Handle with Care by Josephine Myles

Why I read it: This is one I’d had on my wishlist for some time and when I bought The Hot Floor recently, I picked up this and Barging In.  They were on sale and I couldn’t resist. 🙂
What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  The best things in life aren’t free…they’re freely given.Ben Lethbridge doesn’t have many vices left. After raising his little sister to adulthood, he wasted no time making up for the youth he lost to responsible parenting. Two years of partying it up—and ignoring his diabetes—has left him tethered to a home dialysis regimen.

He can do his job from his flat, fortunately, but most of his favourite things are forbidden. Except for DVD porn…and fantasizing over Ollie, the gorgeous, purple-haired skateboarder who delivers it.

Their banter is the highlight of Ben’s lonely day, but his illness-ravaged body is the cruel reality that prevents him from believing they’ll do anything more than flirt. Not to mention the age gap. Still, Ben figures there’s no harm in sprucing himself up a bit.

Then one day, a package accidentally splits open, revealing Ben’s dirty little secret…and an unexpected connection that leaves him wondering if he’s been reading Ollie wrong all this time. There’s only one way to find out: risk showing Ollie every last scar. And hope “far from perfect” is good enough for a chance at love.

Product Warnings
Contains superhero porn comics and a cute, accident-prone delivery guy with colour-changing hair. Readers may experience coffee cravings, an unexpected liking for bad mullets, and the urge to wrap Ollie up and take him home.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): Jo Myles has a pleasing, easy writing voice so it was easy to slide into this story and enjoy it.  I did have a few problems with the book, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read.

The story is told from Ben’s 1st person POV and because of that, I missed some of the action I would have liked to have seen – particularly the developing (platonic) relationship between Ben’s sister Zoe and Ollie, which was, unfortunately, all done off page.
I don’t know whether the author intended it or not, but for a while I wondered if Ollie had some illness fetish and that was what attracted him to Ben. He certainly seemed to get off on Ben’s scars and tubes but it wasn’t really explained. For a while I wondered if Ollie would only like him if Ben was an invalid.  I don’t know much about it, but I understand that there are people about who have such a fetish.
The whole idea about Ben being ill, having to have a multi-organ transplant etc and him still being the sexy hero was unusual and I liked it (I gather that his own view of what he looked like was more dire than the actuality though – nothing unusual there is there?).  It was also educational without being in the least boring – it actually made me want to go and Google the kind of dialysis he used etc.  After the organ transplant there is only small mention of the immunosuppressant drugs Ben has to take – I don’t know much about them and thought they could cause bloating and other bad things but it seemed Ben’s reaction to the drugs was all good.
Ben has been lusting after Ollie for months – he orders porn DVD’s more for the guarantee of Ollie delivering them than anything else but he’s so shy and his body image is so poor, he just can’t make a move.  I did become a little impatient with that because the couple together is where the fun is, so I was glad when Ollie decided to take matters into his own hands.
I liked the way that Ollie and Ben had to learn to navigate their relationship – a healthy relationship (or for Ben, any relationship) was very much unknown territory and they make a few missteps and have to learn to communicate what they think and feel to make it work.  I believed that it would but I would have liked more of it on the page.  Overall, I’d say there was a certain… sketchiness to the story – not bad, but I would have liked more colouring in of the lines.
There is a 13 year age gap between Ben and Ollie and it does show.  I think as Ollie gets more confident he will take more of an equal place in their relationship – that is what Ben wants (which I was glad about), but the story was more about the beginning of Ollie’s confidence and so that equality was more of a promise in the book I think.
The sex was pretty hot but also realistic, with Ben’s fears of whether he’d be able to get it up after the surgery, whether he’d be able to satisfy Ollie. I also appreciated the somewhat unusual depiction of their sex life after the surgery – Ben isn’t allowed to have sex, but he’s very happy to “see to” Ollie.  It’s not that often that I’ve read in a book where one partner can’t have sex but is still not just willing, but enthusiastic about seeing to their partner’s pleasure.  Although it was partly done out of a fear that Ollie would leave him otherwise I think, I still thought it showed something special about Ben’s character – and why Ollie would be so drawn to him.
What else? On my reader, I had 158 pages and I thought that most of that would be story so it was with a bit of shock that the story finished at page 145.  It wasn’t so much that the story was unfinished (although I did find the ending somewhat abrupt) but that my expectation was that the story was going to be longer than it was.
I liked the unusual premise of the story and I enjoyed spending time with Ben and Ollie.  I would have liked a few more details and for it to be perhaps a bit longer, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable read and I’m glad I bought it.

Grade:  B-

2 comments on “Handle with Care by Josephine Myles

  1. Tam

    Samhain is famous, or infamous perhaps, bot putting a bunch of promos at the end of their books so it's always a bit of a surprise when you hit the end with lots of pages to go. I did enjoy this one, but I love everything this author writes pretty much. 🙂

  2. Kaetrin

    @Tam I really enjoyed The Hot Floor and I have Barging In on my TBR. 🙂

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