Between the Frescoes by Kay Berrisford

Between the Frescoes by Kay Berrisford
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (149 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

UK grad student Mark is taking a huge step in his life. After years of suffering from anxiety and depression, he’s summoned the courage to travel to Florence and give his first public lecture. Distraction from his nerves comes in the unexpected form of Doug, an American guy who sweeps him up into a whirlwind romance on the journey to Italy. But after a scorching one-night stand, Mark discovers Doug is not just a fellow student, but a fierce rival, and everything falls apart.

Doug is studying in Europe, but his commitments are back on the other side of the Atlantic. He’s attracted to Mark yet soon decides Mark’s hang-ups and competitiveness are more than he can handle. The idea of a holiday fling sours further when he hears his younger brother has gone missing. He just wants to get home to Minnesota and be with his mom.

But the magic of Italy keeps pulling Mark and Doug back together. As the passion between them rises, they must find a way to put aside their enmity and help each other through their troubles —a difficult journey, even in the most romantic city in the world.

Two men meet on a plane. Bang, instant chemistry. Then they find out they’re rivals for the same professional award. Can even hot sex salvage the situation?

This story was in fact two stories meshed into one. And unfortunately they clashed. Not much but enough to notice it.

The rivals-to-friends-to-lovers story is a basic holiday fling with hot sex and an upbeat, fluffy tone. The side-story is about a missing family member, plus the death of another, which is a downer. I’m reasonably certain the author used that plot line, which turns out to be nothing serious, as a way to show that serious real life issues exist behind people’s happy facades. This sad twist in things actually gives the two main characters a commonality, as in lost siblings, but they don’t really tackle that issue before the book ends. The thing is, the story didn’t really need any of that since the rivals aspect already could have provided enough schism. Like mixing uppers and downers, the end result falls flat on both.

However, if you ignore the incongruity of these two aspects of the story, this is an above average affair in a foreign country tale, with an added twist of the two men being professional enemies. Well, kind of. Of the two main characters, we only get Mark Mason’s point of view, thankfully in third person. Jerome Dugally, or Doug, is shown only from the outside, and we don’t get to peek inside his head. Since this story is mainly about Mark learning to see himself for who he is and how not be a child about things only he perceives as slights, the choice of giving him control of the narration is understandable. Nonetheless, we do get insight into Doug’s character rather well, as he appears to be a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, but underneath he’s weighed down by family problems.

As a sweet romance this is okay. Their blooming bromance is cute and sexy. The gloomier side of things seemed like a way to separate the two men, quite needlessly, and it brought the mood down. As a fluff piece, though, this works fine, so I suggest reading it as such, and ignoring the sadder parts as a means by the author to give the men some depth.

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