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London Underground worker Mal Thomas is staying in Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. Getting some more bad news from home is the last straw—until big, blond museum curator Jory Roscarrock steps up to offer some comfort.

A doctor of English Literature, Jory should be in a prestigious post at a top university. But a youthful indiscretion has led him to abandon academia to come back to his home town, Porthkennack, and the controlling family he’s never really felt a part of. He’s delighted to find a kindred spirit in the young Londoner.

But Jory’s family hurt Mal’s best friend deeply, and while Jory’s desperate to repair the damage, his own mistakes threaten to keep them apart. Meanwhile Mal’s torn between his feelings for Jory and his duty to his friend—and his fears that a failed relationship could be more than his shattered confidence can take.

281 pages, ebook

First published March 17, 2018

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About the author

J.L. Merrow

145 books1,273 followers
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.

JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jl.merrow

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for ~Nicole~.
688 reviews164 followers
July 29, 2023
I know I repeat myself but there’s just something about British books and authors than charm the hell out of me. Even a mediocre book can be enjoyable if it has British settings,writing and humor,I swear!!
One under was NOT a mediocre book at all. It was interesting, a bit angsty yet it had that dry humor I love and OMG the speech and dialogues were so entertaining and endearing!! I loved Jory so much and even though Mal fucked up a lot and pissed me off there was just something about him that made me adore him and empathize with him . I have to add though that I almost impulsively DNF when I got to the ex-wife debacle, that’s how mad it made me what that idiot and that airhead woman did-kinda hated them both in that moment and I wanted to hug Jory so tight 🥺. Mal should have groveled more .
Excellent read, excellent characters,angst and humor . To be perfectly honest I think this author can’t ever do no wrong in my eyes.
Profile Image for CrabbyPatty.
1,588 reviews172 followers
December 30, 2019
A few things first ... Having read almost all of the Porthkennack series, I find J.L. Merrow's Porthkennack considerably darker than portrayed by other authors in this series. Merrow's setting is a bleak, gray atmosphere with lots of rain, and more than its share of "Eeyoresque" characters. Also, it took me quite a while to get my footing in One Under. Characters from the first book are referenced here, and honestly, I didn't remember them and there is little information in One Under to flesh out their backstory.

Mal's best mate is Dev (whose story is told in Wake Up Call) and when Mal meets Jory Roscarrock, there is instant attraction, quickly followed by the realization that Jory is Dev's uncle, and a member of the family that basically kicked Dev to the curb. The two men spend considerable time agonizing about their respective secrets and how any relationship between them would never work. The pace of the story felt very slow and around 80% through the book, Jory finally asks Mal: “I wish I knew where I stood with you.” This book was very nearly a DNF for me because of the constant tension and second-guessing about each and every word and action and although there are a few sex scenes, it is difficult to sense a strong sexual chemistry between the two.

One Under is just not my cuppa, and my rating is 3 stars, but I fully realize that other readers may enjoy this introspective story.

I received an ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Stop by my new blog, Sinfully Good Gay Book Reviews
Profile Image for Sandra .
1,770 reviews316 followers
March 30, 2018
This book, while part of the overall Porthkennack series, is basically a continuation of the first one, Wake Up Call, which I also loved. It would probably be best to read that first, because while this one doesn't focus on the characters from the first book, they do make an appearance, and there isn't a whole lot of backstory shared here - it's assumed the reader knows who they are.

This book also had a bit of a darker, more melancholy undertone than the first one, and for good reason.

Mal Thomas has come to Porthkennack to heal from a traumatic experience at work, that isn't fully explained early on. Believe me, though, it's horrid. While I don't have personal experience with this sort of thing, a long-time friend of mine does. He is still, after many years since that incident, struggling with the emotional and psychological aftermath. So once I found out what had happened to Mal, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Jory Roscarrock (yes, the much younger brother of Devan's mother) hasn't had an easy life so far. While he has a doctorate in English Lit from a prestigious university, he also has been living under a dark cloud for some time, partly because of his older siblings, and partly because of a youthful indiscretion that derailed much of his plans.

Mal and Jory meet. There's attraction, when Mal, after getting a bit of bad news from home while at the town's museum, is in need of comforting and Jory, the museum curator, offers, with much social awkwardness, a cup of tea. Then Mal finds out who Jory is, and the romance nearly dies before it has a chance to blossom.

As with all of this author's books, I definitely appreciate the very British writing style, the very British choice of words, and the very British setting. JL Merrow just manages to transport me to whatever place they write about, and I could easily visualize the stark cliffs, the dark tunnels, the grey skies, the imposing house Jory calls home, the pub, the town - everything is described in vivid details, and the reader is transported into this fictional place on the rugged coastal setting.

Both Mal and Jory spend time worrying about the secrets they keep/kept from the other, and both wonder if a relationship between them is even worth pursuing, considering Mal lives in London and Jory cannot leave Porthkennack, for reasons. There is a lot of angst inside, and this isn't a romance that comes easily for either of them. In addition to their personal issues, there's also the issue of Mal being best friends with the aforementioned Devan - who is Jory's nephew, and who's been treated badly by Jory's siblings - which puts additional strain on the budding romance, obviously, as Mal is torn between the attraction to Jory and his loyalty to Dev.

