I find book reviews difficult. There is really an art form to explaining why you like a story without revealing too much about it. After all, I want you to be able to experience the same thrill and satisfaction that I do–and that’s not possible if I give too much away…all the same, there are some stories that you can’t help but share with others, and Worth Keeping is one of those.
Be sure to read through the entire post to find out how you can win a copy of Stripped Bare or Saving Alexander!
Susan is an extremely talented (and prolific!) author of such bestselling M/M romances as Stripped Bare and Saving Alexander. I’d read Stripped Bare, so I knew I could expect a rollercoaster of emotions in Worth Keeping. I wasn’t disappointed. 🙂 Susan Mac Nichol often tackles serious topics in her stories, always relying on the power of love to heal and overcome any situation. I wasn’t sure at first that I would be able to identify with either character: both were men who, for various reasons, had contemplated suicide. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading this marvelous story. Together, Nick and Owen were stronger than the wounds from their past.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how Susan could resolve such a tricky introduction: while Nick Mathers is on the verge of suicide (something he has contemplated before), he comes across Owen Butler, a man who jumped off a boat under the influence of drugs and grief because he couldn’t get over the loss of the love of his life.
The two men form an unlikely alliance, each feeling as though they are obligated to the other for saving his life. As the tale unfolds, the two men discover that together, love is stronger than any pain they’ve suffered in the past.
Title: Worth Keeping
Author: Susan Mac Nicol
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Bookseller: Boroughs Publishing Group
Rating: Four Monkey Kisses!
Nick Mathers pulls Owen Butler from the freezing waters off the Norfolk coast, but Owen’s love can carry Nick back from the edge of oblivion.
Abused horrifically as a boy, Nick Mathers has come to terms with his existence as a man. Mostly. Other days life seems a little much. Especially when Nick knows he’ll always be alone.
On those days his thoughts turn black. He walks the Norfolk coast and considers the frigid embrace of the waves. And then, one stormy night, he finds someone who’s tasted just that. The beautiful stranger on the beach is near death, and Nick rushes him home to slowly nurse back to health. As he does, he finds a love unlike any other. Owen Butler’s body is as warm as the sea was cold, his heart as big as an ocean. And Owen is a man who swears to repay the favor. Nick can yet be saved from himself, and he will see that he is indeed a man…
What other people are saying about WORTH KEEPING
”We have to re-iterate that this Author will always be an automatic one-click for us. Her writing is flawless and her flawed characters are completely lovable. There’s always something quirky and fun in her stories as well as drama, angst and heaps of passion! We can highly recommend!!” – Gitte & Jenny – Totally Booked Blog
“The cast of supporting characters adds depth and color, and the subplot of impending danger is artfully woven into the fabric of two men learning to overcome their own limitations, to open to the possibility of love and to redefine who they are. … this is a novel… Worth Keeping.” – Beach Bum Books
“Susan has written what I found to be a truly wonderful story about two damaged men that fit together in a way that gives them a relationship that can be everything they never dared to dream of.” – T. Kurtz, Book Addict
“…it is a beautiful story of survival. It is a story of two men who fought for their lives and there are times they can trip and fall, but somehow they do manage to pick themselves up and face life. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Love it.“– Johanna Alba Bilbao
“Susan has been hailed as a genius writer of male/male literature. Her Saving Alexander has been nominated for several awards and has been reviewed widely. Congrats on all your success, Susan. You have earned it.” – Gay Lit Authors
Leave it to master story-teller Susan Mac Nicol to weave a tale of two tortured souls who find solace in each others company! At first. even though I was rooting for the pact between the two men to work, I had my doubts. I confess, I didn’t understand how Owen’s family could maintain such an indifferent distance, given that he’d jumped off a boat into freezing waters with the intent on killing himself. As the story unfolded, however, it became clear that Owen was not only highly impulsive, but unlike Nick, who had the support of his adoptive family, Owen’s spur-of-the moment decision to jump, heightened by the use of drugs and the lack of a family network, was completely within character. Suicide had been a momentary impulse on his part. Once he met Nick, and discovered what real past trauma was like, his own troubles seemed minor in comparison.
