Today I’m reviewing Helping Hand, by Jay Northcote (Jaybird Press // June 26, 2015 // 33,000 words). It’s a gay-for-you (m/m) romance novella that shows the shifting relationship between two best friends as they start to accept their attraction for each other. See below for the review!
* I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Summary: When Jez suggests watching some porn together with his best friend Mac, he isn’t sure what reaction he’ll get. They’re both horny, stuck at home on a Friday night, and Jez’s past at an all-boys school means he’s more comfortable getting off around his male roommate. But surprisingly, Mac agrees, and it sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to a more hands-on arrangement… and to Jez realizing that he has feelings for his very straight friend.
Why you should read it: Despite my repeated dislike of novellas, this is one that actually worked well for me. Northcote doesn’t attempt a huge story arc in a short space. Everything is contained, and the focus is on a specific series of events, so the pacing doesn’t feel rushed. The relationship actually progresses really naturally, as Mac slowly unwinds and starts to feel more comfortable. The writing is solid, the characters are interesting, the sex is hot, and the emotions feel realistic.
Why you should give it a miss: The first part of the novel was really difficult to get through. At the start, Mac and Jez are not the kind of characters that I have much interest in getting to know. (If this was set in America, I’d say they were stereotypical college frat boys.) If you don’t mind 19/20-year-old boys with ridiculously over-active libidos wanking off to porn together (but no homo, dude!), then you might not have the same problem. Thankfully the characters evolve and become more interesting as the story progresses!
Overall: I actually really enjoyed this once I moved past the initial characterizations. Northcote shows a great relationship from the first moments of attraction, through the confusion and identity crises, all the way to the HEA.