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Taking the Long Way is a road trip/ new beginnings love story, and Max Mac Gowan’s debut novel. Revisiting, or hearing this novel for the first time as an audiobook, is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a day or two with two slightly fractured but lovely young men.
Marcus Townsend is an army veteran, newly returned from Afghanistan. He was discharged after becoming functionality blind due to an an IED explosion crushing part of his skull related to cortical function. Marcus is struggling to adapt to his impairment, and trying to find his place in the world whilst living with his cousin Chad, and Chad’s feisty daughter Jessie, has become stultifying. Wandering the city streets alone provides a much needed sense of freedom. Bleaker Street is no place for the vulnerable, however, and when Marcus finds his arm grabbed by a sweet smelling stranger he has no idea just how much his life is about to change.
Rye Bellamy is the same age as Marcus but his young life has been difficult for completely different reasons. Rye is a street pimp who, in his mid twenties, is beginning to lose his appeal to customers who chase youth over experience. The kind of men he is attracting are dangerous, and his pimp is expecting more than Rye is willing to give. Rescuing Marcus from a possible mugging may just provide both men with an escape from a world of disappointment and hurt.
When Marcus’ doctor suggests he consults an eye specialist in Atlanta, driving is his only available means of travel. Flying is impossible with Marcus’ condition, so a new friend who can drive, and is also looking to escape, seems the perfect solution. A road trip across country may be exactly the kind of new beginning Marcus and Rye need. Reinventing themselves, and learning to trust, will not come easy to either man, even as their mutual attraction grows. Marcus has never really defined his sexuality, but demisexual seems as close as he’ll get. Falling for Rye comes easy, but making Rye believe it’s real, and that he is more than worthy, may prove harder for Marcus than learning to live with his impairment.
I loved the chemistry between the MC’s. From sexually experimenting buddies, to friends, to the possibility of so much more. I enjoyed the pace with which the relationship developed. It was more realistic than forced. The secondary characters were well developed, with Chad and Jesse adding humour and depth to the story. Marcus’ old army buddy injected some harsh reality into the young men’s lives, demonstrating that not everyone will be comfortable with the new direction Marcus’ life is taking. Throw in a sassy older lesbian couple with some home truths of their own and you have a well developed cast and an engrossing story.
I found Taking the Long Way to be a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Matt Milne’s characterisations were very good with generally appropriate tone and intonation. I did expect that Marcus, being ex military, would have a stronger, more authoritative voice, but I respected the narrator’s choice of a more subdued tone in the light of Marcus’ injuries and trauma. Rye’s voice was great. He was not the stereotypical sassy rent boy and his quiet, measured tones suited him perfectly. My only problem was that I occasionally had difficulty understanding/hearing what he was saying as his voice was so soft and muffled when he was suppressing his feelings. That may only be an issue for me, however, and the thirty second rewind only needed to be used a couple of times.
Max MacGowan’s story in the hands of Matt Milne’s narration provided a delightfully engrossing listening experience. I recommend it to lovers of sweet romances with a touch of angst and a realistically developed relationship. It has a highly satisfactorily, and somewhat unexpected, HEA that was entirely appropriate for the journey these characters took.
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Take one rent boy, one functionally blind man, add a cross-country road trip, mix with some hot sexy times and enjoy! I originally read this story when it was first released and enjoyed it; I liked the premise, the characters, and most of the story, but I did not enjoy listening to it.
Milne’s performance did not do the book any favors, in my opinion.
The juxtaposition of English accent for the narrative portion and American accents for the characters was difficult for me to get used to, thought after a few hours I was able to largely ignore it.
Milne also had a habit of mumbling or dropping his speaking volume so it was sometimes impossible to understand what the dialogue was. I would try to increase the volume for the dialogue, but when Milne would return to his normal volume for the narrative portion it would be so loud it would hurt my ears. He also made several mistakes [i.e.: repeating the same line twice (this happens for the first time in the first 30 seconds!)] and had a habit of making odd pauses throughout the performance.
All of this was enough that I began to wonder if this was even proofed, and if so, why it wasn’t sent back for revisions.
That’s not to say it was all bad. I liked Milne’s normal speaking voice and wouldn’t mind giving him a second chance if he narrates something set in Britain.
He does do different character voices so, when you can understand and hear them, you can distinguish who is speaking and when. He also added a good amount of emotion into the performance, enough to have me overlook the things that were driving me mad and to keep listening.
Overall this is tough to rate. Honestly, if I hadn’t already read and enjoyed the book I would’ve stopped listening to this after an hour or so.
So…I’d recommend if you’re determined to listen that you proceed with caution.