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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In and Out by L. B. Gregg

In and Out by L. B. Gregg
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (201 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Former television sensation and renowned world explorer, Holden Worthington, is held prisoner by crippling agoraphobia. When a sexy young laborer arrives to set his property to rights, a ray of light glimmers in Holden's dark and narrow world. A grisly discovery throws the two men together, and Holden finds his world turned inside out by his inappropriate longing for his awkward, young employee, Adam Morgan, and by a threat growing around them both. All of Smithfield believes Holden has something to hide, and Adam is determined to bring everything--including Holden Worthington--into the open.

Piles of money can certainly help a man live in physical comfort, but happiness does not necessarily come with the package. This is how we find Holden Worthington - wealthy, comfortable, and a prisoner in his own imposing house. His crippling agoraphobia has brought him to a rather pitiable state where life is recollection rather than action. While he may sound, initially, too pitiful to gain the reader’s interest, Holden’s acerbic wit and his self-deprecating humor render him immediately sympathetic. Not until Adam’s arrival is he forced to think outside himself, and the discovery of the corpse in his garden will force him to deal with all the issues that have caused his condition.

In many ways, this is a serious piece. There’s death and betrayal, alcoholism and accusation. But the author keeps the story moving with a light and steady hand, keeping us firmly in Holden’s sardonic first person narrative and allowing us plenty of funny moments to break up the stress. (“Gin bit my tongue. Five o’clock, my taste buds screamed, yippee ki yay!”) The title refers, of course, to Holden’s imprisonment inside and Adam’s comfort zone being outside, and serves as a sexual double entendre, but it also could refer to the revolving door nature of poor Holden’s house. An ever-growing cast of quirky characters comes and goes in a continual stream, leaving Holden often at a loss as to who exactly is occupying his house at any given moment.

The far more stoic Adam could have been more of a cipher for the reader, but his actions speak for him in large part. His communication difficulties force Holden to speak to him in a plain, straightforward manner, leaving innuendo at the door and shoving everything into the open. Loyal, patient and calm, he gently pushes Holden into admitting things he’d rather not and into doing things he otherwise couldn’t consider, like walking to the garage.

The romance rolls along at a good clip, believable despite the age difference because these two disparate personalities clearly complement each other. The mystery portion of the plot stays interesting as well, as Holden’s suspicions shift and refocus with each new revelation. My only issue with the plotline comes at the final reveal. While I won’t give anything away here, it was not the identity of the perpetrator but the manner in which said perp accomplishes the reveal that I found unbelievable.

Other than that one hiccup, I found this a completely enjoyable read. Well-paced and intelligently written, Ms. Gregg gives us a story with memorable characters and a sweet, satisfying romance. I hear this is the last Smithfield book, and I confess the thought leaves me melancholy. But I suppose we need to leave the characters to their lives, and we wish them all the best.

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