Book Review & Guest Post – Taking Stock by A.L. Lester

A big welcome to A.L. Lester as they celebrate the release of Taking Stock.


I’m already a huge fan of this author’s Lost in Time series, and although this doesn’t have a paranormal element, I loved the references and flashbacks to characters I already knew and loved.

Laurie and Phil are both wonderful characters, and felt very real. I loved how they were both attracted to each other, yet cautious about entering into a relationship for different reasons. Their interaction is very sweet, and I liked how they grew a friendship and took things slow, and how Phil let Laurie take the lead, especially considering he couldn’t in so many things. I thought Laurie’s frustration as he’s struggling with what used to be simple tasks came across well.

I loved the strong theme of found family. Not only Phil and Laurie’s finding of each other, but also their wider community. Sally is wonderful, as are the men working at the farm, and I liked how Laurie opened his home to Cat as well. The flashbacks with Laurie, Matty, and Rob are wonderful, and I enjoyed the glimpses of their life together, although it was also bittersweet. I loved Phil’s Aunt Mary too. She’s a total character.

Friendship is also a big part of this story. I liked Laurie’s friendship with Sally, and how she’s there for him, and ditto Phil’s friends Adrian and Perry. I’d like to see more of Paul too, who had a very small walk on part, yet left my interest piqued.

On the flip side, Richard is a total nasty character. I thought the author wrote him very well. I hated him from start to finish, and hope his deeds catch up with him in spades.

I loved this sweet story, and read it in one sitting as I didn’t want to put it down until I was sure that Laurie and Phil had got their happy ending. 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you so much for having me today to tell you a little bit about Taking Stock!

It’s 1972.

Fifteen years ago, teenage Laurie Henshaw came to live at Webber’s Farm with his elderly uncle and settled in to the farming life. Now, age thirty-two, he has a stroke in the middle of working on the farm. As he recovers, he has to come to terms with the fact that some of his new limitations are permanent and he’s never going to be as active as he used to be. Will he be able to accept the helping hands his friends extend to him?

With twenty successful years in the City behind him, Phil McManus is hiding in the country after his boyfriend set him up to take the fall for an insider trading deal at his London stockbroking firm. There’s not enough evidence to prosecute anyone, but not enough to clear him either. He can’t bear the idea of continuing his old stagnating life in the city, or going back to his job now everyone knows he’s gay.

Thrown together in a small country village, can Phil and Laurie forge a new life that suits the two of them and the makeshift family that gathers round them? Or are they too tied up in their own shortcomings to recognise what they have?

Taking Stock is a 40,000 word gay romance set mostly in rural England. It’s set on Webber’s Farm, which I first wrote about in Inheritance of Shadows. Inheritance is set in 1919 and is part of my spooky paranormal universe. I based the farm on somewhere I used to know as a child on the Quantock Hills in Somerset and didn’t want to leave after Inheritance. Taking Stock is the result. Although it’s set in the same universe as my other books and some of the same background characters are there, there’s nothing paranormal or suspenseful.

Instead it’s a gentle story about two people who are hurt and angry and tired, who find their way toward each other and help each other heal.

Initially Laurie was going to have a similar chronic condition to me…I have fibromyalgia and seizures…but then just before I actually sat down to get the words out of my head and on to the page, my Mama had a very severe stroke. She is in her eighties and has been more or less working her seven acre smallholding singlehandedly for years. Her frustration and anger at her situation translated directly into Laurie as I was writing. So he’s a combination of both my own feelings about my lack of agency through my disability, and hers.

It was a very emotive story for me to write and I hope you enjoy it.
• Tags: MM, gay, romance, historical, ownvoices, disability, farming, 1970s.
• Length: 40,000 words
• Publisher: JMS Books LLC
• Release Date: Sept 19th 2020

You can buy/preorder Taking Stock here.

About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat and some hens. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

You can stalk me on all sorts of different internet platforms here.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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