As someone who grew up with a cutter in the family, I did find it a bit inconceivable that Nick’s support network was so ready to accept his word that further self-harm was unlikely after the initial trigger that set him off. I was a bit surprised at how much space his family allowed him, and now readily they trusted Owen, given Nick’s past history. But Owen himself, with his emotions in plain sight and his willingness to share about his past, convinced me that Nick’s family, too, would have accepted him as is.
In fact, the supporting characters in this story are fully fleshed out–and each of them demands a story of their own! I loved the physical description of Don, Nick’s adoptive father (and I won’t spoil it for you!) and his budding relationship with Heather, Nick’s therapist. I also appreciated Daniel, Nick’s former friends-with-benefits (before Owen) and how besotted he was with the flamboyant Justin (we’re going to get that story, yes?).
Given my personal experiences with a stalker (though nothing like Brad, thank God!), I found the scenes in which Nick’s former boyfriend, determined to find Nick again and dominate him, frankly terrifying. The lengths to which he went, including lying to Owen in order to find out Nick’s location, rang frighteningly true. Thank goodness for the intervention of Socks! Mac Nicol’s rendering of Nick’s pet Capuchin monkey was spot on as well (as a veterinarian, I can vouch for this!) and I was cheering at the penultimate moment!
All in all, if you are looking for a satisfying read, combining suspense, humor, and tenderness with a deft hand, Worth Keeping is the book for you!
Susan and her publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group, will be awarding a copy of Stripped Bare and a copy of Saving Alexander to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
And now, an interview with Susan Mac Nichol about Worth Saving!
Susan, I just finishing reading Worth Keeping, Susan, and I was blown away by it! That was a pretty intense story folded into a touching romance. What was your inspiration for this story? What lead you to center a story on a character with such a dark past as Nick Mathers?
I was watching the news about an actual child sex ring that had been closed down by the police and the stories of those children broke my heart. I wanted to tell a story of a man who’d been through it yet had survived and Nick’s tale was born. I wanted to make it a happy ending because a lot of those children in the actual event weren’t so lucky. So along came Owen to give Nick the boost he needed. Sometimes the only way to make the world a better place is to imagine the good and live within that place in your head that says things can always get better. Maybe I’m an idealist but there are worse things to be.
This is the reason that part proceeds for Worth Keeping are being donated to the NSPCC -National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children- here in the UK. They do a lot of good work with abused and neglected children and it just seemed right to help them in some way.
Owen and Nick aren’t your typical heroes, and they certainly don’t meet in a typical fashion! Owen is a man who can’t get over the death of his lover. Nick is a man with history of childhood abuse. Together they find purpose in life again—but was there ever a point during the writing of this story where you weren’t sure you could give them a happy ending? The story has dark elements to it, subjects which can be very triggering for some people—childhood sexual abuse, self-harm, attempted suicide—and yet this is not a dark tale at all. How did you balance these components? What is the message you want readers to come away with from this story?
I always knew these two would be happy together. Otherwise, I couldn’t write it. And to be truthful some of these elements you’ve mentioned I’ve lived through in one way or another so I do speak from experience. I won’t elaborate but I think it’s important to tell readers where I’m coming from. And, one of the things I harp on about with any story is that I write is the underlying message of hope. I’m a great believer in the fact that if you can be strong and with the right support from someone, anything is possible. It might not quite end the way you wanted, but the journey is made so much better while you take it. And if you infuse that with humour, compassion and understanding, it helps that journey along and makes it more palatable.
I’ve noticed in several of your stories now, one of the characters has lost someone very dear to them, and afterward has an extremely difficult time coping with life—to the point of indulging in self-destructive behavior. Do you believe this a secret fear for many people, or are you drawing on personal observation?
Losing someone that you love is heart-wrenching, gut-churning and can drive people to do things they might not have done before. Some people get through it, stay strong and face their loss head on. Others hide away, let it fester and then when things become too much to take, they manifest their own way of dealing with it, like self-harming, drinking etc. I speak again from experience in both camps, as people are complex beings and you never quite know what’s in their heads, no matter how long you’ve known them. It can tear families apart and leave the survivors struggling to cope. I’ve often wondered – we hear about the victims who die, and their story. But we never quite hear about the ones left behind. The train driver who watched in horror as someone threw themselves in front of his train. The driver who had someone run in front of their car on purpose. The family member watching someone shoot themselves. How do they cope? It’s always fascinated me how the human psyche deals with such tragedies.
