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In his exciting debut novel, Strings Attached, author Nick Nolan introduced readers to Jeremy Tyler, a displaced California teen learning to adjust to his new life and home with his wealthy aunt Katherine after his alcoholic mother enters rehab. Jeremy comes to terms with being gay, uncovers the mystery behind his father’s death and learns the truth about his uncle, Bill. He also develops a deep connection with Arthur, his butler and the estate’s caretaker.
Jeremy’s journey of self discovery continues in Nolan’s follow up, Double Bound, but this time around, his relationship with Arthur is front and center, and as the two grow closer, they can’t decide if their unity should be cause for concern or celebration.
This compelling sequel begins as Arthur is gearing up for a business trip to Rio, accompanied by Jeremy and his boyfriend, Carlo, to ensure one of late Uncle Bill’s real estate investments is legitimate. Upon arrival, they are greeted by Brazilian resort owner, Fabiano, who makes their every wish his command. One request comes from Carlo, who wants to visit his sick cousin in a remote part of the country, and Fabiano wastes no time making travel arrangements.
While the South American adventure provides some of the novel’s most thrilling—and occasionally frightening—moments, Double Bound is more a coming-of-middle-age story about Arthur and how the former Marine and G-Man ended up working for the surrogate parents (Bill and Katherine) of his childhood best friend, Jonathan (Jeremy’s father). Jeremy’s striking resemblance to Jonathan, in fact, is partly why he begins to see the young man, fourteen years his junior, as more than just his employer’s beloved nephew.
Jeremy is well aware of the apparent attraction he and Arthur share for each other and is all too eager to act upon it, which indirectly creates friction with Carlo. Arthur, the consummate professional, tries to resist his uncontrollable urge to be with Jeremy. The author’s masterful approach at depicting the sexual tension is romantic and powerful yet cautious, because as much as the reader grows fond of both men, forces of nature indicate that they may not necessarily belong together.
Meanwhile, Carlo’s visit with his cousin, Alfonso, paints a clearer picture of Fabiano’s checkered reputation, and further complications include a staged kidnapping, ransom demands, and the reenactment of a grisly religious ritual that puts Jeremy in serious danger. Fittingly, the romantic entanglement among Arthur, Jeremy and Carlo immediately becomes secondary to their safe return home.
The combination of intrigue, corruption and betrayal, coupled with desire and romance, makes this novel a quintessential page-turner. While Jeremy’s story was certainly worthy of a continuation, Nolan should especially take pride in having created a character as honorable, loyal and endearing as Arthur. The reader can rest assured these two men love each other unconditionally and will always look out for each other.
According to Nolan, the story of Strings Attached is a reinterpretation of the child’s classic, Pinocchio. The author continues in this fashion with Double Bound, labeling it a modern-day Jack and the Beanstalk. Whether or not you fully comprehend the comparisons, the idea was clearly the inspiration for the most original, imaginative and eye-catching cover art in recent years. True, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but in these instances, the exterior design (courtesy of Silja Goetz) and interior content of both novels are well worth your time and attention.
By Nick Nolan
Trade Paperback, $14.95, 336p