The plot progresses slowly, and it had to, in my opinion, because the roadblocks in their way are, while not insurmountable, definitely considerable, and this book wouldn't have worked as well for me if the author had rushed through their individual insecurities and issues they had to overcome.

I think the lesson here is that if you want something badly enough, you have to find the will to fight for it. You have to forge the path that works for you, because ultimately the only person responsible for your own happiness is you. And if you want it, pursue it.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
Profile Image for Grace.
2,791 reviews130 followers
June 16, 2022
2.5 rounded up

I enjoyed this one well enough, but I didn't love it.

As always, some great writing, and it felt very British with a great sense of setting, which I loved. I enjoyed both of the characters and their connection, and for the most part I like the build between them. My first issue is that I would say this barely works as a stand-alone. Though I did technically read Merrow's first book in this series, Wake Up Call, it was over three years ago and I didn't particularly enjoy it/remember much about it. This book assumes you've read that one, and includes a lot of characters and backstory from that book--I felt quite wrong-footed for much of the book, and the only reason I wasn't more lost was because I had at least a vague recollection of the first one.

My second biggest issue, was the frankly bizarre interlude between Mal and Jory's estranged wife. . The heat here is also relatively tame, and the smut we got at the end wasn't what I wanted after (what felt to me) like a big betrayal on Mal's part that's not addressed in any satisfying manner.

I generally enjoy this author's works, but so far her books in this series haven't done it for me and I'm honestly a bit nervous about the final one...
Profile Image for Sarah.
568 reviews12 followers
March 23, 2023
Such a fun read! It felt like I was on the set of Eastenders. Mal is my spirit animal - constantly fucking up and making a right mess of everything. The story was engaging and I love how we got some more answers to Dev’s story from book one. Loved the humour that came with this. Everything worked to come together pretty nicely here.
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,690 reviews442 followers
March 23, 2018
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.5 stars

There are many things this author excels at and writing multi-layered characters who never have an easy road romantically tops the list. Add in the ability to create beautiful settings, quirky and, sometimes, miserable side characters, and faithful friends and you have an ensemble cast that works together to weave a fascinating story with enough twists and turns to hold one’s interest and then some. Poor Jory. He comes into his own in many ways in this novel. He has been so used to never rattling his domineering and mean hearted brother that he has never really stood up for himself or done exactly what he wishes. He’s returned home to be nearer his son, Gawen. However, the fact that he is still married to his wife simply because he never wanted to rock the boat or bring down the wrath of his brother who has earmarked Jory’s son as his heir is hard to understand. Yet that sums up Jory in a nutshell—he is either too timid or has never pushed hard enough to rock the boat—until he meets Mal.

Mal comes with his own basket of problems. He is bisexual, but definitely attracted to Jory. But Mal’s self-esteem has taken one too many hits over the last few months and now he finds himself so uncertain about his future that he can hardly see a way to including Jory in it. Mal is like a lost puppy in so many ways. Loyal and loving, but easily confused and distracted. So, the idea that he might be falling for a member of the very family who has cast aside his best friend and made his life a living hell is hard to argue. But Jory is so kind and so understanding. He is also everything Mal is not and that is what Mal struggles with the most.

Read Sammy’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Barb ~rede-2-read~.
3,251 reviews91 followers
February 4, 2018
Another enjoyable story in the Porthkennack series, this time from J.L. Merrow, an author I’ve grown to admire for her quick wit and the Briticisms liberally sprinkled throughout her books. In this installment of the always interesting Porthkennack series, which is penned by various authors, we get a glimpse of how Dev and Kyle from book one, Wake Up Call are doing, since Dev’s best friend, Mal, is featured in this story.

Mal has come to Porthkennack to spend some time on the Cornish coast while emotionally healing from the death of a jumper who landed on the tracks in front of the train he was driving on the Underground in London—hence the title, “one under.” His bestie’s sister is here on the coast and provides him with room and board at the tavern where she works. On a trip to the local museum, he meets tall, blond, and highly intelligent Jory Roscarrock, though he doesn’t initially know Jory’s last name. Good thing, too, because Jory’s sister is Dev’s birth mother and she turned him away last year when Dev learned her name and came to see her.

The confusion over who Jory is and the fact that he never even knew Bea had had a child, never mind that the child was there in Porthkennack last year while he was away at university finishing his doctoral degree, is finally cleared up, but it leaves Mal worrying that Dev will resent him if he finds out Mal is in bed not only with his uncle—but from the dreaded Roscarrock family! So Mal resists Jory, and they find a measure of friendship over shared interests, though Mal does actually drive Jory crazy with his hot-and-cold attitude.

What happens to bring them closer and to finally accept that they do indeed belong together is at the heart of this story and it’s a spoiler I won’t reveal here in the review. Suffice it to say that this slow burn is put to the test, but they do eventually get together in body, mind, and spirit, and their tale ends on a very positive note.

What I loved about this story is the humor intertwoven with the sexual attraction and romance between the MCs. Mal’s delivery of both spoken and inner dialogue in his quick-witted way made for some laugh-out-loud moments. I also enjoy the fact that any of these stories can be read as a standalone. Even this one, with characters from Wake Up Call, does not rely heavily on past drama. Anything a reader needs to know is clearly and succinctly restated so there’s no need to go back and start over. It was, however, a pleasure to have a brief visit with Dev and Kyle and to see how well Kyle is doing.

