Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What a great book! It’s a story of second chances, with just a little bit of enemies-to-lovers thrown in. And of course who doesn’t appreciate the hero who overcomes a difficulty to become a success?
In high school Jimmy Zebulon was a band geek, overweight, asthmatic, socially awkward, and unwillingly out as gay, which made him a target for the football jocks. His first crush was Danny, who was also on the football team, but was much kinder. During one unfortunate game, Jimmy was humiliated by the other jocks in front of Danny, and in the process lost a love letter he’d written (but never intended to show) to Danny, and it was just too much – he ended up leaving the school, moving to a different city, and even took his stepfather’s name. Jimmy Zebulon disappeared, and J. Graham Swann was born. He grew 8 inches, started competing in marathons, became a successful lawyer, and essentially was completely unrecognizable to anyone who would have known him before. Outwardly he was the epitome of a self-made man and owner of a prominent labor law firm, but there was a large part of him that inwardly was still that awkward and insecure teenager.
Daniel Parker was in the closet until an injury ended his college football career. He married a wonderful man, they adopted a little girl, and were living their dream in NYC. When his husband tragically died and Daniel became a single father, his life and goals changed. He moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to pursue an equally rewarding, but less stressful job with one of the rising stars in the world of labor law, Graham Swann.
Their first meeting is during a triathlon when Dan gives up a chance to place to help out another runner. Graham had been admiring his ass, but then had to admire his kindness as well. They didn’t recognize each other from high school, didn’t even exchange names, but their instant chemistry led to what was going to be an incredibly hot encounter, when mid-blow job, Dan took a call and abruptly left. Graham was pissed, but blew it off and went back to his regular life. On Monday, he was shocked to find that Dan was the new lawyer hired by his partner, and his aborted one night stand was also his high school crush. All of his past insecurities came rushing back, and Graham’s goals immediately became keeping their shared past secret, and avoiding interacting with Dan as much as possible.
The characters really made this book. These are both men I would want to be friends with. They are driven, and successful, but still managed to be warm and caring, and had their priorities right where they should be. Dan put his daughter first, and Graham took care of his employees. Although Graham’s fear of being recognized made him exceptionally cold and aloof to Dan at first, Dan and his daughter Lacey eventually broke through the stony facade, and both men found much to admire in the other. Graham’s insecurity caused him to give off a lot of mixed signals, leading to clumsy starts and stops in their developing friendship, but Dan remained infinitely patient. The kindness that Graham had noticed 15 years ago was still there, and still just as attractive, and ultimately what brought and kept them together. Although Dan may have been the catalyst, when Graham confronted his fears, and his past, he finally started to truly believe that he was worthy of Dan’s love, and the final transformation from ugly duckling to swan was complete. The secondary characters were interesting and supportive, and though Lacey is a little too precocious – like most of the kids that bring the MCs together in romances – it wasn’t enough to turn me off. I found this book to have more depth than the others I’ve read in the Dreamspun Desires series, and I would definitely recommend it!
Oh, and remember the love letter? It worked 🙂
Cover art by Aaron Anderson is the standard for Dreamspun Desires, but I did think the model was a good match for Graham.
Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
ebook, 224 pages
Expected publication: February 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English