Mon
Feb 10 2014 9:30am

First Look: JL Merrow’s It’s All Geek to Me (February 10, 2014)

It's All Geek to Me by JL MerrowJL Merrow
It's All Geek to Me
Riptide / February 10, 2014 / $2.99 digital

Jez is on a mission of mercy: to replace a tragically deceased comic book for his injured best mate, Tel. Venturing into the Hidden Asteroid bookstore in London—the temple of geekdom itself—Jez is bowled over by the guy behind the counter.

Rhys is the poster boy for hot geeks: tall, gorgeous, and totally cool. Jez is desperate to impress him, so he bluffs his way through comic book jargon . . . and then dashes back to the hospital to beg Tel to teach him how to speak Geek.

Tel’s happy to oblige, and Jez is over the moon when Rhys asks him out. He’s even more thrilled when they discover a shared love of rugby, something he won’t have to fake for Rhys. The question is, how long can Jez keep up the deception, and what will happen when Rhys realizes he’s going out with a Fake Geek Guy?

If you’d like a quick introduction to JL Merrow’s work, the contemporary male/male romance, It’s All Geek to Me is a good place to start. It’s short and genuinely sweet, though with a touch of hot at the end. The endearing narrator makes it a fun read.

Jez is a rugby nut but has never been into comic books or gaming like his best friend Tel. But Tel’s stuck in the hospital and needs a supplier of comic books, so Jez, a chemist by day but not an exciting one, ventures into a world that scares him a little: the land of the Geek, meaning a specialty store. Once at Hidden Asteroid (very like the real Forbidden Planet store in London), he’s helped out by Rhys, whom he finds supremely hot and utterly out of his league, so much so that he can barely speak.

… I opened my mouth to speak to the guy behind the counter—and then he turned round to face me, and I totally forgot what I’d been about to say. He was gorgeous. He had, like, cheekbones you could cut your teeth on, a strong jaw, and really cool hair. So dark it was almost black, flat on the sides of his head and gelled up on top into a sort of ridge. Mohawk? Fauxhawk? Pigeon hawk? Some kind of bird, anyway. The stubble on his chin wasn’t so much designer as I’m way too hip to shave, and his deep-set brown eyes pierced right through my scratchy wool sweater to the suddenly pounding heart beneath. Maybe X-ray vision was one of the perks of working in the superheroes’ spiritual home? I wondered if Hot Hawk could fly, too. Or had super strength, or super stamina, or . . . “You all right there?” he asked, in smooth, gently mocking tones.

…“Three,” I told him sincerely, gazing into those dark, mysterious eyes. He had earrings in both ears, the sort with holes in that stretch your lobes out. God, that was impressive. If anyone tried to pierce any of my skin, let alone stretch it out to take rings you could fit a finger through, I’d probably keel over and faint. And then cry like a little baby.

As this is a fairly short story, Jez doesn’t waste time dithering, instead immediately heading back to Tel, currently a captive audience, for lessons in Speaking Geek, feeling this is the only way that he can convince Rhys to like him; he doesn’t believe they can possibly have anything in common. Jez swiftly finds out it’s much more complicated than he thought to comprehend a whole culture in a few days, but he’s so into Rhys that he’s willing to risk having his ignorance exposed just for a chance to speak to Rhys again. Luckily for him, the interest is mutual, and they soon discover they have other things in common as well.

Jez’s self-esteem issues, his main obstacle, don’t take over the story, but they do add a certain piquancy to Rhys’s obvious and vocal attraction to him. The issue isn’t entirely resolved by the end, so it would be interesting to see where their relationship goes next.

Though Jez claims to be a non-geek, there is definitely a lovely geekiness to his love of rugby and to his thought processes that makes the story very enjoyable to read, particularly if you’re a geek yourself. For instance, when trying to come to grips with the many and varied origin stories for the superhero Translucio, Jez’ own obsessions come to the fore.

Translucio…the victim of a tragic lab accident that’d also killed his girlfriend, which provided his driving force for battling to rid the world of corrupt pharmaceutical corporations. I reckoned she’d had it coming—I mean, working in a lab without tying her hair back, and not even wearing gloves or safety goggles? She was just asking for it.

What’s not to love about a guy like that?

 


Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. She also reads a lot. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.

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