Sunday, 14 February 2016

Finding North by Carmen Jenner - Review

Released: 25th February 2016.


Red Maine’s blue-collared bad boy, North Underwood, has a dirty little secret—Will Tanner.

Friends since kindergarten, North had been the one to jump first, and his fall into Will’s bed ten years ago had been no exception. Will and North had been inseparable, but things change, people grow apart, and even a blazing flame can dwindle to a dying ember over time.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

After a run in with a bottle of Bundy rum, Will and North find themselves in a compromising and all too familiar position.

Blurred lines, bad decisions, and one wrong foot after another lead these two down a spiral of sarcasm, secrets, and sex, but when North’s hetero status is called into question he can’t figure up from down. And despite Will telling himself he wouldn’t fall again, he’s head over heels and wandering without a compass.

Love is love.

Love is truth.

Love … shouldn’t be this damn hard to figure out.


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Kristine's Review:
Reviewed: January 2016.

"North was my childhood. My first love. But he's nothing to me now. We're nothing. We stopped freefalling, and now we're standing still."
I've read quite a lot of MM over the past few years, and while most undoubtedly have got me hot under the collar, feeding off a raw sexual magnetism that the characters possess, few have truly found a place in my heart for examining what it means to find a bond with someone that so much of the world tells them they shouldn't be attracted to, for me so much of the MM I've read has focused solely on the sexual connection, without focusing on the soul deep connection. We live in a world full of stereotypes, of ideals like falling in love is joyous, and yet accompanied by addendums like, only if the person you fall for doesn't deviate from the preconceived norm, it's a unfortunate fact that even in 2016 people still fear what they don't understand, and the reality is there is so much fear and repression surrounding homosexuality, it goes against so many religious and cultural teachings, as far as the story goes boy and girl meet, fall in love, get married, have babies, that's it, the end... but what happens when despite all you've been taught growing up flies in the face of what you feel, what you have no choice but in feeling, in knowing to be true?

"Hell, I didn't fall. I'm still f*cking falling, and there isn't a safety net in the world big enough to catch me."

For Red Maine's resident manwhore North Underwood, life is's pretty average actually, he spends his days at the mill doing physically demanding work, he drinks at his local after knock off, he's had his fair share of willing women to warm his bed, what he doesn't have is a connection to his once best mate Will Tanner, the once inseparable pair now have little to talk about, they certainly aren't friends, their conversation is limited to ordering a drink across a bar, years of friendship during their formative years is a distance memory, until North is given a chance to reconnect with Will, and he'll be damned not to take advantage of it, despite the lewd comments that get thrown around touting Will's sexuality as anything other than normal, despite the hate speech and vitriol that his homophobic father and co workers are sure to send his way, there's a sense of longing for what was, and of hope for what never may be.

"When his eyes meet mine they're both furious and full of fear. That's all he is: fear. From head to toe, a frightened little boy, so afraid to feel. So afraid to be found out as a faggot."
It's no big secret that I often listen to music when reading and reviewing, there's a line in Hanging By A Moment where Jason Wade croons that's he desperate for change, starving for truth, there's a feeling that in that moment it's both Will and North he's singing about, Will having spent so many years waiting for North to admit what he was feeling and North desperate for the courage, the strength to go after what he's wanted, when Wade sings "I'm closer to where I started, I'm chasing after you." there's that sense of being on a merry go round, the sense that the past twelve years apart have faded into dust, that North has got one foot out the door, and Will is still standing in the same spot he was all those years ago, still chasing after the idea of something that could be great but only if they both are willing to take a chance.

"I'd go through all of that for just one day of not having to hide, but it doesn't matter, because North will never change. Twelve years on and I'm still his dirty little secret. And the thing that tears me apart is the knowledge that this is all I've ever be."

There's a strangling sense of repression in Finding North, much like the title suggest, Jenner's latest work examines more than just coming out and sexuality, more than predetermined gender roles, bravely looking at sexuality as fluid, as more than black and white, as more than I like men or I like women, it takes a look at small town life, where sometimes the most convenient way to live is buried deep in the closet, where discrimination is more than just shouted words, or rude gestures, it's hatred, and violence, and destruction, it's FEAR.

"The fear, a blackness that roils constantly in my belly, threatens to overcome me and all I want to do is sink to my knees and sob. Instead, I fall into Will, and I find it's a pretty soft place to land."

There's so much more here than two men fighting and falling for each other, there's more than childhood bestfriends realising that there was more there for them, there's more here than a man who isn't quite sure what he identifies as or who he is. Finding North captivated me from the very first page, Will's voice full of innocence and wonder cemented that I couldn't put it down. Jenner's writing continues to go from strength to strength, her multi dimensional approach to contemporary romance means that Finding North is about more than steamy MM sex scenes, while are present - there's a element of it feeling natural, raw, unscripted, and more than that, her ability to create places like Red Maine that feel so inherently real that you can feel the dust swirling around your skin, sense the sun beating down hot on your face, but the thing that cements her place as author who leaves me giddy with anticipation for what's coming next, is her ability to create characters that are flawed, passionate, selfish, nervous, angry, sarcastic, loving, desperate... relatable...REAL...characters like Will and North, who wear their pasts, their indiscretions, their faults and their flaws like a badge of honour, saying this is who I am, I'm not perfect and that's okay, because who I am is enough.
This story gives a voice to anyone who has ever felt alone, unaccepted, unloved, it begs them to believe a little more, to accept those parts of themselves that cut like shards of glass tearing away at their strength, at their hope, Finding North tells the reader that we're all a little bent, a little broken and that's okay.

About The Author:

Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something, USA TODAY and international bestselling author of the Sugartown, Savage Saints, and Taint series.
Her dark romance, KICK (Savage Saints MC #1), won Best Dark Romance Read in the Reader’s Choice Awards at RWDU 2015.
A tattoo enthusiast, hardcore MAC addict and zombie fangirl, Carmen lives on the sunny north coast of New South Wales, Australia, where she spends her time indoors wrangling her two wildling children, a dog named Pikelet, and her very own man-child.
A romantic at heart, Carmen strives to give her characters the HEA they deserve, but not before ruining their lives completely first … because what’s a happily ever after without a little torture?

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