Gerry B's Book Reviews

Strings Attached by Nick Nolan

A sterling effort from a first-time novelist!

 

 

 

Publisher’s blurb: Closeted teenager Jeremy is sent to live with wealthy relatives after his mother enters rehab. Struggling to fit into the posh world of Balena Beach, Jeremy joins the high school swim team, dates a popular girl, and begins to think he may have landed in paradise—until his aunt Katherine starts to dictate his every move … and a late-night phone call insinuates that his father’s accidental death was not so accidental after all.

As Jeremy grows accustomed to the veneer of a fabulous life, so grows his need for answers—as well as the danger of immeasurable harm. Weaving together a murder mystery, sexual ambiguity, and characters with hidden identities and agendas, Nick Nolan offers readers a deliciously witty page-turner about the “puppet” who wishes only to be real boy. Strings Attached is also a surprisingly heartfelt story about coming-out-age and coming out—not necessarily in that order.

 

About the author: Nick Nolan was born and raised in Los Angeles, the city he has haunted for over two decades. Working nights and weekends selling furniture to put himself through college, Nolan went on to direct a group home for homeless and abused GLBT youth. During his scant spare time, he began writing. Inspired by the works of writers like Armistead Maupin, Paul Russell, and Paul Monette, he penned his debut novel, Strings Attached, the first in a planned trilogy. Shortly after its release, Strings Attached was named the 2006 Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine, hit #1 in Gay Fiction on Amazon.com, and spent nearly a year in that genre’s Top 10. Two years later Nolan’s second thriller Double Bound won Book of the Year awards for Gay/Lesbian Fiction by both ForeWord Magazine and ReaderViews Nick Nolan was born and raised in Los Angeles, the city he has haunted for over two decades. Working nights and weekends selling furniture to put himself through college, Nolan went on to direct a group home for homeless and abused GLBT youth. During his scant spare time, he began writing. Inspired by the works of writers like Armistead Maupin, Paul Russell, and Paul Monette, he penned his debut novel, Strings Attached, the first in a planned trilogy. Shortly after its release, Strings Attached was named the 2006 Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine, hit #1 in Gay Fiction on Amazon.com, and spent nearly a year in that genre’s Top 10. Two years later Nolan’s second thriller Double Bound won Book of the Year awards for Gay/Lesbian Fiction by both ForeWord Magazine and ReaderViews.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In Strings Attached [AmazonEncore, 2010] Nick Nolan weaves a complex tale from the prologue on. Seventeen-year-old Jeremy Tyler moves from a cramped and grubby hovel in Fresno, California, to the opulent—with a capital “O”—setting of Balena Beach. Although he descends from a wealthy family, he has never known wealth, himself; however, he is blessed with exceptional good looks and an innate talent for swimming.

Suddenly immersed in privilege, including a “Mr. Belvedere”-type butler to smooth the way, Jeremy quickly adapts to his new social strata; and even develops a fondness for it. However—and this is where the “strings” come in—nothing is without a cost. As a result, he soon discovers this truism when his demanding aunt Katherine begins to dictate nearly every aspect of his life, from his ‘respectable’ shoes to a preppy hairstyle. Feeling like a puppet, therefore, he accepts this as the price to fit in, and even takes it one step further by dating one of most popular girls in the high school; this, in order to counter his growing attraction to boys—especially hunky Coby Carson. Coincidentally, he also forms a friendship with a very ‘out’ homosexual by the name of Carlo.

Another element is added at this point when he receives an unexpected telephone call from his institutionalized mother, who intimates that the death of his father may not have been an accident.

Up to this point we have learned very little about his so-called “uncle,” Bill Mortson; who, as we discover, is as shadowy as he has remained thus far. With his ‘fleshing-out’ a new and somewhat sinister twist is introduced, and becomes a sub-plot while Jeremy sorts out his sexual identity. There are other shadowy elements as well. One of these involves the twin stars Castor and Pollux, and a star known as the “Father Star;” with an obvious connection to Jeremy’s situation.

Everything is resolved in the end, which contains some unexpected surprises as the complete story is finally revealed.

Strings Attached is an admirable start for a first-time novelist—as Nick Nolan was at the time. The writing style—that is the journalism—is top-notch, the pace is brisk, and it reads effortlessly. The characters are all interesting, well-developed for the most part, and remain relatively consistent throughout. Moreover, the highest compliment I can give it is that it has made me curious to read his second novel, i.e. Double Bound.

Having said that, however, I had some trouble connecting with all the characters at the start—including Jeremy, and it wasn’t until Chapter twenty-one that the younger ones really came together as real. In fact, the weekend episode at the mountain retreat was my favourite read of any of the chapters. The action and interaction between the four characters, while complex, was both human and entirely believable.

Overall, it is one of the better coming-out stories I have read, and it is highly recommended for anyone facing that situation; young or old. It is also recommended as a darned good read.

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See a complete list of titles and authors reviewed.

See a preview of Coming of Age on the Trail

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May 23, 2010 - Posted by | Gay fiction

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