Wake Up Call
Riptide publishing has brought five best-selling British LGBTQ+ authors together to create a collaborative story world set in and around Porthkennack in Cornwall, England. Each novel is a stand-alone and the series can be read in any order. The first to be published is Wake Up Call, a contemporary romance by J.L. Merrow, and the other novels are by Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane and Garrett Leigh.
Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, and the locals tend to be the ones serving the clotted cream teas and selling tacky mementoes.
South London mechanic, Devan Thompson, has a slightly different reason for being in Cornwall for two weeks. He is staying at a local Bed and Breakfast on his own, as his flatmate and friend Mal decided he would prefer to go to Portugal with some other friends. Dev is here to meet someone he has waited all his life to see; but his mission is thrown slightly off course when he notices a man collapsed on a bench outside the café he is eating in. Although told he’s the local reclusive alcoholic and often seen collapsed around the town, Dev feels he should check on the man.
As soon as Dev sees Kyle Anthony he can tell he isn’t a drunk, and Dev’s good humour and looks persuade Kyle to let this tourist help him home. Eventually, the closed off and bitter Kyle explains that he has narcolepsy and cataplexy, two conditions which led Kyle to lose his job as a barrister, his long-term lover and his self-respect. He is more of less burying himself in the Cornish town to escape a diagnosis and life he cannot cope with.
Wake Up Call is a gentle look at how good humour and kindness can overcome some of life’s problems. Devan is mixed race and as a child of the foster care system, he has had hard times, although his natural kindness and gentle outlook on life have protected him from the anger and bitterness that can rightly stay with children raised this way. He just wants to know who he is and why he was given away at birth.
He has younger foster sister whom he adores and looks out for. She does have a tendency to find trouble and pick ‘wrong’uns’ as boyfriends, though, and in this novel causes a less than welcome interruption in Devan and Kyle’s burgeoning relationship. J.L. Merrow is very good at creating believable characters and the dialects in the narrative are consistent and instantly recognisable to a Brit. That being said I don’t think anyone else will have problems, although I will say that occasionally the dialogue can veer towards caricature rather than develop a character.
The questions raised as to how Kyle learns to cope with his illness and whether Devan will have a place in his future are gently investigated and woven into a sweet love story. There is a sad strand regarding Devan’s search for his origins, and the strife his little sister causes for him. Truly though, a man as understanding and kind as Devan should always have a happy ending waiting for him and that is the case in Wake Up Call.
If you wish for an uncomplicated, sweet love story then this is the read for you. I look forward to seeing what else the Porthkennack series has to show us.