Hi there and thank you for having me! I’m L. J. LaBarthe and I’m here today to talk about my new release, “Book, Line, and Sinker.”
“Book, Line, and Sinker” is a contemporary m/m romance set in the outback of the state of South Australia. It’s about two men, one, Ash, who is coming home to the town of Quorn after years away as a soldier, and the other, Jaxon, who is the new librarian for the town. The two men are drawn together by a mutual love of books and the outback.
It’s that love of books and the outback that inspired me to write the novel. I love my books, I have three bookcases full of them, and some of them are double-shelved, so two rows to a shelf. I’m always buying more books even though I haven’t read all the ones I own yet. Having an ereader made my to-be-read pile grow even higher! I read a variety of genres, from science fiction and fantasy to vintage crime to paranormal and biographies. I also read a lot of history books, mostly about the 12th to 14th centuries. Books were my best friends when I was a child, and that love stayed with me as I grew older.
The outback is my second inspiration. It is, to me, one of the most beautiful places in the world. It never looks the same two days in a row, the light and shadow is always changing and the colours are constantly shifting with the weather and the seasons. The towns that dot the outback are small and full of interesting and friendly people, all who have fascinating stories to tell, such as Talc Alf who lives in the northern Flinders Ranges town of Lyndhurst, and creates amazing sculptures out of talc stone, which is where talcum powder comes from. I own two of his pieces and I feel very lucky to do so.
The main setting of the novel is the town of Quorn, and this has been one of my favourite holiday spots since I was a kid and went on a school camp to the Flinders Ranges. The town is comprised of old buildings and wide streets, with several cafes and five pubs in a row on one of those streets, like a line of beer providing sentinels watching over the railway line across the road. You can see the Chase Range and the Dutchman’s Stern from Quorn, two parts of the whole of the Flinders Ranges.
I hope people enjoy the novel as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks again for having me!
Book Summary: After seventeen years serving in the Australian Army, Ash returns to his childhood home in the outback town of Quorn. Filled with the desire to live a happy life in peace and with loved ones, Ash is grimly determined to beat his PTSD and tackle his flashbacks.
What Ash isn’t prepared for is Jaxon, the new librarian in Quorn. Jaxon is calm, gentle, kind, and a rock for Ash’s battered psyche. Ash finds himself falling for the handsome newcomer, even as his mind and memories of the past torment him.
When he has the idea for a mobile library to bring books and entertainment to remote communities in the far north, Ash is delighted that Jaxon is with him every step of the way. But though the library, called Book, Line, and Sinker, takes off, Ash’s past continues to plague him. Can Jaxon’s love be enough to keep them together until Ash is strong enough to stand on his own?
Review by Elaine White
Book – Book, Line, and Sinker
Author – L.J. LaBarthe
Star rating – ★★★★☆
No. of Pages – 200
Cover – Very nice (though, FYI, the bus doesn’t fit)
POV – 3rd person
Would I read it again – Probably not.
Genre – LGBT, Military, Academic, PTSD, Recovery, Romance
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
This was a really hard one to review. This is actually my second try. My first review was written as I was reading while everything was still fresh. This one is after some thinking and percolating.
To start with, the story has so much potential. It could have been a really fantastic 4 or 5 star read if it wasn’t for all the over-description. That was the only real thing that put me off. More emphasis was often put on the description (flora, fauna, locations, rooms, weather) than on the relationship. There were some minor flirting, some cute, funny conversations and a lot of teasing between Jaxon and Ash, but it just didn’t extend far enough for me. We were told, rather than shown, the chemistry between them. And the relationship was rushed beyond what felt comfortable. Within the space of one week, they were calling each other ‘babe’ and settled as boyfriends. A week later, they were sleeping together. But the growth wasn’t really there.
I could rhyme off all the problems in detail, but I won’t do that. I’m going to bullet point it, to keep things simple and get to the point.
- It was slow going. The relationship took a backseat to the Book, Line, and Sinker project.
- Some of the Australian slang was difficult to navigate. The glossary at the back was helpful, but it didn’t really help while reading the story. Only a few things were obvious, from the way they were spoken about. The rest was a mystery until the glossary. ‘Damper’ and a few others are still a mystery.
- Ash was in no way ready – emotionally or physically – for a relationship. Especially one that progressed as far and as fast as his relationship with Jaxon. Yet, it’s one of the first things he does when he gets back home after 17 years away, in the army.
- Most of the book are told day-by-day, even when not much is happening. It feels dragged out and really laborious to read.
- There are repeat descriptions (scenery and details of the town)
- Information dumps on everything. It would have been nicer to have it dropped in where appropriate, when appropriate. Some information is nearly a page long, for a simple description of weather or a particular area or plant.
- Ash isn’t a complainer, but he really focused too much on whining about how much his hometown had changed. He’s been away nearly two decades, so it’s silly that he thought nothing could change.
- There’s a disconnect of descriptions. At one moment, everything surrounded Ash is told in a mass of detail that borders on overkill, but Ash can’t tell who Jaxon is, at first sight, despite having been given a very vivid description of him. Yet, at the same moment, he can tell he’s wearing a watch with a black leather band and Buddhist beads. We’re also not told that they exchange numbers at dinner (a dinner we get to read about), until later, when Ash goes to call Jaxon.