I also love the character development—each MC is uniquely himself—for better or worse. Both are very engaging and based in reality. The secondary characters were also given plenty of page time and I’m certainly hoping we’ll see an MM romance with Jory’s older cantankerous bachelor “head of the family” brother before this series ends. That one has a lot of potential. Please, please, please!

Obviously, I highly recommend this book. Full of witticisms and Briticisms, it’s a pleasure to spend time with Mal and Jory. I am, indeed, looking forward to future installments.

**4.5 stars**

ARC provided by the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an impartial review.
Profile Image for Trio.
3,067 reviews175 followers
March 8, 2018
What a wonderful story!

I haven't read most of the Porthkennack stories but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of this one at all. I can clearly see there are characters from earlier novels, but they add to the story and didn't make me feel like I was missing anything. I'm sure if you've read previous books you'd enjoy it all the more.

This was a great 'insta-love' story which was really well done (JL Merrow always does this genre really nicely). There was enough damage and drama to make it interesting without being angsty and the romance part was sweet and hot.

If you're looking for a nice, easy romance with interesting characters and some creative local lore then One Under is going to fit the bill perfectly.

story provided by NetGalley for the purpose of this review
Profile Image for True Loveislovereview.
2,357 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2018
Complicated family story. When Mal meets Jory he didn't know Jory was the uncle of his best friend Dev, who was not accepted by his mother, Jory's sister.
Jory has to prove he is different and the circumstances are against him.
Complicated and good developed story. Personalities with well defined characters.
The romance wasn't overwhelming but just enough.

The whole story with characteristic Cornish Porthkennack at the background !

Kindly received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley
Profile Image for Anke.
2,464 reviews86 followers
March 19, 2018
This author has a way with words, really! Just a few sentences and you are totally in the setting of the English countryside. Love it. Here the story flowed nicely and it was a joy moving along to a very satisfying happy ending.
Profile Image for Cadiva.
3,468 reviews318 followers
November 20, 2022

Essentially a follow-up to Wake Up Call, it could be read as a standalone, there's enough information included, but it works better if you've read the earlier book.

I mostly liked it, there was a odd part involving Mal and Jory's 'wife' (they're married in name only, never been together apart from the incident in which she got pregnant), which felt shoved in just to cause some drama.

Other than that, it's a fairly straightforward tale of two people meeting who are attracted to each other but who bring along a bucket load of complications.

It's low steam, there's some angst, it's funny at times and it has a truly moving element focusing on why Mal's in Cornwall in the first place.

There's obviously stuff going on in the background which will come out in Jory's brother Bran's book, I'm not sure how I feel about him yet.

I remain to be convinced I want a redemption/happy ending for him!

Overall this was a decent entry in the series.
Profile Image for K.
1,608 reviews71 followers
March 20, 2018
Jory Roscarrock is working in Porthkennacks museum when he meets Mal, an underground train driver in Cornwall to try and come to terms with the effects of having a 'one under'. There is a fairly I stant attraction but the Roacarrocks aren't popular with Mal, whose best friend Dev (who is Joe's nephew) and his relations at The Ships Bell pub don't appreciate the way they treated Dev.

There are misunderstandings, mix ups and the need for the characters to get over themselves a bit at times before the pair get a happy ending and approval from Dev.

Both Jory and Mal are bi and Joey has an 'on name only' marriage and son.

I liked this it's typical of this author with a very typically British feel to it.
Profile Image for Didi.
1,535 reviews85 followers
February 26, 2018
3.5 Stars

A Londoner and tube driver with PTSD bumped into a shy hulking Cornishman in J.L. Merrow’s One Under. We first glimpsed both in her earlier installment to the Porthkennack universe, Wake Up Call. I didn’t particularly like the Roscarrock then, I am ...intrigued, I gues, by them here (I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both siblings end up with their own book as clearly they had stories to tell).

One Under delved into the Roscarrock family story in dual POVs. Jory, the Roscarrock in the spotlight, is an affable bloke. Despite the misgivings he had, like submitted to family’s demand in his youth that practically altered his life or the slightly weird naiveté he still harbored at such an age, I really root for his happiness.

I’m not sure about Mal. I liked him in Wake Up Call, but he really tried my patience with his hot and cold attitude toward Jory here. It really looked like Mal was toying with Jory’s affection on excuse he wasn’t sure of Jory’s feeling. I guess I should’ve acquitted Mal due to the PTSD and stuff, and initially I did. Repeating it again and again finally bored me. In fact, I agree with his sentiment that he drew an unflattering picture of a bisexual man. It’s a slippery slope that further lower my opinion of him. Although a certain secondary character didn’t help matter with her behavior. At least other supporting characters more than made up my irritation over this particular person with their antics and joviality.

My grumbling aside, One Under delivered a genuine and believable tale despite the circumstances between the two MCs. With a bunch of issues Mal and Jory had, I like that the story didn’t try to take a shortcut and try to solve them all in one. The agree to disagree and loving the family as they were - quirks and all - an acquiescence that had me empathize with them (well, Jory mostly). The way everything turned for them, I just loved how Mal and Jory made the best of the situation. And, as I mentioned earlier, I’m really keen for a follow up story starring Jory’s siblings and hope I wouldn’t have to wait long for it.

