Thursday, 27 October 2011

Learning to Samba by Johnny Miles

After traveling through Europe trying to recover from a loss, reclusive romance novelist Brian Oliver returns to his childhood home in order to find himself and re-establish a severed relationship with his sister. What he unexpectedly discovers, however, is that even an old dog like him can still learn new tricks. Especially if the one teaching is João da Silva, a 25-year-old Brazilian hot-ass with a major thing for Daddies.

Brian soon realizes that with forgiveness and acceptance comes great emotional freedom if he and João can rekindle the deep and burning lust for life he’d once had. Do love, sex, and passion have an expiration date, or can Brian Learn to Samba?

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: bondage, male/male sexual practices.

If Learning to Samba is a metaphor for learning anything new in life, for breaking through the self-conscious barrier most people have to putting themselves on display the way one does when they're learning a new and flamboyant dance like the Samba, then the title is perfect. (The book doesn't have much to do with actually learning to dance.) Unless, like I say, we're talking about the greater dance of life and the sexy, hip-swinging Samba being a metaphor for taking that step out into the world and letting yourself experience life beyond your comfortable, familiar slow shuffle to Stairway to Heaven .

This book does have a lot to do with learning to live again. Brian seems to think going home is going to ground him, let him move on with his life, but once there, it seems all he can feel is loss and fear. Not surprising when he’s been alone for seven years and still misses his dead lover.

Getting over his loss and learning to trust, not just another man, another love, but himself, is shown in so much painful detail. Even when Brian is losing himself in Joao, we can feel his uncertainty. Like him, as a reader, I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. When it finally does, all that anticipation makes the inevitable so much worse. It just took my breath away to feel Brian’s pain and hurt.

I think part of what appealed to me about this book is that I found so many references to things (like Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind) that are just comfortable and familiar to me as part of my own life and culture. I could sink into it, feel that cozy frame of reference fold around me, at the same time Brian’s world is being upended by this new, young thing he’s found and he doesn’t quite know what to do about.

And that frustrated the f*** out of me, to watch two men who both want the same thing dance around what they want for so long. Well. Really it was only a few days, but in reading, it feels like forever when you just want shout “Say yes damnit!!!! Say it already!” Of course, that would make people look at you funny and wonder, that you’re shouting a t a book and imaginary people. But that’s how deeply you get inside Brian’s skin, how fully you get to understand about Joao and what he feels and wants, even though Brian himself can’t see. And when I get that frustrated, however a book ends, I have to say: It’s a good book. Because you can’t walk away without feeling something, and that means the author, Mr. Miles, I’m looking at you, did his job right, and it also means I’ll be back for more.

Well done, and thank you, Johnny.

I longed for simpler days when I knew everything and, without thought to consequence, would say, “Fuck it! I’m outta here. You’re all a bunch of douche bags.”

“Oh God no! Ugh!” Harold J. shuddered with revulsion, eyes shut tight and smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand, muttering, “Erase! Erase! Erase!”

I spilled out of the elevator and barrelled past several people who were displeased at being used as bowling pins.

After all these years, I was still angry at a dead man for all the hurt and pain he’d caused, for the heartaches and worry he made me go through, and for the unbelievably selfish act of ignoring all medical warnings and dying on me. (This tore my heart out. It’s never happened to me, but I felt it so deep I wanted to cry anyway. If it’s the wording, or the placement within the action, I don’t know what, but it made me ache all over. You can’t walk away from a book that does that to you.)

Top notch.


Johnny Miles said...

OMFG! Miz, what a wonderful thing to wake up to! Thank you so much. I'm glad you liked it. And yes, the title is just a metaphor.

LB said...

Awesome review-it's already in my TBR - Johnny is an auto-buy for me! :)

Jaime Samms said...

I'm on the hunt for more of Johnny,s work, now, TB. After I read this, I wanted more, for sure! Congrats, Johnny. you deserved this!

Kellie Kamryn said...


Margie Church said...

Fantastic review. Print it. Frame it. You deserve it, Johnny.

Johnny Miles said...

@LB: Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Johnny Miles said...

@Jaime Samms: Many thanks to you as well. I'm really glad you liked it!

Johnny Miles said...

@Kellie: Thank you, luv!

Johnny Miles said...

@Margie Church: The review is bookmarked. Eventually I'd like to add a review link on my website for people who might not be sure just from the blurb. I'll confess it came at a good time. I was feeling a bit low this morning and this perked me right up!