Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 5 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus
The bigger they come, the harder they fall... in love.
Cambridge art professor Larry Morton takes one, alcohol-glazed look at the huge, tattooed man looming in a dark alley, and assumes he’s done for. Moments later he finds himself disarmed—literally and figuratively. And, the next morning, he can’t rest until he offers an apology to the man who turned out to be more gentle than giant.
Larry's intrigued to find there's more to Al Fletcher than meets the eye; he possesses a natural artistic talent that shines through untutored technique. Unfortunately, no one else seems to see the sensitive soul beneath Al’s imposing, scarred, undeniably sexy exterior. Least of all Larry's class-conscious family, who would like nothing better than to split up this mismatched pair.
Is it physical? Oh, yes, it’s deliciously physical, and so much more—which makes Larry’s next task so daunting. Not just convincing his colleagues, friends and family that their relationship is more than skin deep. It’s convincing Al.
First impressions are always important but sometimes they can be dead wrong. That’s what Larry learns when he first mistakes Al for a mugger on a dark night in an alley. Al thinks poor Larry is drunk and needs help getting home. The somewhat comical beginning sets up a relationship that is definitely more than meets the eye. Everything Larry learns about Al shows a sensitive, caring individual. Larry soon falls in love with Al but Al is used to derision for his height and slower thinking so he doesn’t believe a smart guy like Larry could love him. It’ll take some creative planning for Larry to finally convince Al of the truth.
Every once in a while a book comes along that you just love to pieces. That’s what I felt with Muscling Through. I adore every single thing about this book and hope everyone else does too. It’s so heart warming, genuine, funny, romantic, sexy, caring, sensitive, witty, and just about any other description I can come up with. The story is told from Al’s perspective as a gentle giant. He’s extremely tall and muscular while being a little slower to pick up on things and he doesn’t always understand subtly and nuance. He’s definitely not stupid but he’s not as quick witted and smart as Larry. Even so, Al has a huge heart and a very caring nature.
Al tells the story of how he and Larry meet and go from occasional sex buddies in his mind to an actual in love couple. Al doesn’t always see things the same way Larry or the average reader might, which makes his perspective all the more lovely and wonderful. He delights as a charming narrator that can see the truth when needed but prefer the rose colored glasses too. It’s lovely to see that Larry recognizes that and loves Al for those reasons. There are several secondary characters that sometimes appreciate Al and sometimes think he’s not good enough for Larry. The two must navigate those potential pitfalls and their own insecurities to find happiness.
The story is masterfully written with a great balance of dialogue, tone, and pacing. There are numerous small touches throughout the story that add emotion and depth. In fact I almost cried during a particularly romantic part. The only setback could be that the story is told entirely to the reader instead of shown and you realize at the end that it’s Al relating the story of how he met the love of his life. That obviously didn’t phase me at all and I think the strength of the novella will definitely overcome any qualms readers may have. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far and urge everyone to get this.