The First Impressions series by Josephine Myles is a collection of three short stories, which has been rereleased (with new covers) earlier this year. Main characters are surly artist Jez and brightly colored socks wearing businessman Steve. Jez and Steve meet on the train they take every morning to work.
The first story, titled First Impressions, tells how they sit opposite each other every morning and how Jez can’t keep his eyes of Steve’s socks, meanwhile making assumptions about the guy wearing these socks and the boring business suit. They don’t talk much for the first half of the story, but we are entertained with Jez’ thought process and his artistic eye for detail. Then, one morning Jez starts sketching the guy, using his vivid imagination making it a nearly nude picture. When it’s finished, right before he has to get of the train he scribbles his phone number on the paper and hands the sketch to the guy.
It’s a beautiful and funny story about first impressions and how easy we build misconceptions about other people in our head. Fortunately Steve had the weird socks thing going, because otherwise Jez wouldn’t have been so fascinated by him and they would never have ended up as the perfect and sweet couple they turn out to be.
The second story, Fuzzy, takes us five months into Jez and Steve’s relationship. Fuzzy is much shorter than the first installment and is merely a fragment from their lives, a very sweet and lovely episode though. Steve’s been home from work because he broke his leg trying to rescue a kitten from the roof. When Jez gets home early one day and discovers his incapacitated lover hiding something under the sofa cushions, he expects it to be porn, but what Steve's really hiding is something quite unexpected!
This really is a cute snippet from this delightful couple’s life, which lacks no sense of humor and is very well written. I loved how Jez and Steve interact with each other. And I loved getting inside Jez’ head again. The way he’s trying to stay the surly artist so hard just cracks me up:
“I stared at him. I really didn't want to show him just how mushy that made me feel inside.”
And he’s so in love:
“That's the thing about being in love, I guess. Everything you look at reminds you of that person, and you walk around London with a huge soppy grin on your face because you've just spotted a stripy dress in a window display that's the exact same colour as Steve's favourite pair of socks.”
There’s more to enjoy in the third and last story of the series, Last Chance. It’s again a bit longer, like the first story (around 30 pages), and Jez and Steve’s relationship is been explored further. This time the guys are going a bit deeper and more serious when Jez receives a letter from his past, announcing the near death of his father. Jez’ history with his family is dark and he’s estranged from them, so he doesn’t want to go see his father, like his mother asks him to and like Steve suggests he should do. This causes quite some tension between the two men, they both show that they are not perfect by making mistakes in this situation, but in the end their relationship comes out stronger and more mature.
I like that the heroes are getting more and more three-dimensional with every installment of this series. They feel like real people and I’m kind of sad that this was the last of the stories in this series. It would be wonderful to revisit them every now and then to see how they are *hint, hint*, because they feel like friends. I think that’s quite an achievement for the author to have accomplished in such few pages.
So, I can only highly recommend this series, and although you can read the stories separately, it adds to the enjoyment when you read them all and in the meant order. You’ll see that Jez and Steve will grow on you pretty fast, thanks to Myles’ skill to portray her characters so authentically and her keen eye for detail.