Monday, February 8, 2016

Until September by Chris Scully

As a teenager, Archie Noblesse clawed his way out of the poverty, heartache, and abuse of the reservation and left his family behind. Desperate to shake the shadow of his past, he reinvents himself as Archer Noble, an outspoken blogger and controversial author who lives only for himself. But when his beloved sister dies, Archer is saddled with guardianship of his niece and nephew.

Elementary school teacher Ryan Eriksson is devastated when his best friend Marguerite is killed, leaving her two young children orphaned. Helping Archer with his new responsibilities eases his grief, but when Archer offers him custody of the children, Ryan’s left with an impossible choice: get the family he’s always wanted, or respect Margie’s wishes and convince Archer to give parenting—and his heritage—a chance.

To buy time, Ryan promises to stay for the summer, hoping that Archer will change his mind and fall for the kids. But Archer’s reluctant, and the growing attraction between him and Ryan complicates matters. Legal decisions must be made, and soon, before Ryan returns to school. But with hearts involved, more than just the children’s future is on the line.

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Riptide  Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Until September had it all if you're a fan of reality-based, character-driven storylines – endearing with a slow-burn romance.

Archer's early life influenced every choice he makes later in life. Coming from abusive family, abandoned by his addict mother, Archer does all he can to take care of his baby sister, Margie. He moves away from the reservation at age 16, turning tricks and worse to save money to send home to Margie so she can have a better life, go to college, and be stable and happy.

Fast-forward to chapter one: Archer is a cold, pragmatist, who doesn't have any vices outside of promiscuous sex – he doesn't even imbibe alcohol in fear he'll become addicted. Blogger and writer with a controversial stance on gay marriage and child-rearing – Archer’s in for a big surprise, reality-check.

After all the sacrifices he's made in his life, the taint he's placed on his soul, it was all for naught. Archer becomes the guardian of two: his niece and nephew (ages 5 & 7). Lost, he is challenged to view life through a different lens than the one he writes about in his blog posts and stories... and in walks his sister's friend/children's teacher to 'help.'

Archer and Ryan had a slow-burn romance in the extreme, with a bit of love/hate/reluctant attraction thrown in the mix. There was banter, angst, infuriating circumstances, and an ex coming back into the picture.

The heart of the story is the children, written realistically to sound/act/behave as real children of that age group in that situation. Their reluctance to trust their uncle, their fear he would leave them as their parents had, then the strong attachment. Sam, the imaginary friend, had me smiling through tears.

I won't deny, I shed more than a few tears while reading Until September. It was written fluidly, easy to fall into the storyline and read without being yanked back out. No bells and whistles. No miscommunications. No unnecessary angst. No insta-anything. As the reader, I could buy their relationship as a family and the love that grew out of tragedy.

The reason my rating is not a five star is simply personal taste in the pacing of the storyline. I'm all for slow-burn, but at times I was bordering on boredom & contemplating skimming unnecessary scenes. Also, I understand the author's decision to add aboriginal elements, and not bog the story down with too much information. Curious and eager for knowledge, I would have actually liked a bit more on this thread, and will probably read up a bit more on the subject.

I would highly recommend this title to fans of MM romance, and look forward to reading more by this author.

Genre: MM Romance | Grief | Love/Hate | Children/family life | Alcoholism/Addiction | Foster care | Abuse survivor | Aboriginal | Heat level: Mild | Writer/teacher |

Starting Until September today was not a good move on my part. I planned to read a chapter or two while eating lunch to see if it was a book I wanted to fit into my overburdened review schedule. Now, eight hours later, I have finished the book in between forcing myself to put it down periodically so that I could complete the bare minimum of tasks I had to do throughout the afternoon. Not only did I not get stuff done that I had planned to do today, but I also have puffy eyes from crying as well as an information overload from the Author’s Note that both terrifies me and breaks my heart.

Until September has one of the most emotional beginnings I have read in a while. The book opens with a look at Archer 20 years earlier when he answered to Archie and the only person who mattered to him in his world was his younger sister, Marguerite. Between their conversation and Archie’s inner monologue, it was glaringly obvious that the children had a tough start in life and Archie’s was even worse as he did whatever he had to in order to protect and provide for his sister. Fast forward to the present and it’s hard to reconcile the Archer of today with that boy from 20 years ago…until he learns that his sister has died. At the same time, Ryan is worried that his close friend hasn’t arrived to pick her children up on the final day of school and his worry skyrockets with the arrival of a cop and a Children’s Aid worker. Frantic to keep the children out of foster services, even for one night, Ryan is clutching at every straw he can until Archer calls in and gives his consent to the CA worker for Ryan to take the children home and await his arrival. SEE?!?!? Can you understand why I was sucked into the story so thoroughly that my to-do list didn’t get done? And that’s only the first three chapters. It didn’t help that things really heated up and got more interesting once Archer arrived and managed to convince Ryan into staying with him and the kids for the summer.

Watching Ryan and Archer build a relationship was an emotional experience. In the beginning of the book, Archer’s focus was on himself and what needed to occur so that he could return to his life as quickly as possible. Although Archer had no idea of how to interact with his niece and nephew, part of the reason he wanted Ryan to stay was so that he could appease his own guilt over leaving the children in Ryan’s care rather than honoring his sister’s wishes. He not only wanted proof that Ryan was fully capable of caring for the children in the way they needed, but he also seemed to want to prove that he himself had no business raising children. Archer truly believed that he couldn’t love anyone or be loved by anyone and his summer with Ryan and the children forced him to reevaluate his beliefs about who he is and what he deserved from life. There was a huge amount of character growth that Archer underwent in this book as the unexpected instant-family forced him to reassess what, or who, was important in his life. We also saw a subtler growth in Ryan as he came to the realization that his wants and needs were just as important as those of his partner. The chemistry between the two men was electric and as much as I enjoyed their coming together, I perversely enjoyed the intrusions by the children because it was realistic. Until September might have wreaked havoc on my emotions and my to-do list, but I am so glad I took my co-reviewer’s advice to read it because I loved it. I look forward to checking out more of Scully’s work.

Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.

Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she found a home in M/M romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.

Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.

Connect with Chris

Facebook  ~  Blog  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Until September by Chris Scully to read and review.

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