What is the best part of being a successful author? The worst part? If you had to do it over again, is there anything you would change?
The best part of being a successful author is the sheer variety of what I get to do every day, coupled with the passion in telling stories that sit in your head and won’t leave you in peace 🙂 I have met some wonderful people, developed both face-to-face and virtual relationships that just blow me away with their intensity and support, been in the newspapers, on the radio, learnt new skills – social networking and creative writing – and, of course, this is all done around actually getting words onto the screen for the next book. I’m doing something I love, with people I love around me and it’s the most inspiring feeling ever. Having people email or Facebook message me telling me how much they like my stories -that’s absolutely mind-blowing. Each and every one is special and without them I’d be no where at all.
You’ve spoken (and written) before about sexual abuse of men, something that many victims are reluctant to admit to having suffered. Could you share with us more about some of the research that went into this story, and why you feel so strongly about this subject?
I have a pet hate that I climb on soapboxes for; Persecution and Intolerance. I hate any sort of judgment by one person for another because they are different – gender, colour, religions, beliefs – it makes no difference. I lived through apartheid in South Africa so I know first-hand how damaging this it.
Before I wrote my first book, Cassandra By Starlight, I saw a video clip and read a story. It was a story about a man, an ex-Marine, who had been raped by a woman, after being given some sort of drug at a party. The abuse and ridicule he suffered as a result of him speaking out was horrific. He was told to ‘man up,’ that he was lucky he ‘got some’ and that he should put it behind him. He was told that he was a man and women don’t sexually abuse men unless ‘they want it.’ But, he was clearly traumatised and in his mind, there was no black and white. He’d been violated.
I remember filing it away somewhere in the recess of my mind, thinking, that’s a contentious scenario. When the time came for Bennett Saville’s (the hero in Cassandra) stalker to kidnap him, the rape scene just happened. I researched it first, finding out the man I’d seen on the video – James Landrith – and used his experience as Bennett’s. James actually got in contact with me after the book was published and promoted it on his civil rights blog in the US. We both believe that male rape by women exists and that the law and society need to do more to educate and make people aware of it.
There was much I appreciated about this story, especially the secondary characters Don and Heather, and of course, Socks , the capuchin monkey! As someone who works with animals, I found the scenes with Socks very realistic, very believable. What made you choose a monkey for Nick’s companion?
I knew the end of the story somehow relied on the pet helping them get free. I had a vision of the two men tied up and thought – hmm, monkeys have prehensile hands and are pretty dexterous – I had to be able to use that fact somewhere. So Nick’s pet became a monkey, he had a penknife because I knew that could factor in at the end…and so cheeky Socks came to life.
It helped that my husband had a monkey when he was in the army, of a similar type. It was the Army mascot, and this little monkey was almost human himself. He got drunk with the soldiers, suffered hangovers and stole their cigarettes, then sat above in the tree and broke them one by one as everyone ranted and raved at him when they couldn’t reach him. I think he was trying to start the first Simian anti-smoking ban 🙂
Nick has chosen to live in an isolated manner as the keeper of a lonely lighthouse on the Norfolk coast, which suits him well as a painter. What is your vision of the ideal place to live, work, and write?
I have to say I love the idea of the lighthouse myself. In fact, I’m going out to visit the very lighthouse that inspired the one in Worth Keeping. On Wednesday 29thJanuary, I am travelling to Norfolk to be with the maintenance crew while they go in and check the Cromer Lighthouse, the exact one you see in the pictures on my Pinterest board. I’m looking forward to it, seeing inside and taking some pictures. So for me, a lighthouse would be an ideal place to write and be inspired.
If a lighthouse wasn’t forthcoming, then a great big old Gothic house deep in the English countryside, with a resident ghost or two, a cellar, an attic and plenty of atmosphere. Oh, and a butler and housekeeper. I’d love a butler. Someone needs to keep me in coffee, tea and do the housework while I beaver away at the PC as I look out across the vast expanse of countryside to see the wildlife and the beautiful English fields.
You’ve had terrific success with Stripped Bare and Saving Alexander, your first M/M romance novels, both making the bestseller list on Amazon. Your author’s note in Worth Keeping mentions that you have five more novels in the pipeline, as well as a planned series called Men of London. Can you tell us more about your upcoming work?
