Title : Fall Hard
Author : J.L. Merrow
Publisher : Samhain Publishing (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 237 pages (e-book)
Published : September 17, 2013
Rating : ★★★★★
Some memories are better off lost in the mist…
Eight months ago, British academic Paul Ansell lost his lover—and all the memories of their time together—in an accident at Iceland’s Gullfoss Falls. Returning to the misty island country to resume his study of the bloodthirsty Viking Egil Skallagrimsson is tough as he struggles to pull his life back together.
First, there’s his colleague, Mags, who treats him like glass, and summer student Alex, who peppers him with discomforting questions. Then there’s Icelandic jet-boat driver Viggo, a tattooed, modern-day Viking who won’t say much about how they know each other. Leaving Paul to wonder if their volcanic attraction is fuelled by a desire to make a fresh start, or desperation to forget the past.
As more fragments of his lost memories fall into place, Paul is unsure if he can trust himself, much less anyone around him. And he begins to suspect his accident was nothing of the kind.
Warning: Contains a modern-day Viking whose boat has V8 engines for oars, and a harsh land of hot springs and hotter passions that won’t forgive any false steps.
Product Warnings: Contains a modern-day Viking whose boat has V8 engines for oars, and a harsh land of hot springs and hotter passions that won’t forgive any false steps.
Paul Ansell has lost a year of memories. All the good, bad, and indifferent he experienced while living in Iceland with his lover, Sven, are gone. Paul’s memories of work and friends are gone as well. He still knows the basics of his life and the subject for which he’s a trained academic, but a year of living and making new experiences is gone. Gone like his lover Sven. He doesn’t even know what Sven looked like. After eight months of recuperation from the accident that precipitated the memory loss and the death of Sven, a fall from the top of a waterfall, Paul is returning to Iceland to go back to work. He’s picked up at the airport by someone he should know. A co-worker, Mags. Well, she says her name is Mags. That’s what Paul calls her. Used to call her. She took care of a lot of the details of Paul’s life after the fall. She’s helped him in so many ways. Paul doesn’t know why. Paul doesn’t know how he and Mags fit together.Finally, after getting into his new apartment Paul sees a picture of Sven. He feels nothing. He remembers nothing. Paul learns he and Sven met each other because of a shared interest in Egil Skallagrimsson. Paul had a professional interest in Egil whereas Sven’s was more a hobby but no less all consuming. Paul decides to go to the Pride Parade in Reykjavik. Paul meets someone at the parade and has a strong emotional reaction. So does the other man, Viggo. Viggo takes Paul for a ride in a jet boat on the river. They end up having sex. Paul is overwhelmed and still has no idea what is going on in his life.
Paul keeps finding himself in the company of Alex. Alex asks a lot of really pressing questions about Paul’s memory. It’s uncomfortable. To add to the discomfort Alex keeps hitting on him. Paul would rather Viggo was hitting on him. Paul contacts Viggo and they see each other again. It’s good. It’s really good being with Viggo. Viggo doesn’t pressure Paul at all about the past. Being with Viggo feels so good Paul begins to wonder just what kind of relationship they had in the past. Viggo insists Paul didn’t cheat on Sven. Paul gets more and more of his and Sven’s possessions from storage. He begins to get more memories. He knows he looked almost exactly like Sven. He knows he had an occasionally contentious relationship with Sven. Many of the memories Paul is regaining of Sven are of someone Paul finds he doesn’t really like or understand, then Paul finds the book Sven was writing about Egil Skallagrimsson. Things go from uncomfortable to worse. Paul gets a flood of unlocked memories and has to deal with both his own actions and those of the men he loves.
This book has no hero. Likewise it has no villain. This book is comprised of characters with complex motivations that may lead them to wonderful or horrible actions. Paul, Sven, and Viggo all have a past that affects their behaviors and how they’re viewed by others. Paul is able to experience firsthand what it’s like to see yourself through the eyes of someone who can only see your actions. Paul is in the unique position of having to judge his own deeds without knowing his own whole story. Egil Skallagrimsson was the big metaphor here. He was a fascinating man capable of great beauty, great horror, and great sadness. Paul, Sven, and Viggo didn’t do things either as heinous or as stupendous as Egil, but like him they were all comprised of shades of gray.
What is cheating? Viggo insists Paul didn’t cheat on Sven. Paul and Viggo were very much in love before Sven’s death. This was one of the more interesting questions raised by this book. I would never think Sven’s actions had in any way been warranted, but his hurt feelings certainly took root from Paul’s actions. So as not to spoiler an aspect of the plot I don’t want to explain Sven’s situation, however, another question raised by the book deals with what possible responsibilities did Paul have toward Sven? Was it okay Paul was more interested in seeking happiness for himself outside his relationship with Sven? Like all good books that raise complex questions there was no attempt to answer them. We are left judging the main characters based on our own answers to those questions after we were able to learn the full story. By the end I felt great compassion for all of them even if I didn’t actually find myself liking them.
Rated 5 stars by Faye