Mark, gay, is in his thirties, a computer specialist working on the support team of a prestigious London firm of accountants. Unsurprisingly in such a stuffy firm he is not out about being gay, although he is other elsewhere open about his sexuality. He is a rising star in the firm and a favourite of Peter, the ambitious young partner who enlists Mark’s help in his campaign against “the old codgers”, the stuffy reactionary older partners. Soon Mark is promoted to head his department, but when office politics begin to threaten any hopes of a peaceful life Mark is ready to look elsewhere for employment.
He does not need to look far, the opportunity is there waiting for him. Through his new boyfriend, Tom, he has met Tom’s friend and benefactor the older Andrew, gay owner of a local garden centre with a sideline in property development. Andrew had already suggested to Mark that the dilapidated Goodmans Villa, a large Victorian semi-detached house would make an ideal gay hotel. Mark decides now is the time to take up the offer.
Mark takes us through his rise within the firm of accountants, his meeting with Tom and Andrew, and the eventual opening of the hotel. It is not until halfway through the story does Mark get to open his hotel, and much of the lead up to that centres on his work with long passages about his work and computing, although not entirely. There is the charming encounter with George, about twenty years, the slightly retarded son of the hotel proprietress in France, who open-mindedly is happy to allow his fraternisation with Mark. We also discover how he meets Tom, Mark’s complete opposite, the rough speaking relatively uneducated electrician/plumber, and follow their up and down relationship. Then there is Darren, the delightful eighteen year old runaway waif, one of the existing tenants of Goodmans Villa and who stays on to be taken under Mark’s protective wing.
There are a few amusing episodes involving guests at Goodmans Hotel, and a few more dangerous incidents Mark finds himself involved in. But against the background of all that happens over two of three years of Mark’s tale we follow Mark’s relationship with Tom. A love affair but not without problems, while they are open with each other it eventually comes out that there is something Tom has kept back, when it comes out Mark worries about its implications, can he continue the relationship?
This is a generally good read, it does get somewhat bogged down in the first half with rather too much talk of computers and work politics, but that is offset to an extent with Mark and Tom’s growing relationship. Matters do improve considerably in the second half of the book. The main characters are very appealing: Mark himself is very likeable, open and fair-minded, Tom’s rough gentleness is endearing, Andrew is a thoughtful and caring man, and young Darren is a beauty in his spindly teenage gawkiness and enchanting manner. -Bembo,Goodreads