True North


Title and Link: True North

Authors: Bethany Brown & Ashlyn Kane

Genre: GLBT (M/M) Contemporary

Length: Novel (77,317 words)

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Guest Reviewer: Kris

The Blurb:

Small-town engineer Jackson Strange has been clumsy his whole life, so when an accident at work sends him to the local clinic, it’s no big shock. The surprise is the magnetic, heated attraction to the enigmatic Julian Piet, a charming doctor with killer good looks that appears to treat him, sending Jack off his lonely course.

Now that their paths have crossed, Jack and Julian head off in a new direction – but between Jack’s reluctance to be open about his sexuality and Julian’s shattered self-confidence, they can’t seem to decide what direction that is. It takes a push from Julian’s meddlesome sister to send them stumbling headfirst into romance.

Happily wrapped up in their fledgling relationship, Jack and Julian think they may have found their way until unexpected roadblocks appear on their path to forever. Wrathful storms, dangerous illness, family connections, and broken hearts threaten their tenuous balance and will send them spinning apart – their love scattered to the four winds – if they cannot believe and trust that together, they can find true north.

The Review:

Honesty from the outset~

Some of my thoughts about True North came together as a result of a discussion about the book I had with my English pal Jenre. (Hey, it’s one of my first reviews for the blog. Cut me some slack. *g*)

First things first~

I know I’ve connected with a story when, after reading a particular scene, I find myself saying “Oh, you cow. Tell me that doesn’t hurt them later.” (you’ll know exactly the one I’m talking about when you come across it) and then eagerly continuing to read to find out what DOES happen.

This has to be one of my favourite things about reading; when you feel like you are a participant in the characters’ journey. You share their highs and lows and are genuinely happy for them as they head towards a future together.

This was definitely the case for me with True North and, I think, reflects the fact that this book is not only character-driven, but the characters are well written and developed (let’s face it, this doesn’t always happen) as well as being appealing to the reader.

A couple of issues~

The secondary characters; Julian’s cousin and Jack’s Mum, play important roles in moving this story forward. There were a few times when Julian’s cousin especially annoyed the crap out of me, although I’m still trying to work out whether it may have been because Jack and Julian were angry with her or whether I just wanted her to go get her own life and leave them alone. Good characterisation = connection = reader’s joy.

The flow of time in this book is handled extraordinarily well. The reader gets the sense of time passing as the relationship develops, but without the stop/start you can sometimes get in novels, which can be really jarring.

The only negative about this aspect was that, towards the end, I did vaguely (and this is a key word) feel I might have missed some pivotal moments in the relationship. It was through a conversation with Jen that I realised it was not so much something was ‘missing’, rather that I, as a reader, wanted a few extra steps/scenes showing the progress of the main characters’ relationship. In particular, I would have liked to find out more about Jack’s increasing comfort and confidence in having a ‘real’ – and public – relationship with Julian.

The last (very minor) issue I had with True North was Jack’s clumsiness seemed to disappear when much was made of it at the beginning of the book. Maybe I just didn’t notice it as much as the story progressed?? *shrugs*

My recommendation~

This is a good, solid romance, which I think those who prefer a more ‘real’ m/m contemporary romance will truly enjoy.

It is a terrific first novel from this writing team and I’ll look out for them in the future.

23 thoughts on “True North

  1. Kris

    Emmy, LOL. Angsty works in this book because of the terrific characterisation. It’s when angsty seems random and without resolution that I begin to worry about a story.

  2. Tam

    Great review Kris, well done, and wow, a book I read recently. I didn’t find it all that angsty and I loved the Dr. personality, especially when he was all flirty and funny at work. As a Canadian from the west I had some issues with the geography. LOL They kept going to Calgary when they lived in the oil patch in the north. Ummm. Calgary is like 3 hours south of Edmonton which would be 2 hours from the oil patch. They should have been going to Edmonton to shop, etc. I also found the cousin kind of annoying when setting them up, but I’ve read worse.

    So in my opinion the angst was kind of normal and not overdone. Its not like they spent hours sitting around discussing it. If you’ve ever met some of those guys from up there you’d understand Jack being terrified for anyone to know he’s gay. But I enjoyed it quite a bit except for some of the things that Kris noted. I’d maybe give it 4 out of 5.

  3. jessewave

    Are you another reviewer in the making? There’s always room for more *g*

    I haven’t read this book but I would say that a quarter point difference is pretty good.

  4. Tam

    Wave: Ummm, no. I’m way lacking in talent for that. I just like to let other do the work and then go “yeah I agree” but using a lot more words. LOL

  5. Renee

    Great review! Definitely a book I’ll be checking out.

