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I'm a hopeful cynic.


Slam! - J.L. Merrow

I usually enjoy J.L. Merrow's books. I find her style refreshing, and her Briticisms are right up my alley. But, after reading Slam!, I feel she's reached a plateau and things are about to take a turn toward failure. Merrow's writing is rapidly becoming stale and at the same time too apparent, making her stories dull and more or less predictable.


So. J.L. Merrow's formula. Let's see what we have here, in no particular order:

  • A blue-collar (first person) narrator.
  • A more well-off and/or more highly educated love interest (sometimes it's the other way around, with the narrator being the well-off one, but that's the dynamic between the MCs.)
  • A single working-class mother who was abandoned by the narrator's father and raised her only child alone.
  • The narrator has one or more pets that are treated almost like separate characters in the story.
  • The narrator or his love interest does karate. Sometimes, they both do karate.
  • There are references to car brands (usually it's a VW model, but here it was a Ka) and how people drive them. Several scenes take place in cars and there is at least one reference to the hand brake.
  • The characters drive around and/or sightsee and/or eat out in local old pubs. Said pubs are described in detail. There is also at least one reference to some British celebrity living in the area or frequenting said pubs.
  • There is one/one-and-a-half mediocre sex scene(s) and it usually appears near the end of the book (at around 80%).
  • Despite the sex scene appearing so late in the story, there is no sexual tension between the main characters and sometimes it's a bit unclear what they find in each other.
  • There's some kind of minor or major misunderstanding between the MCs. Sometimes it keeps them apart for a while.
  • Expect to stumble over certain (BrEn) expressions, like "I don't give a monkey's," "Keep your hair on", et al.
  • Expect to stumble over certain Merrow-isms, like "my flabber had been gasted" or "my gob had been well and truly smacked".


Apart from the above, in Slam!, Jude (the hero) also kept saying "ew" and pouting, kept finding things "lush," and kept going all warm and gooey or tingly or whipped-creamy inside, to name a few of his habits.


So, I got it. Jude was a young, loud, flamboyant kind of person. And it would have been okay if his love interest, David, wasn't the exact opposite. He was older, restrained, unflashy. And exactly because of that, and because of the fatherly way he reacted to Jude's dramatic mannerisms, he came across as much older than he really was, which was a bit disturbing, even though it was alluded in the book that Jude always went for much older men. The plot didn't help much in this respect, either, because David kept having to protect Jude from dangerous situations and take him to the A&E. Much like a father would do with his son.


I won't comment on Jude's mother, her age and the role it played in the story. I'm willing to let it pass, since she was an undereducated woman with self-esteem issues trying to rebuild her life with a new man. I can't say the same about Keisha, Jude's best friend, though. Too many times her side story felt redundant. Unless the author plans to do an f/f sequel featuring her, I fail to see why she needed to take up so much space in the book.


The salacious limericks didn't bother me, but that side of the story (the slams, the open mics, etc.) felt a bit desultory; it didn't mesh well with the rest of the plot.


Ms Merrow isn't very well-known for her fascinating and intriguing plots (it's usually her characters that captivate the reader) but here she gave up altogether. The story could be summed up as follows: Jude and David meet, they go out on a few dates, they have sex, they spend some time apart and then they get back together. The End.


I'm giving this 2.5 stars (rounded up to three) because I two-starred Wight Mischief and I may have not enjoyed Slam much, but it wasn't nearly as frustrating a reading experience as Wight Mischief.