Yes indeed I’ve been fortunate that all my M/M books have all reached the best-selling lists and have done well. I’m grateful to everyone for their support.
Waiting for Rain is due out on the 24th February via Dreamspinners. This is the ‘pole dancing /sheep’ book. My trailer for this one will blow your socks off as I had a world-class pole dancer do a scene from the book specially for me – I had to take a cold shower afterwards with all the hip thrusts and sinuous writhing that Andre Corey in New Zealand does. It should be illegal for a man to move like that. *Wipes sweaty brow*
The next book due out is the 25th March. It’s called Double Alchemy and it’s the first in a two book paranormal series. Warlocks, witches, water sprites and the Witchfinder General of Essex, Matthew Hopkins. All play a part in this story. It’s a total change to what I’ve written to date, as I’ve indulged my own love of Wicca and witchcraft and let my imagination run free in the contemporary London setting of Hampstead Heath. Uhm. This also happens to be where Benedict Cumberbatch lives and I can tell you there’s no ulterior motive in setting the book here. No sirree bob, none at all 🙂 Sarah, stop that snorting. It doesn’t become you at all *grins*
The second Alchemy book will be out later in the year. I have the third book in my Starlight trilogy due out as well, not quite sure what the release date is for that. It’s the story of the gay couple, Dylan and Alec, who were in books 1 and 2. Then I have an erotic crime thriller called Born Human, which I’ll be working in towards the middle of this year. Hunky detective meets feisty reporter while trying to catch a bisexual serial killer. The research for this one sparked the love for M/M Romance that I have so this story was definitely the catalyst.
Men in London was commissioned by my publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group. It’s a six book series of novellas, about 50k words each. They asked me to write a series about – strangely enough – men in London, strong, professional men meeting each other and the events are all set in or around the city. I tentatively have 4 ideas for the series, as to who and what professions meet, but I need inspiration for the others. Anyone out there who feels they have an idea for the professions of the perfect couple to write about, feel free to let me know. I’ve also submitted a short story of about 13k words to Dreamspinners..It’s called ‘A Little Light Magic’ and it’s set in Glastonbury – for an anthology, so as soon as they are done reading it, I’ll get either a nod or a nay to my submission and then I’ll decide what to do with it from there.
Sue Brown and I are also co-writing a book together, the story of a man subjected to sexual abuse by his Scoutmaster. I’ve mentioned this ‘factional’ story before, fiction based on the facts of Joe Leistman’s life. Sue and I had lunch together recently and we worked out what we need to do to move this book forward so I’m looking forward to this project with her.
Your readers have so many new works to anticipate! What is a typical day for Susan Mac Nicol like?
I huddle under the bed covers as husband leaves at 6.30 am to go to work. I get up about 7.30, make a coffee, shower then onto the couch, laptop on my lap, and basically stay there until I finally go to bed around midnight. It’s nothing exciting ladies and gents. My bum is spreading, and the couch actually has a dip in from where I sit so long, so I need to get up and walk about every now and then to keep the blood flowing and remind myself I am actually alive and I do need to eat and drink.
While I’m on the laptop I do all the things most writers do. Try and get some new words on paper for the latest WIP, respond to posts on Facebook, Twitter etc, perv over pictures of naked men, make an appearance in the Male Pole Dancing group I manage with co-admin Shanella McBeth, invite sexy gyrating men to join us, flirt with them madly until they agree then do the same thing again in a never ending cycle. I write blog posts for book tours, do some hosting for other authors books, and also read books so I can review them for The Romance Reviews. God forbid I should ever get another day job as I really don’t know how I will cope. 🙂 But it’s all jolly good fun…..
Thank you, Susan, for sharing with us!
Be sure to join Susan Mac Nichol for the rest of her tour!
Tour Event Pages (Facebook and Goodreads): https://www.facebook.com/events/202803816578033/
About Susan Mac Nicol
Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Worth Keeping is her third m/m romance.
Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself being a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.
Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.
Monday 3rd February – Sid Love (review and interview)
Saturday 8th February – Beckey White from In the Pages of a Good Book (guest post)
Sunday 9th February – Twitter Interview with Susan Mac Nicol (6pm GMT) (hashtag #WorthKeeping)