Play it Again Charlie

September 23, 2012

Penny’s Rating: B+

I don’t know if I ever read a novel before where the two main characters had such a hard time communicating with one another. It was like they were different species from different planets, and even though it was infuriating at times, I loved that. Author R. Cooper beautifully wrote two people who are super attracted to each other, but are seriously so different that they often don’t even “get” what the other is saying. In real life, you see this dynamic all over the place, especially in casual relationships, but I have never seen a story where this dynamic was explored so completely, or written so well.

Publisher’s Description: “After an accident left him broken in body and spirit, Charlie Howard retired from the police force to teach at a community college. Life has taught him that he’s unlikely to get what he wants, so he’s stopped asking. Instead, he hides from the world in the apartment complex he manages. After all, no one can leave him if he doesn’t let anyone in.

Will, a sexy, classic-film-loving twink, moves into the apartment across from him and—to Charlie’s surprise—makes it clear that he’d like nothing more than to hole up with Charlie and get kinky. Will has no problem expressing what he wants in bed or out of it, but he’s never dated anyone long-term, and Charlie isn’t sure Will’s ready for anything serious.

Charlie is a serious kind of guy. He wants Will and everything a relationship could mean, even if he doesn’t have any experience in that scene—even if that makes him vulnerable. As they grow closer, Charlie realizes that it’s time to start asking for what he wants, and if he wants to be happy, he’ll have to risk everything and ask Will to stay.

Cooper writes these two so well. I found myself fascinated by the conversations between Charlie and Will. They had so many layers to them. I did feel like at times they each needed a translator though. I realize that may not sound like a good thing to some of you, but I loved that this was not your typical fluffy one-dimensional “easy” romance. That being said, there are probably some people who will find the communication issues between Charlie and Will to be a turnoff, but for me, they worked.

“I only understand you half the time.” “I know, right?” Will answered, deadpan, then he twirled his finger around by his temple in the elementary school gesture for crazy. “I figured that out yesterday. The thing is, well, forget the thing, it’s not important.” 

“Are you talking to yourself?” Charlie couldn’t tell if he’d had too much coffee or not enough. Strangely, Will blinked and looked just as lost in the second before he rolled his eyes at the ceiling. 

“Charlie.” He breathed and then wet his lips. “Charlie,” he tried again, and he moved away from the wall. He didn’t get close this time, only straightening before he stopped. Whatever he said to himself this time was too quiet for Charlie to understand. “I’m normally not the one doing this, and trust me, I am totally confused, except that there’s just something hot in how stern you get, and I’ve seen you so, so gentle, and sometimes you say the best things, but….” Will cleared his throat, then took a deep breath. “What are you doing tonight? Well, this afternoon. Evening-ish, I guess. Today,” he added with one hand out, while Charlie was still processing the first part, which had to be a joke or a misunderstanding. His pulse was thundering either way, a chill in his chest despite all the hot coffee. “What are you doing today?” (Play it Again Charlie, R. Cooper, page 73)

There are also a ton of old movie references throughout the book, some more obscure than others. Will is an old Hollywood movie buff, and frequently references many, many movies including such classics as Casablanca, Sabrina, one of my favorite movies Stage Door, which is an early Katherine Hepburn pic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more. I’m including the following conversation pertaining to Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an example.

Will’s eyes narrowed, then dropped.  “Cat knows a good thing when he sees it,” he declared, considering for a moment, then relaxing. “He’s very fluffy. Does Sergeant Howard brush all that nice fur?” Will put out his hand again before Charlie could admit to brushing Sam, then quickly snatched it back.

Charlie barely heard the hiss.  “What are you doing to him?” He started to bend down to look, but Sam had apparently recovered enough to sneeze at him and stalk a few feet away. He hobbled for the first step, and then his gait was smooth. “You can barely see where his leg was broken,” Charlie added, since they were both watching, and turned around. Will stood up but kept his eyes on the cat. His mouth was crooked, as though he could have laughed. “Not unless he’s had a bad day.” 

“He’s all right.” Will was quiet. “Aren’t you, Cat? Poor cat! Poor slob without a name.” He looked up, his eyes very green. “Hardly a wild thing, though. Do you think he likes me?” 

“He hissed at you,” Charlie pointed out. Then Will’s words clicked. “And his name isn’t “Cat.” It’s Sam. This isn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m hardly going to toss Sam out and run off to another country.”

“You brought it up first,” Will shot back without pausing. “Maybe I could get him to like me.” It was on the tip of Charlie’s tongue to ask why Will would bother, but Will was still talking, quick but thoughtful.  “Wait, what are you talking about? She doesn’t run off to another country. And I thought I was Holly Golightly in this scenario. That’s what you said when you… the other night. This is what comes of too much banter. I get confused.” He scratched his chin, and Charlie decided there wasn’t enough coffee in the world for anyone to keep up with Will. 

“In the book, she runs away,” he explained around the smile fighting to slip out.

“In the book!” Will nodded wisely. “Ah. The movie, Charlie, I’m talking about the movie.” Will said the word “movie” with reverence. Charlie shut his mouth, and Will leaned his head to one side. “You have seen the movie, right?” he asked suspiciously and then put a hand to his heart. “Oh my God, you haven’t!” 

“Call the police,” Charlie offered, waving his hands in a vague impression of excitement, and Will’s mouth fell open. Charlie cleared his throat and kept his expression even when Will slowly cracked a smile. It was a warm smile, almost delighted, and Charlie ducked his head. It hadn’t been that big of a joke, but he felt like his ears were stinging.  He coughed. “Anyway, I can’t stand around discussing movies with you all day. I have to get started outside before it gets too hot.” (Play it Again Charlie, R. Cooper, pages 75 & 76)

How freaking cute is that? Anyway, I found it to be meaty, fulfilling, satisfying, and devastatingly sexy. Not only did I root for Charlie and Will every step of the way, but the chemistry between the these two is knee weakening!

It’s adorable, and heartwarming, and will make your toes tingle. Go read it.

by R. Cooper
ebook: 370 pages
Published April 20th 2012 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1613724535 (ISBN13: 9781613724538)

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