Owen Meade has problems. A lot of them. He’s got social anxiety, an overbearing shrew of a mother, suppressed gay feelings, and a stutter that comes out when he’s flustered. As if that weren’t bad enough for the intrepid protagonist of Never a Hero by Marie Sexton, he was born with a congenital birth defect that severed his left arm below the elbow. However, when hunky veterinarian Nick moves in to the apartment below his, Owen starts to come both out of his shell and out of the closet. However, Nick has a secret that keeps him from fully engaging with Owen.
Never a Hero is the fifth book in the Tucker Springs series, and the second installment from Marie Sexton (who also wrote the only other book in the series I’ve read, Second Hand). The series doesn’t follow the same set of characters; instead, they’re all based in the same locale with different authors placing stories there. The characters from previous stories sometimes appear for a quick scene, but the focus is usually on a new set of mens.
Spoilers ahead. Sexton deserves props for how she handled the details of this story. Nick’s big secret is that he contracted HIV during a hookup in Mexico five years prior. He remains celibate to avoid hurting anyone else. Between his disease and Owen’s lack of left arm, this easily could have turned into a “dented can kids” love story. Like a “isn’t it sweet that the freaks can find someone just right for them?” Sexton never descends to this cheap level of gratification, and she treats both subjects with grace. Indeed, the person in the problem who notices Owen’s disability the most is Owen. Everyone else just easily looks past it (and towards the possibility of jumping his bones themselves).
Also, props to Sexton for another m/m romance where the women speak and have a part in the plot. Yes, shrew mom is a bit over the top and stereotypical, but Nick’s one-armed sister that Owen learns to play the piano with is a fun and funny trope.
I do have to ding her for the ending. The dad is, surprise, also kinda gay. He had a m/m affair when he was first married, but stayed with shrew wife because of pregnancies. There’s no need for the dad to be gay. It makes no sense. It feels shoehorned in, and I feel like this is a running trope in a lot of LGBT fiction I read: Come the last 15 percent of the book, everybody starts coming out. And it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense in any story I’ve ever seen it in.
The story is sweet, and the warm moments brought out my feels. The way it’s crafted, you end up wanting them to end up together (which of course they do, because, you know, catharsis). These two unlikely heroes are there for each other when they need each other most, and that’s what really counts when the curtain comes down.
JMF Rating: 7/10
‘Til next time,
Note: This book was received from NetGalley in return for an honest review.