“A son! A child! How? Why? Fuck! Phil! You can’t have! And does this sperm-child want to see you?”
Abandonment, trust, suspicion and compromise—integral parts of a mystery that involves industrial espionage, sperm donation and coming to terms with oneself and the truth.
Sperm donors know that now, under UK law, offspring who reach eighteen have the right to learn a donor’s identity and last known address, but Phil Roberts donated before the law was changed. He is shocked and dismayed to learn that he has a son called Lewis who intends to visit. Phil’s husband, Raith, is furious—and very scared.
What does Lewis Lennon really want? The man he has always called ‘dad’ is dead. Was his death suicide or was he murdered? Lewis wants Phil to find out. So, Phil, Raith, Mike and Ross, the County Durham Quad, plus their special friend, Nick, are embroiled in another investigation, but, as always, their relationships come under scrutiny too.
Phil sat at the big kitchen table. His beard, neatly trimmed as always, failed to hide the lack of colour in his face. He looked shocked. He was holding a letter.
“You alright, Phil?” Mike was puzzled and concerned. “Bad news?”
“Not ‘bad’ exactly. Unexpected. Very.” He sighed. “I’ve an eighteen-year-old son. Sperm donation.”
Raith, Phil’s husband, dropped the glass of juice he was drinking. It rolled off the table and smashed as it hit the floor.
“A son! A child! How? Why? Fuck! Phil! You can’t have! And does this sperm-child want to see you?” Raith snatched the letter from Phil’s hands. “I can’t read this fucking stuff; it’s in joined-up. Why didn’t he type it?”
“He probably felt that this was more personal,” Mike suggested, retrieving the letter from the floor where Raith had slung it in disgust and shaking it free of orange juice.
“It’s fucking personal alright. You always said they couldn’t identify you, Phil. What the fuck’s gone wrong?”
“It looks as though we might find out,” said Ross, the fourth member of the quad. He was reading the letter over Mike’s shoulder. “He intends to visit. I think we need to talk.”
Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil, four men who shared a home in Tunhead, a tiny hamlet in the Durham hills. Tunhead derived its name from Tun Beck, a little stream that flowed into the larger River Wear. Tun Beck lent its name to BOTWAC too—the Beck on the Wear Arts Centre. Ross managed BOTWAC, Raith provided paintings and ceramics and Mike carried out the maintenance. Phil was the only one whose work was separate. He was a surgeon at Warbridge Hospital, an hour’s drive away and, in a sense, his medical background was the cause of the morning’s shock announcement. The four of them talked about the news that evening.
“You knew I’d donated sperm, Raith.” Phil had always made it clear that when he was a medical student, like many others on his course, he had donated both for research and for procreation.
“I know that, but you’d always done it anonymously. You said so, and you never did it after they changed the law.”
Raith was referring to a change that occurred in 2005 regarding data held at UK fertility clinics. At licenced clinics, that is. Prior to the change, offspring conceived by sperm or egg donation could learn some information about their donor when they reached sixteen, but what was released was very general. If donors wished to remain anonymous, they could do so. From 2005, though, anonymity was lifted. Sixteen was still the age of release of the ‘non-identifiable information’, but at eighteen, offspring conceived by donation had the right to be told their donor’s name and date of birth and, also, their donor’s last known address.
“I didn’t donate after two thousand and five. I think I’d know if I did.”
“Sperm can be frozen though, can’t it, Phil? Perhaps it was used after the change was implemented.”
“Only for another year or so, Ross, and under the old anonymity rules. There was a transitional period but, after that, sperm could only be used in exceptional circumstances. To create a sibling, for example. I remember being contacted about it. I had the option of… going public, if you like, but I chose not to do so. I didn’t want…I didn’t want a child, well, not one that I’d feel some responsibility for. I suppose, if I’m honest, I did want to pass on my genes, have that sense of immortality—I knew it was unlikely that I’d ever father a child with a woman. I just wanted to… be helpful, I suppose. I gave a brief self-description at the time, but the details would apply to thousands of people: eyes, hair, height, weight, ethnicity. Even if you narrowed the count with ‘student medic’ and my year of birth, you’d still be talking hundreds. I was careful not to leave traces.”
“How thoughtful of you!”
“That’s not helpful, Raith.”
Ross chastised gently but, tonight, too harshly for Raith.
“Helpful! It’s not help Phil needs—it’s a fucking vasectomy, but he’s eighteen years too late. I’m going up.”
No hugs, no kisses—the little goodnight habits that told the men that they were loved and cared for and cared about. Just “I’m going up” and heavy footsteps on the stairs.
I love poly relationships and Jude Tressell gives us a bit of a complicated one and then throws in a mystery on top of it.