Advanced copy of this book is kindly given by the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 13 books655 followers
July 5, 2018
One Under
By J.L. Merrow
Riptide Publishing, 2018
Four stars

I’ve enjoyed the various authors who have embraced the fictional seaside town of Porthkennack in Cornwall, created as a shared dramatic stage by writer Alex Beecroft. I have a special fondness for JL Merrow’s work, and her use of Porthkennack as a sort of near-magical place where young men go to seek peace and end up finding each other.

“One Under” is in fact a sort-of sequel to a previous book by Merrow set in Porthkennack, and it once again presents two lonely young men separated by class in a very British way. Mallory Thomas is a south London tube train driver who’s suffered a serious trauma at work. He’s fled to Porthkennack to pull himself together because his best friend’s foster-sister works there. That’s the link to the first book. A blue-collar boy and happy to be so, Mal is poking around the local naval history museum and meets the tall, blond, bearded Jory Rosscarrock, youngest scion (if one can have that) of the gentry family who own the manor that looms over the town. Jory is a nerd and a scholar (and a gentleman, needless to say, because this is the UK). But Mal doesn’t know who Jory is, other than adorable, and the feeling is mutual. Jory, for his part, has no idea that Mal’s best mate Dev is the illegitimate by-blow of his much older sister (and this was the plot-driver of the first book).

Merrow works under the prescribed rules and regulations of M/M romance. She does this very well indeed, creating complex, heart-tugging characters who are easy for this gay man to love. She uses the wild, historical, and geologically quirky Cornish coast as a secondary character throughout (much in the way Philippa Braithwaite uses Cornwall’s Port Isaac for her TV series Doc Martin; and Harper Fox uses the equally imaginary town of Dark in her Tyack and Frayne novels). Merrow has a gift for language and dialogue, expressing her characters’ personalities in full dimensions through their use of words. The whole class division theme is still more resonant in the UK than in the USA, where blue-blood Bostonians sound like everybody else and you can never tell a person’s family from their accent).

I liked this book a lot…it represents the best of M/M fiction. It delivers people you love and a story you want to read. I confess I was a little troubled by the casual use of the term “curator,” but that’s only because I’ve been one for 37 years and find that few people actually know how complex a curator’s job is. I guess that’s where my own writing will have to take me. Meanwhile, Porthkennack is a happy vacation spot for me, and I will happily keep visiting as long as young gay men keep dropping by.

Profile Image for Ekollon.
475 reviews44 followers
November 20, 2018
All the books in the Porthkennack series take place in Porthkennack, but this is the first book that is connected to another book in a way that you really need to have read another book (specifically Wake Up Call) to get a reasonable experience. This is because One Under is a direct sequel to Wake Up Call, although nothing in the blurb says that, unfortunately.

I very much enjoyed One Under, although not quite as much as Wake Up Call (and to be honest I'm not really expecting a book in this series to hit that bar). As with Wake Up Call, I liked how he realistic struggles that the characters were going through were portrayed (specifically Mal). It was very moving and touching, and to be honest although I get the whole issue with Devan, it was less important to me than some of the other stuff in the book (eep!).

Apparently this book and Wake Up Call are all tied together with book 11, so if you're looking for more of the same characters, it seems it will continue on in book 11. I'm wondering how I'll handle the characters there (I know who one of the MCs is, and I won't spoil it in case you don't want to know yet), and I'm wondering how that will work out.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,457 reviews30 followers
March 15, 2018
3.5 stars - I was given a copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads.

This is another angst filled addition to the Porthkennack series. A chance meeting between aristocratic Jory and Mal, a visitor from London leads to a complicated relationship and even messier relationships between the Roscarrock family and Mal’s friends in Porthkennack.

This is the ninth book in the series, but readers really only need to have read the first book by the same author to understand this one. It’s a more coherent story than the first book, but it is just as tangled and gritty. For me, this is missing both the magical sense of place and the complex character development I’ve loved in other stories in this series. I liked both Jory and Mal. I felt sorry for both of them at times - but I didn’t fall madly in love with either of them.

Once again, we get a whole lot of local legend and lore - including more historical smuggling and the history of the Roscarrock family - and I enjoyed the way this builds on various stories in the series. This isn’t my favourite of the Porthkennack books but It was an entertaining read.
Profile Image for JD Crittendon.
1,119 reviews11 followers
April 23, 2021
Changing Dreams Midstream!
On leave due to a work-related accident, Mal meets the hot Jory while visiting the local naval museum and an unexpected relationship begins. This tale has likable characters, an interesting enough premise, complicated relationships, family issues, and a few sexy bits. It also has that South London dialect to get used to. And let’s not forget the ever-present miscommunications and confusion of emotions to screw up every romance. A good read, 3.5⭐️⭐️⭐️ (this the second part to Wake Up Call, book 1 in the Porthkennack series)
Profile Image for Tracy~Bayou Book Junkie.
1,490 reviews44 followers
March 28, 2018
3 Stars

I’ve read and really enjoyed some of the stories in the Porthkennack series, but this one just wasn’t for me, in fact, I had to force myself to keep reading at times. The progression of Jory and Mal’s relationship was too slow, then it was too rushed.

