book reviews · m/m romance · Sam's Favorite Books

Book Review: N.R. Walker’s “Imago” (2017)

34342184This was a truly striking read, one I would recommend to anyone- shout from the rooftops, in fact- and not just to fans of m/m romance! The plot, pacing, and emotional depth were exceptional, and the characters were lively and likeable. This book had me hooked right from the summary- a geeky butterfly expert? A rugged wilderness ranger? The Tasmanian bushland?! I could not buy and download this book fast enough! I read it within a day and it was fantastic.

N.R. Walker writes amazing characters. Lawson is a precious boy and I adored him. He’s comfortable in his own skin and his own style (bowties! suspenders!), and is living exactly the life he wants, doggedly pursuing his purpose- and he doesn’t give a single flying f**k if his purpose (namely, butterflies) seems a little strange to others. Or, indeed, if he himself seems strange to others. It’s clear he’s not one to compromise. He might be mildly lonely, but he sure as hell isn’t interested in anyone who doesn’t accept who he is. I think he’s actually quite surprised- in disbelief, in fact- when Jack seems to be SO entirely accepting and even in awe of who he is. But even with Jack’s overt, overwhelming attempts to court him, he’s not going to let this charismatic, strong-willed guy just get his own way. Lawson has standards, and those standards need to be met before he’ll give any of himself away. Of course it’s utterly adorable to see Lawson’s surprise and delight at Jack’s efforts to impress and please him, and it’s lovely to read about the two of them gradually getting closer.

Jack himself is, in a lot of ways, a fairly standard m/m hero, yet an immensely well-written and likeable one. He’s big and scruffy, confident and self-reliant. He’s somewhat frustrated at the lack of action available to him in his small rural town, but he’s built a good life for himself and his dog, and if he’s a bit lonely- well, that just makes him all the more ready to seize the day when the opportunity for love presents itself. Lawson is his chance, and he takes it. He throws himself into wooing the geeky bowtie-wearing butterfly expert who’s appeared in his life. He’s thrilled when Lawson turns out to be even more amazing than he first appeared; Lawson doesn’t need to be taken care of or pandered to, and he keeps Jack on his toes.

The story is charmingly simple, and I am certain readers will soon be completely absorbed in their quest to find the rare Copper butterfly. The story takes place against the stunning Tasmanian scenery, well-described by the author. Jack and Lawson’s trips to the bush are interspersed with their nightly dates as they try to take advantage of the limited time they have together. Their relationship progresses very quickly over that week, yet thanks to all the time they spend together- including working together- it’s clear how well they complement each other, and how well their interests match.

There was a lot to love about this book, though I think my favourite part was just how strong-willed and determined Lawson was. He doesn’t seem that way at the beginning, and I think the reader will probably make the same assumptions as Jack does- that Lawson’s a soft, indoors-y geek, probably inexperienced, maybe even a bit of a pushover. But it’s soon clear that Lawson can handle himself out in the bush AND around Jack. It was great to read.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to how authors distinguish between their main characters’ voices- particularly if they’re writing in first person. It’s a difficult thing to do, and when the voices sound largely the same or the attitudes/outlook of the characters are too similar, it can be quite difficult to keep track of whose head you’re currently in (particularly if, like me, you tend to inhale books faster than the speed of light). I think Walker distinguishes her voices really quite well in this book, and it’s a good example of alternating first-person POV done well. Not only do Lawson and Jack speak quite differently, they THINK quite differently as well, with Lawson in particular having quite a distinct vocabulary. Their chapters have quite different atmospheres as well. It was a delight to read such wonderful writing!

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough, and I’m thrilled that it’s getting such high ratings from others as well. This is a really strong example of the m/m romance genre and was a real treat to read. Of course the fact that it was set in my native Australia was a treat as well! Here’s hoping that Walker continues to write such fantastic books!

{Summary from Amazon.com:}

Nerdy, introverted genius lepidopterist, Lawson Gale, is an expert on butterflies. He finds himself in a small town in Tasmania on a quest from an old professor to find an elusive species that may or may not even exist.

Local Parks and Wildlife officer, Jack Brighton, is an ordinary guy who loves his life in the sleepy town of Scottsdale. Along with his Border collie dog, Rosemary, his job, and good friends, he has enough to keep from being lonely.

But then he meets Lawson, and he knows he’s met someone special. There’s more to catching butterflies, Jack realises. Sometimes the most elusive creatures wear bow ties, and sometimes they can’t be caught at all.

Lawson soon learns there are butterflies he can’t learn about it in books. They exist only in a touch, in a kiss, in a smile. He just has to let go first, so these butterflies can fly.

Imago is the story of finding love, bow ties, and butterflies.

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