Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Book 6 in the Hearts and Health series, and I have to say that I am impressed that the author has managed to create truly new characters for each book! I am enjoying the variety, and though I definitely have some couples and books I prefer more than others (this is one of the ones I liked best) I am now actively looking for more sequels. Ashe, Kansas, is a small community, but it is big enough to hold the gay/bi community that the author has created so far, and hopefully continue to grow. This book acknowledges how that community has started to loosely come together, in a way that does not detract at all from this couple’s narrative.
Ian Connolly is a hospital orderly who was briefly introduced at the very end of Surprise Delivery when he walked in to a janitor’s closet to find Eric blowing Caspar. This book picks up very shortly afterwards with Ian still dwelling on the scene and how erotic it felt, and finally deciding to act on his long suppressed attraction to men. He’s 37, divorced for a few years after a 16 year marriage, and very unsure of when or even how to start dating men, especially when he was not sure he wanted to come out to his conservative family and his teenage son. When a hookup app showed another guy right there in the hospital, he gathered his courage and responded to the message.
Callum Price felt trapped: supporting his disabled and unappreciative mother in a house that was falling down around him, supporting his deadbeat ex-boyfriend who didn’t move out when they broke up because his mother liked having him around, working at a job that he enjoyed but couldn’t advance in because he could never save up the money to finish school. When a hot guy showed up on Thrust (I don’t know if that’s a real hookup app, but I love the name!), Callum thought nothing of giving up his lunch break to meet with the guy in a deserted corner of the hospital. What he didn’t expect, however, was for Ian to keep pursuing him – from repeat hookups, to friends with benefits, and finally to an exclusive relationship. Which would have been great, except that Ian was closeted.
When I first started reading MM romance, it seemed like all of the stories involved closeted men, and coming out was always part of the conflict in the plot. It’s one of the things that drew me to MM in the first place. It’s certainly not as ubiquitous now – which is a good thing because to me it means that being queer is starting to become accepted as completely normal like it should be – but I do still like to see how characters navigate the process. In this case, Ian at least knows that he wants to be out, doesn’t have any internalized homophobia, but is just scared of how it will change his relationship with his family and his son. Callum was a more complicated character – he struggled with his desire to prove to everyone that he didn’t need help, and his tendency to just give in to terrible situations to avoid conflict, and the whole crazy scenario of living with his mother and his ex-boyfriend didn’t seem so unbelievable after all. I really rooted for him, and was thrilled when he started to gain more confidence in himself and take charge of his life. Ian’s family, and especially his son Liam, were wonderful secondary characters that really showed another side of Ian. I also appreciated the fact that Ian was happy to be an orderly – it’s a necessary job, though distinctly unglamorous, and there is nothing wrong with not wanting a college degree and pursuing the typical materialistic “American Dream”.
Cover art by Lucas Soltow is probably my least favorite in the series so far. Nice abs on the model, but nothing else about him was similar to descriptions of Ian, and where is cutie pie Callum?
Sales Link: Amazon