cover image Brains and Brawn

Brains and Brawn

R.L. Merrill. Celie Bay, $4.99 e-book (300p) ASIN B08DC8VDT8

Merrill’s diverting if formulaic second romance to feature the members of metalcore band Hush (following The Summer of Hush) kicks off when Paul McNally, a bisexual Navy corpsman facing retirement, takes his son, Bowie, to attend the Warped Tour. Paul gets into a flirtatious verbal sparring match about music with Hush drummer Billy “Brains” Brennan that leaves both men romantically intrigued. When Brains is injured in an accident at a meet-and-greet, Paul, who is trained in emergency medical treatment, comes to the rescue. Paul further insists that Brains recuperate at his home rather than on the tour bus. As the men slowly bond and fall into cozy domesticity, a health crisis emerges that threatens their happiness. While there are some intimate moments, including a sensual massage scene, the emphasis of this modest romance is less on sex and more on how both men must realign their priorities to move forward. Brains may never play again, while Paul has to determine what to do after retirement. They also grapple with how Bowie, who Paul has never come out to, will respond to their relationship. The result is low-stakes and comforting, even if the soundtrack is loud. (Self-published)