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Reunions (Hiding Behind The Coch) Paperback – April 19, 2017
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About the Author
Debbie McGowan is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction that celebrates life, love and relationships in all their diversity. Since the publication in 2004 of her debut novel, Champagne-based on a stage show co-written and co-produced with her husband-she has published a further thirty-five works (twenty novels, fifteen short stories and novellas). She is the author of two ongoing series: Hiding Behind The Couch (a literary 'soap opera' centring on the lives of nine long-term friends) and Checking Him Out (LGBTQ romance). Debbie has been a finalist in both the Rainbow Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2016, she won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) for her novel, When Skies Have Fallen: a British historical romance spanning twenty-three years, from the end of WWII to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Through her independent publishing company, Debbie gives voices to other authors whose work would be deemed unprofitable by mainstream publishing houses.
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If the length of the novel seems intimidating, don’t let it fool you. There’s enough going on to keep readers’ interest all the way through. Although I highly recommend starting this series from the beginning (many things will make a lot more sense), in theory, this could be read alone. There are spoilers for the entire rest of the series, but readers who don’t care about that should be able to catch up easily. A lot of it is briefly recapped in the text. If nothing else, it might spark an interest in the rest.
This is a novel which reads almost like a television series, and it works perfectly every time. The sections are divided into “episodes,” and there’s a season-long plot thread with two converging strands. It’s partially a mystery which unfolds as the story goes on. We start off knowing (mostly) whodunnit, but there’s more than meets the eye. I loved this arc because we’re introduced (and re-introduced) to some fantastic side characters. I would love to see what ultimately happens to them, but I’m equally content to let their storylines be. I thought that plot strand was fantastic in showing how someone gets wrapped up in something he shouldn’t and the intricacies of leaving a non-romantic/non-intimate abusive relationship.
And speaking of romance and intimacy, there’s plenty of love going on. There are a lot of couples, and as much as each character has a personality, they also have a “couple personality.” I’ve enjoyed the developments and changes between them over time. There’s a range of heat levels to the intimate scenes, all while keeping them understated and low-detail. I appreciate this because I think in this context, it would become tedious reading multiple explicit sex scenes. I would rather not spoil previous books for anyone who hasn’t read them, so I won’t outline the pairings. I will say that there are couple-related storylines which held me emotionally captive for being so real and exposed.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh. I started reading these books because I liked him so much and had to know more about him. I found it interesting that he seemed to take less center stage in this one than in previous books. Not that he didn’t have plenty of page time, but it was almost like he stepped back just a little bit. This is all right with me, as I’ve now become attached to everyone else and will gladly read about any of them. That said, one of the sub-plots involving Josh and his family grabbed my attention because it involved some tough decisions by the adults regarding the teenagers. It was quite well done, enough that I asked my own teenager/pre-teen how they would handle such a situation with a friend.
There’s a lot of really good social commentary throughout, from a wide range of ages and perspectives. There are some heavy themes, as detailed in the content note on the synopsis. As with the intimacy and the mild/infrequent violence, they’re not explicit or heavy-handed. Everything is carefully crafted to give readers a good experience rather than played for shock or to upset. Still, handle with care, as these things may bring up strong feelings. I hope that they also stir compassion for the various things the characters are dealing with.
I’m already feeling a bit of loss that I finished; I’d like more. I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of reading about these people.
For characters who are like family, deep and broad emotional range, and excellent writing, this gets 5 stars.