I liked both Jory and Mal, but they also frustrated me to no end. Jory was just existing before Mal came along and although he had a good job and could afford to live on his own, when he came back to town, he moved back into the family home with his brother and sister, who he wasn’t close with and who didn’t approve of him. Throughout most of the story he was spineless when it came to them, and I couldn’t quite figure out why it mattered to him what they thought.

Mal was sweet, but so wishy washy when it came to Jory. I just wanted to shake him and tell him to open his eyes and look at what was right in front of his face. But my heart absolutely broke for him and the tragedy he’d suffered.

I liked the premise of the story, but there was an ongoing storyline with Dev and Kyle, the main characters from this author’s previous story in the series, and I think that while the book can be read as a standalone, I kind of felt like I was missing something by not having read their story, which I own and will eventually rectify.

Mal and Jory had good chemistry, but the progression of their relationship was off. It was extremely slow burn at first, then as soon as they decided to get their heads out of their butts, the relationship got way too serious, way too fast. The author needed to develop their relationship more and the book was definitely long enough that this shouldn’t have been an issue.

While the book wasn’t my favorite, I will say the second half was much better than the first. The first half was, well, frankly, it was boring. *sorry* The second half picked up steam, was much more interesting and flowed a bit better.

All in all, while I didn’t care for book, I’ll give this author’s work another chance.

*copy provided by author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Jess.
974 reviews59 followers
March 20, 2018
Thank you to the author and Love Bytes for the opportunity to review this book.

This review was first posted to Love Bytes: LGBTQ Book Reviews. It has been slightly edited here for content.

It’s been a universe of pleasant surprises so far, and this book is no exception.

I was excited to read about characters we haven’t seen since way back in the first book, Wake Up Call. Dev and his family and friends have always made an impression on me and I was happy to revisit them. This is a shared universe series rather than a continuous series, so reading all books isn’t necessary to enjoy this one, but to get the full experience of this book, I’d definitely read Wake Up Call first (and maybe Joanna Chambers’ A Gathering Storm for some Roscarrock family backstory). However, I’ve enjoyed every Porthkennack book so far, so I’d give them all a go!

This entire book just feels cozy and familiar. Mal and Jory’s romance builds organically with friendship turning to attraction turning back to friendship before it blossoms into something real. Both men have huge issues going on in their lives (Mal’s past trauma at his job, Jory’s son and ex-partner) that romance seems impossible for them until they just stop denying their attraction and go for it. Mal and Jory are pretty much the definition of slow burning, mutual pining, so if you’re into that, you’ll adore them.

Though I haven’t read too many J.L. Merrow books yet, I love her distinct voice and writing style she lends to every character. All of the voices in this story (Mal, Jory, Tasha, Bran, Bea, Jago, Kirsty) are perfect for each character, giving them such good personalities even when they get a small amount of time on the page. Mal and Jory’s class differences come up once in a while, but they make way for their own brands of teasing and flirting more than cause tension between them. They are very different characters who work so well together. I especially like Mal and how honest and shameless he is, even when dealing with emotions and trauma beyond his control.

I do wish we got a bit more of Dev. He’s pretty much the crux of the story—the one element keeping Mal and Jory apart—that I wanted more emphasis on him, his return to Porthkennack, and his tenuous relationship with the Roscarrocks. There was a lot of build-up to it that never paid off. I also wish we got more of a glimpse into Jory’s relationship with his son Gawen, especially since parentage is such a huge part of the Roscarrock family lore.

Also, the F/F fan in me desperately wants a Ceri/Tasha story, and it seems there might be a slight building towards that in this story. Fingers crossed!

On a less optimistic note: Sadly, due to the current unrest over at Riptide, I'm not sure what the fate of this universe will be. I know from Alex Beecroft's Twitter that the Porthkennack universe technically belongs to Riptide, so I'm not sure about author rights or if they will be able to write in the universe outside of Riptide. I sincerely hope this isn't my last Porthkennack review.
Profile Image for ItsAboutTheBook.
1,447 reviews31 followers
July 14, 2018
Review can be read at It's About The Book

4.5 stars

Book nine in the wonderful Porthkennack series is actually directly related to book one in the series, being penned by the same author. While the two books share a connection, they can definitely be read and enjoyed as standalones. This story features Mal, the best friend of Dev from book one, who has come to the Cornwall village of Porthkennack in the hope of recovering from a work incident that has left him traumatized.

Tube driver and Londoner Mal is feeling a bit lost and unsure of his future as he takes up a room at the pub where Dev’s sister, Tasha, has found a home. Once he meets Jory Roscarrock at the town’s museum, things begin to look up. Jory and Mal immediately have a genuine connection that goes deeper than the physical. Watching them meet and then slowly get to know one another was a delight to experience, and a welcome change for me, as a reader, that the two were interested in more than sex from each other. In fact, at the beginning of their friendship, neither was sure of the other’s sexuality. Mal was having his issues dealing with the trauma that had occurred in London. Jory was dealing with moving back to his hometown of Porthkennack, and facing judgement from his older siblilngs. Both were dealing with the reality of exactly why Jory’s lineage was going to make things bumpy in regards to pursuing any kind of relationship. These realities made the tentativeness, slow burn, and even the misunderstandings between these two feel brutally real.

