broke my heart. I don’t know where I come down on the issue itself, but that is one hell of a burden to carry.
But don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom! The love here is genuinely heartwarming, and the chemistry between these two is like a bonfire on a cold night: irresistible to watch and you can’t help but get as close as you can so to feel the heat lick up your skin. Surprisingly it is Jasper who is the driving force behind most of the action. He seemed so broken at the beginning of the story, and even with him saying that he’d the one topping Mas, I didn’t think he really had it in him to go after Lewis like he did. But, boy, was I wrong. I was wrong in the garden, on the bed, and in the warehouse–several times! And while Jasper may eventually want to be able to switch it up, it was hot and sweet and very very much a pleasure to read with him in charge. I do take issue with the fade-to-black before Lewis got to go all toppy on Jasper wonderful behind, though–that was just mean…if completely the right choice for the story. But still.
I loved this story, and while there were a few areas where the transitions were a little iffy and I might have been jolted out of the scene as I tried to figure what was going on, I don’t have many complaints. This book took me, my heart, and my head, through a wringing and wonderful journey, and I have no qualms about recommending it to anyone who wants to fall in love vicariously, likes pants-melting kisses, and who is willing to see some of the crazy secrets that hide behind the towers of literary genius. 5 stars. Go pick it up; you will not regret it–unless it is the domino that sets off your own worded avalanche.
(This book also prompted a little clean-out on my part. So yea! to more shelf space and less shoes clogging my closet. That means I can buy more books right?)
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Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS