Book Review: OUT! by J.L. Merrow #MM #Bisexual

Out! (Shamwell Tales, #3)Out! by J.L. Merrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OUT! By J.L. Merrow is an interesting take on the generational gap in a May/December M/M romance. The novel also addresses classism, privilege, gender discrimination, and discrimination against the disabled.

Mark is a 39-year-old, affluent tax advisor and recent divorcé who moved from London to the country with his 14-year-old daughter, Florence, or Fen. His ex-wife had been having difficulty raising Fen basically on her own, because Mark was such a workaholic that he didn’t make a lot of time for his daughter. Now, Fen is a bratty, rebellious teen, who wears all black and stays in her room all day. Mark wants to be a better dad, so he quits his job to take care of her. To lead a good example, he joins a men’s volunteer group which fundraises for local charities. At a group meeting, he meets a 25-year-old, bisexual hottie Patrick, whom he’s instantly attracted to.

Patrick is a professional fundraiser for a non-profit charity that serves adults with mental disabilities. Unlike Mark, Patrick can’t afford to quit his job for a year. Neither can his androgynous assistant Lex, who needs the job benefits for their medical treatments. Mark is still in the closet and has never been in an adult relationship with a man. Patrick thinks “age ain’t nothing but a number” and doesn’t understand why Mark is anxious about coming out to his daughter. This misunderstanding is a result of the generation gap between them. When Mark was growing up, people were less accepting of homosexuality and it was much harder to be out safely.

Their relationship is further complicated by Patrick’s social consciousness and criticism of Mark’s former job advising millionaires and corporations on how to take advantage of legal loopholes to pay less taxes. Patrick is dealing with a lot of stress at work due to bigoted board members, and becomes angry with Mark whose former work Patrick associates with taking away money from the poor and needy. He also has to deal with a friend who keeps questioning his bisexuality. When all the stress finally gets to him, he blows up at Mark in public. So, Mark has to win over both his daughter and new boyfriend.

Their relationship is slow to develop because of the various intersecting subplots and their make-out sessions constantly getting interrupted. That they didn’t have intercourse until the very end wasn’t a deal-breaker. I was interested in seeing how the various subplots were resolved, though I think a whole book could have been written about Lex alone and their journey for acceptance and love.

I didn’t care for Fen’s disrespectful attitude, but I get why she felt neglected, was so needy, and wished so much for a happy family. Fen grew up with unhappy parents, who only got married because Mark and Fen’s mom had gotten pregnant. Mark’s unhappiness being in the closet and in a disastrous marriage for so long affected his relationship with his daughter.

OUT! makes a point in showing the importance of gay marriage in changing attitudes, partly because it’s not until Mark is in a happy relationship that Fen feels safe and part of a family. The novel wasn’t quite what I expected. It was interesting but didn’t excite me, probably because I’m not a very touchy-feely person. I had sympathy for the characters and their situations, but I prefer romance novels in which the romance is most central to the narrative.

I really liked how the characters were British. I didn’t have to understand what the British slang and idioms meant in order for me to enjoy the humor. It was nice to step outside my world and experience British culture vicariously.

*ARC received from NetGalley

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