The story did stall for me a bit at about the two thirds mark when I wondered if anything would be resolved. Such as Mal dealing more head on with his post-traumatic issues, perhaps Jory taking charge of his family issues. I had become invested in both Mal and Jory, felt their attraction blooming to love, but got a bit frustrated with some of the self-imposed obstacles that got in their way to each other and to their individual healing. Ah yes, but life is generally messy isn’t it, there are always obstacles, and people don’t always behave rationally. I suppose wanting to smack a character and simultaneously hug them are signs of being fully immersed in a story!

JL Merrow is a marvelous storyteller. She doesn’t require lots of action to engage the reader; rather, she hits them in the gut and the heart. Her use of witty dialogue and British vernacular absolutely bring her characters to three-dimensional reality. I’ve read several books in this series by all of the authors involved, and I feel as if I’ve actually visited the village and am friends with her variety of quirky, lovable inhabitants. It’s a vivid world made even more so by JL Merrow’s voice.

The story of Jory and Mal, while having some dark undertones, is a wonderful romance and a great tale of overcoming some of the darker sides of life. All with the help of good friends by one’s side. I’m not sure how many more books are planned in this series, but I’d love to see how Jory’s family situation ends up playing out down the road.

Profile Image for Stevie Carroll.
Author 4 books25 followers
April 20, 2018
Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

Riptide has had some problems of late, and I really hope that the management changes put in place as a response enable the press to keep going and to carry on turning out a diverse range of books and series by authors I already enjoy, as well as those I am yet to investigate. The Porthkennack series is currently a firm favourite of mine and one of the only ones for which I will consistently pre-order new additions. This latest contemporary novel revisits two characters from JL Merrow’s previous book in the series and brings them from the background cast to centre stage – while also updating us on her previous heroes and introducing us to more of the town’s landmarks and history.

Jory Roscarrock is very much a part of Porthkennack’s past as well as its present. A member of one of the most historic and influential families in the area, he is currently working for the town’s museum after giving up his lecturing post to be closer to his son. Considerably younger than his brother and sister, Jory feels a great deal of pressure to ensure that the family line continues; hence his hasty and youthful marriage after a one-night stand resulted in pregnancy. That one indiscretion aside, Jory is only interested in his own sex and is intrigued by a new visitor to the museum, not realising that the man is best friends with a nephew Jory has hitherto known nothing about.

Mal Thomas was a driver on the London Underground, until a suicide on the line – the ‘one under’ of the book’s title – led to him being signed off with PTSD. Staying with another displaced Londoner at one of the local pubs, Mal is keen to explore Cornwall’s history and myths, especially those involving King Arthur; hence his visit to the museum. Jory is more than happy to educate Mal, and the two soon become close. However, an encounter with Jory’s estranged wife leads both of them to question where the relationship is heading.

As always, I delighted in this visit to Porthkennack and was pleased to learn more about a wide range of the locals – not just those central to the story – as well as being cheered that Devan from Wake Up Call might finally have at least one blood relative worth knowing. I really hope we learn more about Porthkennack’s women in future books: both the historical Mary Roscarrock and the contemporary Tasha and Ceri.

My one niggle with this book was the couple of times when the central characters compounded one mistake – made in the heat of the moment – with several others at points when they might have had more time for refection. Still another worthy addition to the series, though. Long many these stories continue to delight me.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,546 reviews44 followers
February 19, 2018
I have come to accept the fact that J.L. Merrow uses a lot of Big Misunderstandings to keep her MCs apart. It’s not my favorite trope, but at least she uses it more sparingly in One Under than in her first Porthkennack book, Wake Up Call, and it makes for a much more enjoyable M/M romance.

Faithful Porthkennack readers will recognize Jory and Mal, who both made brief appearances in Wake Up Call. Jory is a smart, sweet, giant of a man who doesn’t fit in with his rich, snooty siblings. Mal is cheeky, irrepressible, loyal – and traumatized by a work-related tragedy. Both aren’t sure that their stay in Porthkennack will be permanent, and although they’re attracted to each other they are reluctant to admit it for numerous reasons. So there’s a lot of stopping and starting, along with those dreaded Big Misunderstandings. This can get frustrating, but the upside is that the two spend a lot of time together as friends (who can’t admit they want more) so you can really feel them getting to know each other as they secretly fall in love.

Merrow is so very British and so very funny. Here’s a description when Jory and Mal visit an older woman who helps them after a car incident: “At Helen’s direction, they sat down on a surprisingly modern sofa. This was probably just as well, as what Jory at first took to be a fluffy, if slightly tatty black cushion on one of the armchairs turned out, on closer inspection, to be a cat. At any rate, that was his best guess, given that he could see it breathing.” Gotta love that dry British sense of humor!

Many of the book’s lighter moments come from the interplay among the characters. Tasha (foster sister to Dev from Wake Up Call) is now staying in Porthkennack, and she and Mal have a great time ragging on each other with equal parts exasperation and affection. (Also, those who have been complaining that this series lacks queer diversity, there’s the possibility of a romance between Tasha and another Porthkennack local, Ceri, if Merrow or someone else wants to follow up on it). The laconic pub owner Jago, gets in a few good wisecracks himself, but the star of the show is definitely Mal (not short for Malcolm, thank you), who despite having extremely bad judgement at certain points is so charming and lively that once he and Jory finally get together, all is forgiven.

