Title: Bowl Full of Cherries
Author Name: Raine O’Tierney
Porker, Fatty, Tons-of-Fun: Crowley Fredericks has heard it all. He’s dropped a lot of weight since his high school days, but he’s still a big guy, and the painful words and bullying follow him. Rejected—again—because of his size, Crowley is starting to think that maybe love just isn’t meant for huskier men.
Averell Lang and his twin are so different they might as well not even be related. So when Rell’s brother brings his roommate home to snowy Susset for the holidays, Rell expects the worst—another uptight, pretentious hipster. What he discovers instead is Crowley. Nerdy, fascinating, attractive, Crowley. Rell never expected to look at a man this way, and what he sees in Crowley Fredericks is something he didn’t even know he was looking for. If both men can overcome their hang-ups, they might unwrap more than presents this holiday season.
I have nothing negative to say about the book, and I fear my review simply won’t do it justice. The writing is fantastic–polished and well-crafted as well as technically excellent. The story flows smoothly and takes just the right pace.
Now for all the things I adored. I was in love with these characters from the first page. Crowley is so utterly relatable. From his self-consciousness to the little things he does, we get a picture of what young adulthood is like in the wake of childhood bullying. I was not personally triggered by anything, but some elements of Crowley’s feelings and behaviors might affect other readers more deeply with regard to his experiences of fat-shaming and the way he treats himself as a result.
I loved Rell, too, and his sharp assessments of his family. He struck me as a people-watcher, a keen observer of everyone and everything. His relationship with his siblings felt realistic to me, and I thought it was interesting that he and Tyler were often at odds with each other. He comments that Tyler must be more than his stereotype, but Rell doesn’t care to dig deeper. Yet somehow, we’re left with the hope that he eventually will. He also isn’t unaware of his own troubles, and he goes from dismissing them to accepting his need for change.
That was another thing I liked–the relationship between Crowley and Rell is never about “saving” each other. Rell never perceives himself as the one who will fix all Crowley’s self-hatred, and Crowley never sees himself as the one to rescue Rell from his bad habits. Yet through loving each other, they’re both able to see themselves as worthy of becoming who they were meant to be.
As far as their relationship, I want to offer a heart-felt thank you to Ms. O’Tierney for not shying away from writing genuinely bisexual characters. Crowley refers once to Rell as possibly bi, though Rell never specifically identifies that way. I imagine that’s because being in love with another man is new for him, and he hasn’t processed it in any other way than “I love this person.” I appreciate how he doesn’t ever suggest his relationships with women were meaningless, and he isn’t suddenly gay. Tyler suggests he’s playing “gay for you” with Crowley, and I love that he went there because it’s a common trope. However, that’s clearly not what Rell is doing or feeling, and I expect Tyler’s not ready to confront his own sexuality and is taking it out on his twin. There are hints about it all through the book, so I don’t think I’m off-base saying that, and the end is left open for more exploration of Tyler’s experiences.
Finally, what I love most about this book is that although at its core it’s a sweet romance between two young men, there is a realness to it that reflects things so many of us have thought or felt. It’s as though Ms. O’Tierney has offered us a mirror, holding it up and saying, “Look without shame at how beautiful you are, even with all your perceived flaws.”
I wish I could give this more than five stars, but I’m limited, so it gets all 5 from me along with a promise to tell as many people as I can about this book.
Even through the snow, Rell didn’t feel the cold. His face burned with the excitement of escaping the Livery and absconding with his brother’s best friend. He clasped Crowley’s hand, pulling him through the street. They ran and skidded and laughed, moving farther and farther away from the club.
“It’s beautiful tonight,” Crowley breathed and Rell squeezed tighter. “Doesn’t it weird you out though?”
Rell knew what Crowley was asking—didn’t even pretend that he didn’t. Stopping, he tugged lightly so Crowley came stumbling up beside him. He twined his arms around Crowley’s waist and held him for a moment, right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Does it weird you out? I’m your best friend’s brother.”
“Not weirded out at all.” Crowley shook his head. His dark eyes shimmered with concern. “But for you… I mean, it was loud in there and hot and fun and there was alcohol and… sometimes… things just happen and—”
“Yeah, things happen,” Rell agreed. “Except I’ve been to a lot of stupid hipster clubs with a lot of Tyler’s friends and….” He leaned forward and kissed Crowley again, letting the experience linger, melting the chill between them. He tasted like nogtini. “And nothing like that has ever happened.”
“But… do you even like guys?”
“Owl. You’re a guy. I like you.”
“But have you been with a guy?”
“Why are you over-thinking this?” Rell asked, gently cupping the side of Crowley’s face.
Raine O’Tierney, a passionate believer in what she calls The Sweetness, writes positive stories about first loves, first times, fidelity, forever-endings and.friskiness? When she’s not writing, Raine can be found fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job.
Raine believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers. She changes sub-genres to suit her mood and believes all good stories end sweetly. Raine lives outside of Kansas City with her husband, fellow Dreamspinner Press author and sometimes writing partner, Siôn O’Tierney.
Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about what kinds dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!