Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The last thing Joel Morgan wants is to fall in love again. Scarred by his failed marriage, Joel’s determined to keep his life emotionally stable—which means taking a job teaching fourth grade, fixing up his house on weekends, and avoiding absolutely all romantic entanglements. And he’s doing great.
Until he meets sweet but struggling single dad, Ollie Snow.
Following the tragic death of his sister and her husband two years earlier, Ollie became the legal guardian of their two young sons—much to the horror of the boys’ conservative grandparents. They think Ollie’s too young and too gay to raise their grandsons. So to prove them wrong, Ollie’s determined to parent the boys without anyone’s help.
Until he meets reserved but caring teacher, Joel Morgan.
As the only two men in the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, Joel and Ollie are thrown together over a series of fundraising events and somewhere between the Beach Fun Run and the Christmas Market they fall in love. But Ollie has another reason for moving to New Milton—a reason he’s keeping close to his chest—and Joel’s wounded heart won’t trust a man with secrets. Dare they hope for a future together, or will their past hurts keep them apart forever?
I love this series and was so excited for a new installment. Here we get Joel, a sixth grade teacher at Milton Elementary, who has gone through a nasty divorce after nine years of marriage with a cheating wife. He was devastated and although it’s been four years he has vowed to never put himself in that situation again. So when he meets Ollie – younger than Joel, adoptive father to his dead sister’s children, who is struggling to hold everything together on his own, he figures regardless of attraction, this is strictly friend-zone.
The two of them are thrown together through the PTA Committee, where they plan and help out with different school activities, while at the same time getting to know each other. Joel is very hot and cold. He is attracted to Ollie, he likes Ollie but he isn’t going to budge one inch about being with anyone. Even after he starts to be with Ollie, he is constantly denying it, hurting Ollie in the process. But he does like Ollie and he is kind. When Ollie’s car is involved in an “incident”, Joel loans him his. “And I hope, one day, I’ll be able to do the same for someone else. Because when you’re struggling and someone is kind and generous, it feels like a f**king miracle…” You can just see Ollie start to fall.
Joel has been hurt so badly by his ex-wife that it skews his view on relationships. He sees a therapist, Amy, throughout the book to keep himself on an even keel though he doesn’t always follow her advice. He jumps to conclusions about Ollie and that doesn’t bode well. There are PTA moms all over and especially Ashley, end up being good friends. Ollie hates to ask for help with the boys but Joel and the PTA teach him asking for help is okay. The boys play an integral part in the book and they are realistic children. Ollie is a realistic parent, faults and all.
I absolutely loved Ollie. He works so hard, is so good with the kids and is open and helpful. He went through a lot to get custody of the kids, having to fight for them vs their grandparents in court. Yes, he has a secret but it wasn’t something dastardly and I could completely understand why he wouldn’t say anything. “It wasn’t my secret to tell!” Ollie has never given Joel any reason to doubt him, but of course Joel does. “A different kind of pain now, not the fear of being left but the fear of deserving to be left.” Why yes, Joel, you did deserve that.
Ollie’s speech at the PTA, “Thinks haven’t really worked out for me here like I’d hoped…” made me want to hug him. It wasn’t just Joel throwing out accusations but something else that he had been hoping for that didn’t work either. It also makes Joel finally take a good long look at himself. “He’d gone into the relationship assuming it would fail, trying to protect himself against the inevitability of Ollie’s betrayal.” He has to sit back and actually consider Amy’s words. “How about we look at it from Ollie’s point of view for a moment? He’s dating a guy who wants to keep the relationship secret because deep down he believes it’s doomed to fail and when it fails he doesn’t want anyone to know it ever happened.”
Added bonus – we get to see Leo and Alphie from Love Around the Corner (my favorite couple!) as well as Josh and Finn from Perfect Day. I admit to laughing when Ollie brings his car to Alphie’s Autos because, you know, no second apostrophe!
This is a decent addition to the New Milton series. It wasn’t my favorite, mainly due to Joel, but I definitely liked it and by the end I was pulling for both of them.