I arrived at the male-male fiction party a bit late wearing yesterdays clothes and forgetting to bring my own bottle. The back-log on my ebook reader is a grocery list of things I should have read years ago. But better late than never…
When a copy of Something Like Summer appeared at the top of my to-do list, I popped it open, read a few chapters, rolled my eyes and put it back down. “Not this again!” I grumbled, closing the window, images of that same “nerd-meets-jock” typicality rushing through my brain like some never ending zoetrope of uselessness. I had given up on the book, threatening to slide its colourful little icon into a folder I dedicate to the plethora of gay romance books I read that all have the same plotline but different names.
But at the request of my friend I picked it back up again, weeks later. It was Sunday night and Dreamspinner Press didn’t have any new releases until the following morning, so what the heck? To say I should never judge a book by its cover is a gross understatement, as what transpired in the following hours made me more than wrong about my initial assumptions. I don’t like to admit I’m wrong, but in this instance I couldn’t deny the glaringly obvious. I was SO wrong!
It’s been a few weeks since I trundled through all three of Jay Bell’s Something Like… books, and even now I am still wrought with an emotional recurrence every time I so much as think about the books. Starting from the top, I’m going to explain how 600 odd pages turned this bear into a blubbering mess.
Something Like Summer: The first book in the series introduces us to our two main characters; Ben, the out and proud misfit, and Tim, so far back in the closet he could be related to Mr Tumnus. Don’t stop reading at this point, it’s important to persevere past the cliché, because the reward of your perseverance is far greater than you would ever expect. As Tim struggles to find a place for Ben in his world, his perpetual fear of his peers finding out the truth rips the boy’s relationship in two. Whilst most of your typical gay fiction might bring that story back on itself, a happy-ever-after in a slow dance at prom, SLS spans the next twelve years. Twelve years is a long time to wait for a lost love, but through a series of chance encounters and all the road-blocks life can throw up, death hell and high-water, Jay Bell proves that in his world, sandbox love never dies. I was completely baffled by the deft mastery of the written word in this book, Jay Bell’s first foray into the changing season of love, that when I reached the final pages, my heart sank as the end drew near.
Currently under production as a motion picture by the creators of Judas Kiss,Something Like Summer is a major recommendation for anyone like me whose legs might go a little wobbly when reading about the power of love. As I flipped the final cover over, the end was upon me, and as with most good stories, I wished it had never come, completely unprepared to go back to my own life and leave Ben and Tim to theirs. But wait…
Something Like Winter: What might seem like recycled goods actually reflects more of a Bret Easton Ellis outlook on a story. This book is exactly the same events, exactly the same characters but told from the point of view of Jock-turned-life loser Tim. My opinions of Tim in the first book were not the greatest, but seeing the story from his point of view showed the reader the softer side to the criminally attractive boy who seemed to have it all but want more. While the story never wavers from the artful pages of the first book, the camera is flipped on its side to recount the explanations of Tim’s seemingly selfish behaviour in SLS. Another single sitting brought me through the pages of this gem of a read, as Bell took the readers hand on a journey in Tim’s shoes, his spoilt and selfish side explained under the pen of an author whose talent knows no bounds. This book pushed past the time frame as well giving the reader a look into what happened after the events of the last book, as Tim clung to Ben in a desperate embrace while it looked like everything was falling apart. True to life and true to art, Jay Bell didn’t give the characters an easy option, instead crafting flawed characters who were nothing if not completely human. SLW was another special book that had me buoyed in disbelief after reaching its climactic final pages.
Something Like Autumn: In a way I was glad to have discovered this series so late, so when I had finished reading the previous book, I had yet another instalment to look forward to. Bear in mind it was still that same Sunday night, drawing dangerously close to the sun rising the next day. But when I find treasure like these, it’s all I can do not to keep reading. So I delved into the third book with somewhat psychotic enthusiasm and read the trials and tribulations of the self-assured and warm hearted Jace, a character sidelined in the previous books, now flourishing into something spectacular as his own tale came to life. This instalment in the series was by far the best, Jay Bell’s writing leading to phenomenal outcomes as he took the somewhat mysterious character from the first two books and gave him a history, a past so splendid that I could barely contain myself. The book started on a ledge for Jase, literally, and struck through the early years that proved formative as he grew into the wonderful character we had come to love. The story came full circle at the end of this book, leading it right to the final dramatic chapter in which I found myself red eyed and runny nosed. Jase’s character had a fantastic journey through these pages, his life with Tim, Ben and the ghost of first love never failing to provide an exquisite story that would touch even the coldest of hearts.
From what started out looking like a typical high school romp into the world of the teenage fleeting love affair, actually proved one of the greatest love stories ever told in the M/M fiction genre. The story was a labour of love from the artful hand and oversized heart of Jay Bell, a man so talented it could make you praise that there are people like him in the world.
Much like the seasons, spring is still yet to come. You can find out all about what Mr Bell intends for his final instalment by visiting his home page at www.jaybellbooks.com or follow him on Twitter: @JayBellBooks
While our Summer reaches its final days, why not draw yours out a little longer? Head over to Amazon to pick up your copies of the “Something Like…” series, and spend your Sunday nights the way I spent mine. It will be worth the ride.
BJ SHEPPARD is a 28 year old gay man, living on the South Coast of England. He’s currently doing a degree in Human Bioscience, but his passion in life is literature, both reading and writing. His love for M/M romance and LGBT fiction has been an ongoing thing through his life, particularly after coming out, and he believes that literature is a great way to spread a message of hope to anyone struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
The books he writes and reviews are not just about entertainment, they are about hope, and through them he hopes we can send a message of equality to all corners of the world.
Follow his reviews, interviews and original writing on Insight Out!