Title: Never A Hero (Tucker Springs #5)
Author: Marie Sexton
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/174 PDF pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Nick was a modern day hero including the Superman cape, but he would need his own hero in the person of Owen, a most unlikely superhero.
Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.
Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.
Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.
I dare you not to fall for Owen. This is a romance with lots of angst, but although there are some serious issues in the book I wasn’t overwhelmed by the angst because the humour offset it.
As you figured out from the blurb, Owen didn’t have a great childhood. In fact it was downright miserable because of his mother who treated him horribly, mentally abused him and constantly berated him, initially due to his congenitally amputated arm and stutter when he was a child, and then later when he became a teenager, because of his homosexuality. He left home as soon as he could to get away from her and moved to Tucker Springs. The Tucker Springs stories are set mostly in the Light District known for its theatres, galleries and bars,and is probably one of the few places in the fictional world where the majority of the population is gay and the businesses are all owned by gay men.
Owen was a shut-in or recluse when I met him. He worked from home and never went out; he even had his groceries delivered because he was embarrassed by the stares of people in the stores. Because his mother made him ashamed to be gay he fantasized about the woman living in the apartment below him even though he had never met her, and when she moved he was sorry that his dream of a “normal’ life with a woman in it was dead. Then the new tenant and his dogs moved in and Owen had to pick his tongue up off the floor because Nick Reynolds, a veterinarian, was a hunk and he seemed to be interested in Owen, much to his shock. Why would someone like Nick want a disabled man like him, Owen kept asking himself. Nick was everything Owen wasn’t; he changed Owen’s outlook on life and even persuaded him to get out of the apartment occasionally. However, whenever the romance seemed to be heating up Nick would push Owen away. This push and pull went on for weeks until Owen couldn’t take it anymore and demanded answers. When he found out the truth his hopes came crashing down and his devastation was the worst he had ever experienced as his dreams of Nick as his hero were blown away like so many grains of sand.
I love Marie Sexton’s writing because her prose is so poignant and her characters are so fully fleshed out that I can almost touch them in real life. One of the characters who made a huge impact on me, aside from Nick and Owen, was June, Nick’s sister who has a similar disability as Owen’s (you need to suspend disbelief that two people with the same disability are in the book), but whose attitude will warm your heart because she never let it get her down and delighted in poking fun at herself and dared others to treat her as if she were not disabled. I loved how vivacious and well adjusted she was and how she dragged Owen into the real world kicking and screaming as she demanded that they take piano lessons and play a duet one handed at a recital.
Owen’s struggles to accept himself played out throughout the story as his mother’s scorn had a huge impact on his psyche, but Nick treated him like any other man, which at first confused him then made him accept himself for who he was, a gay man. I loved how matter of fact Nick was and I’m sure a lot of his attitude was due to his younger sister who took no prisoners.
The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because of Owen’s mother. I can’t remember being as repelled by a character as I was by her. She was worse than the wicked stepmothers in a fairy tale, with absolutely no redeeming qualities, as she cast her net and included everyone in her vitriol. Owen was her special target as she stomped on him throughout his life and almost killed his spirit. I am always appalled by the characterization of women in M/M romances, whether they are ex girlfriends, ex wives or mothers, but Owen’s mother set a new benchmark. His father was kind to him but spineless, as he allowed his wife to mistreat their son without intervening. He did try to make it up to Owen behind her back when he was a child by giving him treats, but it would have been more beneficial for Owen if he had stopped her in her tracks rather than try to make it up to him by bribing him. In the end he did explain why he never stood up to his wife but I thought it was too little too late for Owen whose childhood had been one of absolute misery.
Some of the characters from the previous books in the series, especially Nathan, made appearances and Nick’s family was a delight, particularly his mother Truvy who was the complete opposite to Owen’s, as well as June whose outlook on life will charm you. I also loved Nick’s dogs but I’m a sucker for dogs.
This book is told through Owen’s first person POV and I think you will love his “voice” as he struggles to accept himself. Nick is vibrant and his personality is just as three dimensional as Owen’s which is a credit to the skill of the author as she repairs the lives of two broken men, made them believe in love and Owen is a hero at last.