    I’m all for angst as long as there’s a point to it. ;-)

  6. Kris

    Thanks Tam and, phew, thank goodness we were on the same path and pretty close on our ratings. *g*

    I kinda wondered re: the north thing, but since I’m on the other side of the planet…

    Interesting too to get your insight about where Jack was coming from in terms of hiding his sexuality. Just adds to the context and understanding.

  7. Kris

    Hi Lynn – and thanks. *g*

    Based on your reviews, I think you will like this book. The characters – both mains and secondarys -in ‘TN’ are engaging; especially Dr Julian as Tam says, and really well written.

  8. Kris

    Glad you liked it, Renee.:)

    I think what ‘angst’ there is works in ‘TN’ because the life circumstances the characters find themselves in are situations that we can relate to (hence the ‘real’ story comment) as well as the fact that it’s not overly dramatic and the events run their course and come to natural resolutions.

  9. Jenre

    Great review, Kris. You’ve managed to capture all the good and bad points of the book in your own charming style!

    It’s odd that the author’s haven’t got their geography right as they are both from Canada, so you would think that they would know!

    3.75 stars eh? I think I would have gone with Tam and given it 4 – but then I think I’m quite easy to please!

  10. Kris

    Wave, I thought you weren’t having any dueling reviews on the blog?? What the heck?! *g*

    I think it’s great that other people who’ve read the book are indicating what rating they would have allocated to it. It gives others, who are intrigued by the book, a different perspective.

    BTW, Jen, we’ve had this discussion remember… the one about how rude and mean I am in comparison to you. Hee, hee. Srsly though, thanks heaps for helping me get my thoughts together about this book. You rock.

  11. ashlynkane

    Hi there! Wow, there’s a full-on debate going about my lack of geography skills. *blushes* Sorry! I feel compelled to explain myself. I know it’s a crappy excuse, but, well, I’m new at this. I’ll have a better one next time.

    Here is what happened: True North took maybe two months to write; we finished at the end of April 08. While we were writing it, we sort of had a location in mind, but we didn’t want to name the town because then it would be stuck and a pain to change around. Knowing our geography (of western Canada, anyway) is not that great (yeah, we suck, neither of us has been west of Ontario – at least not in this country), we left it until the editing stage – June/July 08. At one point I actually *looked at a map* and realized they should be going to Edmonton, but I think that was after it had been accepted for publication (September 08), and it just slipped my mind when I was doing final edits (last month). I should’ve told Bethany; she’d have reminded me. I feel like a tool, but, well, if it’s the biggest problem people have with the book, I’ll take it and like it. I definitely know better for next time – I’ll be writing myself notes! This is embarrassing!

    That said, thank you so much for the review. I always love it when people really “get” my characters, and it’s still a huge rush even to see that someone has read the book.

    Kris, I love your description of the “Oh, you cow” moments. I love writing those more than you know (and from now on I’m going to think of them as OYCs). Bethany has told me many a time that I am way too fond of angst (sorry, Emeraldjaguar). She normally keeps me in line, though. Promise.

    I’m going to stop talking now before I cease to make any kind of coherent sense, but I wanted to say thanks again. As new authors, Bethany and I really need someone telling us what works and what doesn’t.

  12. jessewave

    “Oh you cow” was not what she wanted to put into the review :DDD On reflection she decided that this phrase was just as expressive as the first one :)

    I live in Ontario and I have never been to Western Canada so I would have been just as bad re the location and transportation issues. Just remember in future that any book reviewed on this blog gets dissected every which way. Every damn person has an opinion here and we encourage it!!!

    Congratulations on a terrific book.

  13. ashlynkane

    LOL! Now I’m curious what the original phrase was going to be!

    Re: the dissection – I wouldn’t expect anything less!

  14. Kris

    Hi Ashlyn

    Thanks for the explanation re: the geography of the book. Being from the back of beyond in Australia, I was pretty clueless to the whole discussion. This mob sure picks up on things, doesn’t it! :)

    Thanks also for the feedback re: the review – I think there will be a number of us now using ‘OYC’ on this blog and elsewhere. *g*

    It’s true Wave made me change what I originally wanted to say. (I’m an Aussie we tend to swear.. a lot. LOL.) She’s surprisingly puritan once you peel away the layers of m/m, menage, pics of naked men, etc.

  15. jessewave

    I missed the OYC comment. Like Mary says please splain :)

    If I give the go ahead to you to swear on the reviews (which by the way have to go to the publishers and that’s why I try to keep them lily white without the taint of obscene language) where will Emmy take us? She’ll look on it as a license to make up her own swear words.

  16. Kris

    OYC = ‘Oh, you cow.’ I like it. *big g*

    Wave, you don’t think you could play the cultural card re: my language?? Darn.

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