I’m a big fan of Merrow when she’s on her game, and One Under is one of her better recent efforts.

ARC received from Net Galley in exchange for honest review.
Profile Image for ReviewerLarissa.
672 reviews32 followers
March 1, 2018
Review for Bookwinked

One Under is already the ninth book in the Porthkennack-series and the second by the author in the series. The book is loosely connected to the author’s first book in the series, but can be read as a standalone. The story follows Dev’s best friend Mal who’s come to Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. In that regard, this book has a morbid title.

Mal is moping a bit, because he doesn’t know what to do with himself. That is, until he meets Jory at a local museum. Their first meeting is both cute and awkward. Cute and awkward pretty much describes Mal and Jory for a lot of the book. Their story and the romance between these men – who are very different from each other – is a slow burn. They move slowly together, both for different reasons, but there is an undeniable attraction between the two that is hard to ignore. I very much liked how their story was written. The fact that Mal is recovering from a traumatic experience and is lacking a bit in self-confidence, was subtle but there. Jory is moving his life around and moving back to Porthkennack full time. He’s trying to find his place again in the town and with his family.

I thought the story was well written. It’s a bit slow at times, but that fits in with the slow burn romance. The story is instilled with the usual JL Merrow-traits: ordinary characters that are not as ordinary as you may think. the dialect and slang and the utter Britishness of it all.

The setting of the story is perfect. With every story you read, you know a little more about the town and its history and the characters in it. Even after reading this installment, I feel there is a lot more to Porthkennack.

My only real complain about One Under is the lack of action in the story. The focus is mostly on Jory and Mal getting together, but because that moved slowly, I felt the story moved a little slow. Reading it, I felt like there should have been more elements to infuse the story with a little action. The trauma Mal suffered fitis moved to the background and even though there is conflict with Jory and his family, there is no real resolve. This is fine, because not every conflict can be solved, but there could have been a little bit more of it in the story.

Overall, I liked One Under a lot. The characters, the setting and the romance. I’m curious to see if there will be more stories by this author in the Porthkennack-verse.
Profile Image for Nic.
868 reviews19 followers
February 8, 2018
ARC reviewed for Netgalley
One Under (Porthkennack #9) by J.L. Merrow

The Drama Llama chewed this story up and spat it back out. I tried, I really tried very hard to like this story, but I felt no connection to or interest in the characters at all. In fact, I really thought Mal was a bit of a shit and could not fathom what Jory saw in him.

Perhaps I am being unfair because I have never read a Porthkennack book, and seeing as how this one was #9 in the series, maybe I should have, but I was under the impression that each book was a stand-alone that simply took place in the same world/setting as the others. I’m still not sure if I was right or wrong about that, but early on Mal spouts out so many names without giving a reference or explaining anything about the character that belonged to said name, and I found myself completely at a loss as to who they were, what their significance was, and why I should care about them.

It took far too long to find out what the drama/trauma was that made each character so messed up, and when I did eventually find out, I didn’t find either event to be worthy of such melodramatic disaster. Both Mal and Jory needed to be reminded that they were grown men, not a couple of immature teenage boys. Jory is 32 years old for crying out loud and still lets his brother run his life. He skulks around his home, trying to hide his climbing gear, his occasional drink, and his preference for men. I wanted to scream at him: Put your big boy panties on, grow the hell up, move out of your family home, date whoever the hell you want, and go back to your real job.

And then there was Mal. Uck, I did not care for him at all. I understand that he is traumatized by the terrible event at work, but he’s moping around a pub, leading Jory on and then tossing him aside whenever it’s inconvenient, and basically being a total prat. He makes a mountain out of the Dev/Jory mole hill when what he really needed was to pull his head out of his ass and go to counseling.

Okay, so in the end, they did grow on me ever so slightly because they finally got their acts together, but at that point it was just too late. My apologies to J.L. Merrow, whose work I usually love (The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, anybody?), but I just found One Under to be a real struggle to invest in.
Profile Image for Henna.
557 reviews32 followers
March 5, 2018
Being back to this charming fictional Cornish seaside town was just what I needed, and One Under certainly didn't disappoint me. This time the Porthkennack town sweeps up Mal, who's London underground worker and recovering from a traumatic event and who we met in the first book ever set in Porthkennack, and Jory, who left the academia and university in Edinburgh to move back to his hometown to help his son to deal with school bullies. I liked Mal a lot in Wake Up Call, and I did complain back then that he wasn't introduced early enough. I'm ready to take back my words, because now Mal got his own story, and we got more Dev and Kyle from the previous story!

However, Jory became my favourite character because he was so sincere. Jory's not perfect in no means, but he means well, doesn't judge and he's just so genuine. Especially compared to his siblings, Bran and Bea, who live up to the name Roscarrock and the reputation the family has of not being the nicest people around. Jory is the black sheep of the family in that sense, and I loved to see how he learnt to stand up for himself and do what he wanted and not what his brother expected him to do. It was great that there was so much of Jory and Mal's story; family ties, finding themselves, recovery, and yes, that sweet romance they had going on. I rooted for Jory and Mal to get their happy ending, because they both deserved it.

