Bear Among The Books was published one week ago today. Since then I’ve been bowled over by the reviews it’s received from some great readers/reviewers who all seem to ‘get’ my writing, and as an author that means more than I can say. Here is a selection of the reviews from Amazon and elsewhere. (If you want to read the negative reviews, feel free to check out Goodreads!)
5* An Ode to Words and Books.
By Marleen – Published on Amazon.com
I should probably start this review by mentioning that I am a librarian. For that reason all the details about working in and the running of a library entertained me as much as the romance did. On several occasions I found myself thinking ‘oh yes, that’s how we do it too’ and that invariably brought a smile to my face. Something else that made me grin was the fact that I would probably describe myself as a cross between Daisy and Ben; while I love welcoming new members to the library and love seeing them peruse the shelves, I find it very hard not to frown when they disturb the order on those shelves.
But, this review is supposed to be about the book and not about my day job, and Bear Among the Books touched my heart in many ways. It contains a wonderful romance, it’s a declaration of love towards libraries and, maybe more than anything else it’s an ode to words, books, stories, writing, and reading.
“I had always felt sorry for people who didn’t read and never experienced the joy of getting lost in a well-written story.” – Ben
My heart ached for Jason. To love books so much and not be able to read. Scratch that, just to not be able to read is a nightmare scenario to me. A nightmare that Jason is consciously living, as his words about being/working in a library so beautifully reflect.
“It’s like being inside the biggest, richest treasure chest in the world. It’s like a bank vault for people’s dreams and experiences.”
Of course Jason’s illiteracy wasn’t the only thing about him to break my heart. His back-story is horrendous and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. He’s such a gentle, kind and big-hearted soul despite everything he has endured and his insecurities are as understandable as they are heart breaking.
Ben was the sort of person I could fall for myself in a heartbeat. Kind, generous, patient, and always putting others first, he is exactly what Jason needs even if everybody else realises that long before Ben is willing to entertain the idea.
Jason’s grandmother was a breath of fresh air and I loved her attitude. The age difference between Ben and Jason is large —28 years to be precise. And while Ben does initially have some understandable concerns about it, I love that it wasn’t turned into a huge belly-ache or an issue for any of the other characters in the story.
“The heart has no wrinkles.” – Alice / Nan
In fact, this is not an angsty read at all. Despite Jason’s past and Ben’s reservations about a relationship, this is mostly a sweet tale about healing and books, about people coming together to do the right thing, and about embracing new opportunities and love when they come your way.
Bear Among the Books is a charming and touching feel good story. Yes, there are one or two moments that will tug at your heartstrings and bring tears to your eyes, but overall, this tale will leave you with a huge smile on your face and a love for the written word that is even stronger than it was before you started reading it.
5* Phetra Novak for GGR Reviews
Bear Among the Books is the new piece of writing by T.J. Masters and to say it’s a brilliant success is an understatement. T.J. Masters has this serene way of writing his story that you find yourself calmed, sort of lulled into the story like a quite participant in the lives of the characters. This is something at least I find masterful, not only because you get this in depth feel for the people in the story, because T.J. Masters takes the time to let you get to know the evolving characters both main and supporting. In this book there’s quite a few characters to keep track of but it’s never difficult to follow along and learn who one of them are.
Ben, one of the two main characters, is strong, confident but not arrogant small town librarian and a man with passion for books and the written word, which I think we all can relate to in one way or another, his simplicity as a character if I may say so should be boring but it isn’t he is everything but and I been pondering that for a bit and I realized it’s because T.J. Masters allows us to be inside his head and take part of what is going on there in a way that sometime other authors rush through, also this is where the supporting characters come in to allow Ben’s character really show, his protective, caring and god honest desire and need to help others become apparent.
Secondly, we have Jason, a tormented young man, merely 19, but who has “the heart of an angel” he’s young, he’s been through hell, but thanks to his nan and eventually Ben (among other people) he find his place in this world. Jason, is fascinating, and intriguing, a young innocent man in many ways because of the situation he’s in but yet very experienced and self-sufficient for the very same situation and life experiences. It is hard not to love him from the moment you meet. He’s smart and caring, and nothing is more important to than his nan because of the fact that she’s the only person in his world, as the book starts, that loves him for the person he is.
As for the supporting characters, I absolutely LOVE Jake (I feel a story there Tim) and Jason’s grandmother, Alice, what a treat! T.J. Masters did spot on with that woman. Also, one of my absolute favorite books by T.J. Masters (besides this one) is Taking the Gardener and Eric and
Tom from that book are also mentioned and visit in this one which is more than nice. While Taking the Gardener is a lifestyle book (BDSM) this is not, they fit right in and that doesn’t surprise me at all. Because Taking the Gardener, even though there are plenty of people who didn’t understand the true meaning of that book, is just like Bear Among the Books a story about finding yourself, about finding your place in life and when you have daring to take that step out from the shadow and live life, your life, to the fullest! Well done, T.J. Masters! Well done!
5* It was amazing
Serena Yates for Rainbow Book Reviews
The book description had me at Ben being a librarian and a passionate book lover, but then there was the riddle of Jason visiting the library almost every day without ever checking out a book – and I was hooked. This is a fantastic story about two amazing men who have a lot to deal with beyond the fact that they are gay. As it turns out, this is not a problem for any of the people in Ben’s life. But the age difference they face is almost thirty years, and Jason has had a traumatic childhood resulting in more issues to overcome than most young men his age. This could have been a book full of angst and drama, but instead Ben and Jason’s story turned out to be a slow-paced, gentle romance that focuses on the growth and changes that happen as they get to know each other.
For all that Ben works well with people, it takes him quite a while to figure out why Jason comes in, takes a huge variety of books off the shelf, leafs through each one, then returns them where he found them without ever checking one out. It’s probably because he never suspects the reason, based on Jason’s behavior, and because he is a little distracted by how good Jason looks. When Ben figures it out, he decides to help Jason learn to read and because Ben used to be a teacher, he has the tools to do it. The process he used – starting with picture books and graphic novels so Jason can focus on the story – was fascinating, and I was with both of them every step of the way.
Jason, even though his point of view is not included as Ben is the sole narrator, came to life for me based on his questions, reactions, and behavior once he has someone who believes in him and supports him. Yes, his grandmother already does that for him since she has taken him into her home, but that is different because she is family and her support is mainly emotional. Something Jason is in dire need of after his stepfather’s cruel abuse and his mother’s cruelty! Ben can help Jason gain self-confidence, give him the reading skills Jason so desperately wants, and become a true partner.
You might think that two men, as far apart as they are in age and experience, will never fit. This story shows that’s not necessarily true. On the other hand, both are lonely with Ben having lost his partner a few years ago and Jason having never had a boyfriend before. Then there is their love of stories and books that unites them as Jason learns to read. But in the end it boils down to the fact that they are attracted to each other, enjoy doing things like cooking meals together, and are simply good for each other. Despite everything they have to overcome and deal with, they are great as a team and as a couple – a pretty sound basis for a long-term relationship if you ask me.
If you like slow-burn romances that become sizzling hot once the partners get going, if an unusual May/December relationship with a few added issues is your thing, and if you’re looking for a gentle love story with a lot of heart, then you will probably love this novel as much as I do. It’s a very special tale filled with warmth and an “everyday feel” that had me entranced without the need for much action or huge plot twists.