Author: Roan Parrish
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: MM Contemporary
Narrator: Robert Nieman
Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in – not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.
Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.
When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.
I purchased the audiobook edition of In the Middle of Somewhere when it came out last March, and didn’t get around to listening to it a second time until this week. (It’s my policy to listen to, or read a novel twice before writing a review.) It’s also my policy not to write a review of any novel that I can’t score five, using evaluation criteria, after the second read/listen.
Anyway, I’m a believer in writing fair, objective reviews. After my first listen to In the Middle of Somewhere, I found the main character, Daniel, so full of anger-driven angst that I wanted to toss my iPod against the wall, since I couldn’t bitch slap him. I strongly dislike – all right, I frigging disdain – angst-ridden gay characters.
I must, however, set aside my biases in order to write a fair, objective review. Many readers love angst. Why they do escapes me; chalk it up to different strokes for different folks.
Following my second listen, the one in which I set my angst bias aside, I found myself enjoying In the Middle of Somewhere. Given Daniel’s miserable childhood, I could understand his angsty, bitchy worldview. Teaching nineteenth century American lit at a small-town college in Northern Michigan doesn’t lessen Daniel’s angst, nor does meeting Rex – not at first anyhow.
I think you’ll instantly love the second main character, Rex – a tall, strong, strikingly handsome man with a tragic history of his own. When Daniel meets Rex on a dark, lonely Northern Michigan road, he first thinks the man might be a serial killer – since most serial killers come from the Midwest.
The novel’s characters are richly developed, interesting, and much of their development is shown rather than told – something I greatly appreciated. The pacing is spot-on, the writing is clear and concise, and the plot will keep you turning the pages, in spite of Daniel’s bouts of angry, angsty bitchiness. The erotic love scenes could almost make you lose consciousness.
This is the first audiobook I’ve heard that Robert Nieman narrated. I don’t believe a better voice with better oral interpretation skills could’ve been found for this novel. With or without tags, you always know who’s speaking. Robert Nieman has a great voice that seamlessly slides from Daniel, a highly-educated man in his mid to late twenties; to Rex, a thirtysomething lonely, tender-hearted, butch carpenter/handyman/furniture builder who’s a high school dropout; to Ginger, a big-city, worldly tattoo artist. As an avid audiobook listener, I feel Robert Nieman’s work is right up there with the best of the best voice actors.
WARNING: I’m about to go on a rant.
My only concern is the pronoun solecisms found throughout the novel. I recognize that writers may choose to depict some characters as ordinary, salt of the earth folks with dialogues such as, “He’s older than me.” Daniel, however, is supposed to be an English professor. I didn’t find him a wholly believable character with lines such as, “It was her.” Daniel has supposedly defended his dissertation and is about to earn his Ivy League PH D. In my opinion, Professor Daniel becomes believable only if he earned his doctorate from DQ University, or Ronald McDonald’s College of Clowns.
Whom do you blame for such horrors? The author, of course, but I hold the editor’s feet to the fire for permitting grammatical errors to appear in print. Dreamspinner Press follows the Chicago Manual of Style. Perhaps the CMS tells editors that a sentence such as, “It was him,” is acceptable because that’s how most people say it and write it. I can visualize the Chicago Manual of Style including a section titled, “Mob Speak,” which outlines the proper usage of “dees, dems, and dowes.” DSP editors, please learn some basic rules of grammar, and stop contributing to the dumbing down of America!
End of rant. There. All better. (Yes, I purposefully used three short, incomplete sentences.)
Flaws aside, In the Middle of Somewhere is an enjoyable, compelling read/listen with Roan Parrish’s characters, plot, and his contrasts of blue collar workers, the halls of academia, big city living and life in rural small-town America. I highly recommend this one, particularly the audio edition.