JL Merrow is the master of authentic regional accents - whether it's south London or Cornish, it's done so well that the whole story feels better because of it. It fits the characters and really makes the stories shine more (and you can't possible forget it's set in England!) Merrow's writing feels always so authentic that I just love it.

One Under has addicting plot and characters, and I couldn't help but to devour the story. The story is charming and authentic. I do recommend checking the series out and while the books are standalone, I do recommend reading Wake Up Call before One Under - just so you can get the everything out of the story and meet Dev, Kyle and Mal before the events of One Under. And because both stories are good!

(A copy of this ebook was provided in return for an honest review.)
Profile Image for Emilie.
807 reviews12 followers
April 7, 2018
4 1/2 stars is what I feel like, mostly due to Mal's waffling about his interactions with Jory, how he ran hot and cold. Jory was a fairly nice person, though not perceptive in interactions with other people. We got his viewpoint, though, so readers could see he meant well. His siblings were terrible people. Though Jory was blond and fair-complexioned, he kind of reminded me of the dark elf in role-playing games who grew up with no concept about how dark elves were supposed to be evil. It was completely lost on him.

Mal thought that he himself was "too sensitive" in regards to a traumatic incident he'd been involved with. He didn't want to be honest with Dev about his own interactions with the Roscarrock family. That was annoying to me.

It took me a couple of weeks to read this mostly because I started it, then went back to reread Wake-Up Call and then picked back up with this one. Ms. Merrow set up a whole lot about the fictional town and its families in that first book that I appreciated more after reading some of the later books and then rereading the first.

Dev's sister Tasha was far too wrapped up in Mal's life in keeping track of his actions and telling him what to do. I could understand why Mal wanted a little privacy from the way she was totally in his space, physically and telling him how he should think and feel. Maybe she wasn't that bad. It just seemed that her interactions with him were intrusive in a number of ways.

Dev seemed relatively laid-back in this book, compared to the way he was in the first book about wanting to meet his biological mother and then meeting her. Dev was pretty laid-back about dealing with Kyle's physical disorder, though, despite the way manifestations of it startled him sometimes.

I was waiting for Mal to get his act together for a long time. I had told another author that the rhetorical questions at the end of romance novel blurbs were annoying to me. In this case, it would have been, "Can Mal get his act together?" She said that that was a feature of the genre. (I'm paraphrasing.)

There were hints that an upcoming historical book in the series will have a transgender character. I'm looking forward to that.
Profile Image for Shirley .
1,912 reviews56 followers
April 5, 2018
I really like the stand alone books in the Porthkennack series, but I like the ones that have a strand of connection. In the case of One Under, it could certainly be read as a stand alone, but I loved the fact that it trailed back to where the series began with Wake Up Call, also written by J.L. Merrow.

Jory was kind of a black sheep of his family, but in a good way. He wasn’t perfect and didn’t see himself that way. His family expected a certain level of behavior to fit their status, but Jory never quite fit, despite his brother and sister’s best efforts to control not just him, but pretty much every aspect of his life. Because of Jory’s family, Mal was torn. He felt a real connection to Jory, but he fought it because of his loyalty to one of his best friends, Dev. Mal has some issues of his own that he’s trying to face and spending time with Jory really helps.

I loved spending time in Porthkennack with these two, along with previous characters. Watching them grow and help each other heal in a way that neither one of them expected was an added bonus. One Under was an excellent addition to this series.

I received One Under in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Stella ╰☆╮╰☆╮.
747 reviews30 followers
June 29, 2018
3.75 stars

As always, JL Merrow stories are a pleasure to read. With time I learnt to love his writing style and although once in a while I have to google some of her “oh so British” words, I approach every new release with high enthusiasm. One Under was no exception, I found the novel perfectly written, amazing second characters, the romance part felt pretty realistic to me. I particularly liked how well delined were Jory and Mal, I was able to know them and their minds very well. They (and all the cast) were positive persons, it was clear from their actions and their thoughts.

That said, I gave this story a lower rating than the first book the author wrote in the Porthkennack series , Wake Up Call, and her books in general. I have to say I am having trouble trying to understand why. The only explanations I can give is, while on an objective POV (mine) I can list you everything that works here in the novel, through all the reading I felt a sort of detachment from it and couldn’t truly feel and not just see the emotions. I know they were there into the plot, I read the characters feel that emotions. It was me the one who didn’t feel them. And to adore a book I need to be involved and engaged. I missed this.

Still, I can’t not recommend One Under and all JL Merrow titles.
420 reviews62 followers
January 27, 2018
I'm such a huge fan of this author's writing. It's quirky and funny and just so very British. One Under is a prime example for that. It's written alternatively from Mal and Jory's POV which gives you great insight into both character's feelings and back story.
I was a big fan of Mal in particular. He could be quite frustrating but he had reason to be because he's just getting over a traumatic event that turned his life upside down. I loved how Jory dealt with everything Mal dished out which quite frankly was a lot. Still, their dynamic was amazing.
The only reason this wasn't a full 5 stars for me is one particular mishap that happened quite late in the book. And that mishap was quite the whopper and I felt it should have been talked through more thoroughly/clearly.

But even without that I loved One Under and I really hope the author will write more books for this series.
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