Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Bowerbirds by Ada Maria Soto, sequel to Empty Nests, this book takes up where the first left off with James Maron back to feeling that he’s in over his head by dating wealthy tech company owner Gabriel Juarez. James is also suffering from last minute pangs of anxiety and worry over his son Dylan’s impending high school graduation and departure for college. After all, Dylan has been at his side since James became a parent and primary caretaker at the ripe old age of fourteen.
James takes his parenting responsibility seriously, so seriously that he doesn’t feel he can put himself first in his new relationship with Gabe. He finds it hard to let go of his need to be in control of his own destiny, and when he’s with Gabe, he’s so off-center, he feels that he’s in way over his head. Gabe quickly realizes that he can’t push James too far or too fast, and he certainly can’t try to “buy” his love. Even simple gifts like a new cell phone are not acceptable to James, who has had to live within a strict budget for the last eighteen years and feels resentful at being told what he needs without earning it himself.
I enjoyed the story. It was fairly slow-paced with a great deal of emphasis on Gabe’s job, but Gabe’s job takes up so much of his time, so much emphasis on it is unavoidable. James has a few meltdowns during the story, mostly due to his feelings of inadequacy when faced with a superpower like Gabe. A few times I wanted to reach into the e-reader to give him a slap, to be honest, but I still enjoyed watching each man take hesitant baby steps toward the long-term commitment of love. Gabe’s pride in showing off James at the office party, James’s realization that he’s in love with Gabe, and Gabe’s final attempt to reach out and show James just how much he’s loved, all created that warm and fuzzy feeling I get when an author has captured not only my attention, but my emotions as well.
There was more opportunity to explore secondary characters in this story than in the first, and Dylan came through loud and strong as a young man anyone would be proud to call son. The ladies who formed James’s support group in the building, Gabe’s assistant Tamyra, and both his co-owners and his family members all came through as well-developed characterizations. It was fun to watch the men flounder with previously unheard-of romantic thoughts and to finally conclude that those queasy unsettled feelings were called love.
The only downside is that the author failed to connect the title of the book with the story itself. There was some mention of bowerbirds in the first story, Empty Nests, but I did my own research to look up the birds which are renowned for their unique courtship behavior, where males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly colored objects in an attempt to attract a mate. One species of bowerbirds, catbirds, are monogamous males raising chicks with their partner. I suspect this is where the connection lies since Gabe’s daydreams included one in which he and James awaited the arrival of their grandchildren at their beach house.
All in all, this is a lovely, sweet romantic story with well-developed characters and a fairly simple plot. I do recommend it to those who enjoy a contemporary M/M romance, especially one in which one of the characters has children which feature prominently in the story.
Cover art by Paul Richmond is attractive and colorful and features two cell phones—one in a modern slim design with the latest technology and the other a simple flip phone, obviously outdated. The phones tie into the story and clearly represent the MCs.