I am new to the “County Durham Quad” series and therefore had no clue that I was missing out on this glorious example of polyamory. Tressell showcases all of the issues that go on within the relationships and how communication is so important. Though it does worry me that Mike is the only one getting any action (wink).
Relationships are tested when a DNA test shows that one of them is a father endangering the balance and concept of family. What ends up bringing them together is death and the mystery surrounding it. Tressell gives readers a solid mystery where every character gets to play their part.
I am not actually sure what I liked best: the mystery or the relationships. It might be Nick’s journey and what is ahead for his character. Or how the balance shifted and grew to include Lewis into their family dynamic.
In the end it doesn’t really matter because Tressell is making me go back to the beginning of this series because their characters have struck a chord in me and I want more.
I received a free copy of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.
Discover the entire series!
Tales that track the exploits of Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil, four men who live and love in County Durham, North-East England. Together with, from Book 3 onward, their friend, Nick Seabrooke, the Quad solve crimes, are accused of crimes and, occasionally, commit crimes. Their actions jeopardise their relationships. Sometimes, the biggest threat they face is staying together. Each tale comes with its own plot, and background is included to aid new readers. Feel free to jump in anywhere.
Available from Amazon
From the Desk of Jude Treswell:
If my books were films…
The books are set in the hills and dales of north-east England, but who would be the actors walking over the wonderful scenery? Choosing is hard. I never visualize the Quad except in the vaguest of ways. That’s one of the reasons why the covers are always silhouettes. I ‘hear’ my four men, but I rarely ‘see’ them. But, also, would someone known to me, perhaps through British television, be familiar to readers from elsewhere? Not sure, so I’ve chosen some actors that I know have appeared in productions that aren’t exclusively UK based. Three actors anyway – to play Mike and Phil and Raith. I’m stuck for an actor for Ross.
Mike Angells: ex- cop, resourceful and tough but emotionally needy and loyal to a fault, and a man with a local accent. I love the range of accents in England and I know that good actors can emulate them, but I’ve chosen a native northerner to play Mike: Sean Bean. Well, the Sean Bean of maybe twenty years ago as he was in the series, Sharpe. Mike’s Bishop Auckland accent would be different from Sean Bean’s Sheffield one, but the two would share some features. Softness, roundedness, some of the vowel sounds… I could listen to Sean Bean talk all day and, writing this now, I’m wondering if, subconsciously, I modelled Mike on Richard Sharpe. Even down to the swearing!
Phil Roberts: surgeon, over-worked, cautious and worried. Welsh parents though he was born and raised in Newcastle (on Tyne – there are several UK Newcastles.) I’ll choose a proper Welshman: Tom Ellis. I know him from the comedy series, Miranda, but he plays a very different sort of character in the series, Lucifer. I think he’d do Phil beautifully. Exactly the right age (early forties) and, as far as I can imagine Phil facially, the right sort of narrow features. I do know that Phil has a neatly trimmed beard – just like Tom Ellis’ on his Wiki page. Tom would have to ditch the smiles, though: Phil is a (mostly) serious guy.
And so to Phil’s husband, Raith Rodrigo Roberts-Balaño aka Raith Balan. Artist, ceramicist, a one-off. Fool or genius? Who knows? He’d need to be played by someone who could run with his extremes. I know who it would be: Eoin Macken. I think that, in the USA, he’s known for the series The Night Shift, but I know him from Merlin. His Sir Gwaine would hit just the right Raith-note. What’s more, Macken is, or was, a model. He’d know how to carry off Raith’s eccentric clothes and appearance. In the new tale, Raith has threaded miniature bells all through his long, dark hair. I’m sure that Eoin Macken in Gwaine-mode would look great as he tinkled his way over the Durham moors to paint the streams and waterfalls. So that’s three of the four, but who would play Ross?
Ross Whitburn-Howe: Mike’s civil partner. (England and Wales: civil partnerships. Not marriages, but with many protections of marriage e.g. regarding wills) Slightly built, curly hair, lively, brisk. Late thirties now, but still cute – very. Nobody cute enough springs to mind. I’m open to ideas.
Thank you for the opportunity to chat – Jude
(Re. the scenery, drone footage with extracts from the stories at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKhPb-WpyW3fUXnqjvTnCqA)
I’m a long-married, asexual, cis-gender female who lives in southeast England. I’m from northern England though, and the north is the setting of all my stories. You can see the setting on my Youtube channel. This isn’t a #ownvoice tale, though there’s certainly some ace-rep in it. Part of the motivation was my dismay at receiving, unasked for, the results of an ancestry test earlier this year. A different situation from Phil in the story, but I felt for him! A TW: parental suicide. Again, it’s something I have experience of. I hope I have dealt with it sensitively.
Title: A Right To Know
Series: County Durham Quad 7
Author: Jude Tresswell
Release Date: 31st July 2021