- There are issues with the timeline. Sometimes people talk about doing things one day, then end up doing it another. It’s also difficult to keep track of what day it is, at the start of each chapter/scene, until halfway through when we’re finally told. Inconsistencies between action and conversations (claiming one thing, but doing another, etc.)
- Bloody and Brat were overused. The first few times were endearing and cute, but then it became almost every other sentence, and it got a bit much.
- Ash drives after drinking, a lot, and while on medication. He also drives for extended periods, while knowing that he suffers from flashbacks. It’s highly dangerous, but never once mentioned that he’s a liability behind the wheel. He could have killed himself or someone else if he’d had a flashback.
- The ‘I love you’s’ are exchanged way, way too early, for my liking.
- It’s a shame that we see them wimping out over spiders in a nearly 3-page scene, but those pages weren’t put to better use by showing the friendship that could/should have preceded Ash and Jaxton’s relationship.
- Multiple spelling/grammar issues
- Incomplete or divided sentences that are cut off in ways that make it necessary to re-read, to gain an understanding of what is meant.
Okay, with the negatives over with, let’s look at the rest of the story.
I actually really liked and approved of the multiple flashbacks Ash suffered, told in detail. I just think that his ‘reluctance’ felt too contrived, due to it only taking a few days to make up his mind. True reluctance could take months or years. Ash basically resolves his problem in less than a month.
There are some unfamiliar terms, to me. I’m from the UK, so thankfully most of the speak are familiar. However, I have to assume that some of the problems are that I (and Google) am unfamiliar with Australian terms. Neither Google nor the glossary could help me with:
“holding it up” – I assumed it was some sort of ‘welcome home’ salute with a beer/drink since Ash was walking in at the time. But then Jeff (his brother) seemed really surprised to see him, which threw off that theory. And he got up to hug Ash without having to put down a drink/beer, so I got really confused. I still am, to be honest.
“get along with yourself” – It may be an Aussie thing, but the saying that came to mind was “get a hold of yourself”. However, it’s a small thing and may just be getting lost in translation. I knew what it meant, but it still felt odd and out of place.
Ash and Jaxon are great characters; everyone is an individual, and there’s no clones or laziness in the writing. Ash’s reluctance to talk about Army life and what he went through is also spot on, as are the symptoms of PTSD. They’re all well handled, sympathetically, but without making Ash seem abnormal or unhinged.
I love the idea of Book, Line, and Sinker. The way that it motivates Ash to get back into life, routine and open up. Although I think his relationship with Jaxon is far too fast, I do like that it’s simple and uncomplicated. I love that Jaxon is understanding, calm and reassuring to Ash, whether he wants that or not.
The sex comes in around the 70% mark and is sizzling. There are some really intense scenes between here and the end of the book. However, their first time together was kind of painful – there was a total lack of prep work or lube for Jaxon. It was all about Ash lubing himself and getting in there, without even any touching or anything else in that area. Ouch! The rest was better, but still lacking in that kind of detail.
I really struggled to decide on what to rate this. I’m going with a 3.5, rounded up to a 4. I really see the potential of this story, but the over-kill description took away the brilliance to quite a large extent. I believe the story could have been a novella length and still had impact if the descriptions were cut down by at least half. We don’t need all that weather, travel, flora/fauna, location descriptions. That’s not important. What IS important is the connection, the growing friendship and the relationship between Jaxon and Ash that we don’t really get to see to its full potential.
Although I won’t be reading this again, I do want to say that it is a good story. The bones are really great, and the emotion portrayed made an impact. The overall idea of the story came through, and the characters held their own against the over-flowing description. They managed to shine enough that I went from a purely negative review, for a 2.5-3 star rating, to a 3.5-4 star rating and a more positive review. That’s important. I also like what the author tried to do with Ash’s PTSD. It’s just a shame that it was overshadowed by so much unnecessary description.
Overall, it’s a good book, with strong characters and a good plot. It might not be in the big leagues yet (it could be, with some more editing) but it’s memorable and sweet. A nice romance with two nice guys who have some hurdles to overcome, to be together without drama. It works.
“You okay? Jaxon asked. He’d come up beside Ash.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit stiff.”
With an absolute straight face, Jaxon said, “In public, no less? Gracious goodness, I thought you liked
L.J. LaBarthe is a French-Australian woman, who was born during the Witching Hour, just after midnight. From this auspicious beginning, she went on to write a prize-winning short story about Humpty Dumpty wearing an Aussie hat complete with corks dangling from it when she was six years old. From there, she wrote for her high school yearbook, her university newspaper, and, from her early teens to her twenties, produced a fanzine about the local punk rock music scene. She loves music of all kinds and was once a classical pianist; she loves languages and speaks French and English and a teeny-tiny smattering of Mandarin Chinese, which she hopes to relearn properly very soon. She enjoys TV, film, travel, cooking, eating out, abandoned places, urbex, history, and researching.
L.J. loves to read complicated plots and hopes to do complex plot lines justice in her own writing. She writes paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, and contemporary Australian stories, usually m/m romance and featuring m/m erotica. She has won a Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention and another award for Best Historical Gay Novel.
L.J. lives in the city of Adelaide, and is owned by her cat.
You can find her at the following places:
Publisher and Distributor of Gay Romance Novels, Short Stories, and eBooks