Reviewed by Sarina
TITLE: Between the Lines
AUTHOR: B.J. Sheppard
PUBLISHER: Wilde City Press
LENGTH: 216 pages
In a back alley in Boston, Thomas Haskell’s bookstore is under threat of closing its doors for good. In a last ditch effort to save it, he starts a book group, inviting people to join him in appreciation of the finest in LGBT literature. What started out as a way to save his ailing sales, turns out to be the thing that saves him from a troubled past, and with the doors to his store flung open, so are the doors to his heart.
Let me start off by saying that my opinion of this book shifted along with my fluctuating emotions but that, by the end, both were in perfect alignment. I started off this book full of feelings after having read nothing more than the dedication, which was completely Aww worthy, and found myself embracing the story as told by the three main characters, Thomas, Elton, and Junior. Thomas is the owner of a bookstore that is, unfortunately, on the back end of successful and rapidly speeding down the decline towards a total disaster. In what may very well be his last ditch effort as staving off total bankruptcy, Thomas and his friend Nate come up with the idea to start a book club in the hopes that it will draw attention to the out of the way shop. This one action proves to be the start of not only the rebirth of Thomas’s shop, but of the road towards personal discovery and growth for each of the main characters.
The view point of the story shifts as it changes between each of the characters while keeping the cohesiveness of the overall plot and yet it also remained easy to follow. In the beginning, I really connected with Thomas and what he was going through while I just thought Elton was adorable; I wasn’t really sure where Junior fit into the grand scheme of things but I still enjoyed his character. Things seemed to be plodding along at a set pace, and things were looking up…until they weren’t. Did you ever play with building blocks as a kid? This was like trying to build the tallest tower possible; things are going great and you’re feeling really good about everything and then you either placed one block too many or the tower was jiggled just a little too hard and before you can do anything to stop it, the tower has come crashing down until its just a pile of rubble at your feet. It was just that quickly that things that were going right for the main characters took an unexpected turn for the worst. It was at this point, however, that I finally understood what this book was really about.
Despite my love/hate relationship with the progression of the story, by the end I was firmly on the side of love as I’d watched all three characters tackle some of the hardest parts of their lives and come out the other side stronger for having gone through it. This isn’t a book for everyone; there’s no great mystery, no major action scenes, and while there are some instances of sex shown it isn’t the focus or even a major part of the book. What this does have, is real people tackling real problems and a part of me felt changed right along with the main characters by the end of it. My one hope is that there will be a follow up at some point so that I can continue the journey, especially since things with Junior were left better but not fully complete. Even if this isn’t something you would normally pick up, I recommend giving it a chance.