Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Chicago-based ATF agent Peter Lomax’s past relationships never seemed to work out. Ex boyfriends had issues with his possessiveness as well as his job. Then Peter meets Carver Fleming at a friends party and everything changes. Artist and gallery owner, Carver doesn’t mind that Peter is possessive. It is a quality that Carver understands quite well as he feels the same. Nor is he bothered by the fact that law enforcement is far from his artistic world. From the beginning Peter and Carver recognize that they are perfect for each other and soon settle in to a committed relationship.
But six months into the relationship, Carver gets a call from home that changes everything. Carver’s mother has had a stroke and he is needed home to help his father cope with his mother’s changed condition. Unbeknownst to Peter, Carver agrees to return home, knowing such a move would not be temporary but permanent. From Chicago to Colt, Carver’s small hometown in Kentucky is a drastic change and he realizes that not telling Peter about his plans will cause major problems between them.
Carver doesn’t want to lose Peter. He knows that Peter’s friends and career are based in Chicago and that Peter won’t want to leave a city he loves. So Carver plans for the two of them to visit his parents at Christmas, hoping the visit and his surprise plans will get Peter to agree to come with Carver when he moves to Colt permanently. Carver is hoping that the charm of his hometown and his loving family will win Peter over. Can love triumph over the hurt Peter feels at being left out of Carver’s plans? And can a man with no family attachments of his own find one to love in Carver’s? At Christmas, anything is possible as Peter and Carver are about to find out.
A trademark of all of Mary Calmes’ stories is that she always populates them with genuinely likable people. Her characters are guaranteed to endear themselves to the reader almost immediately from the moment they appear on the page, and our affections for them only deepen as the story progresses. It is one of the elements that make Mary Calmes a must read author for me and so many others. Where You Lead is another such short story from this prolific author.
While Calmes does not provide too much back history on Peter and Carver, both men still manage to resonate with the readers. Peter had not had a satisfactory long term relationship and neither has Carver, although for different reasons. They come complete with relationship issues anyone would recognize. And when Peter and Carver meet, the connection between them snaps into place with lusty enthusiasm that continues throughout the story.
The story begins in Chicago at an art gallery opening to benefit the fallen agents fund. Peter is there with his ATF partner Elliot and his wife. The dialogue between Peter and Elliot feels appropriately affectionate and boyishly juvenile, just what you would expect of old friends. With just a few sentences, Calmes delivers a working partnership that feels real and honest. I wish we could have seen a little more of Peter’s life with the ATF and Elliot. As his profession is such a large part of who Peter is as a person, additional background or scenes of his work would have fleshed this part of the character out for me.
As the location switches to Carver’s home in Colt and the situation with his mother, the plot develops further to include not just romantic love but that of family as well. This for me is where the story really came to life. I loved Carver’s parents. His mother is such a strong character, especially as she deals with not only a stroke but the onset of dementia, possibly from Alzheimer’s. It’s such a loving and painful portrait of a woman who realizes she is losing herself and the effects on those she loves. Carver’s father is another fully realized persona and the dynamics of the father-son relationship feel authentic and grounded in reality of two such opposite personalities.
Where You Lead is only 68 pages long, and you will want the story to continue once the end is reached. I felt as though a evening with friends had ended before I was ready for it to be over. I would have loved for a little more exposition, maybe a epilogue to furnish a little more resolution to a heartwarming story. It was never in doubt as to what Peter would do. So the only real angst here is the family as it faces the reality of his mother’s heartrending future. That they will do it with love and each other’s support is a gift that they will give each other, another certainty that Calmes shares with her readers.
This story was released at Christmas but can be read at any time of the year. Its message of love and family reaches beyond any holiday celebration. I love this author and definitely recommend this story for all lovers of contemporary romance.
Cover art by Reese Dante. This cover is exquisite. One of the best of the year.
ebook, 68 pages
Published December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 24th 2013)
ISBN 1627984763 (ISBN13: 9781627984768)