My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’ve loved each one of these books from Annabeth, but I think this one was my favourite because, not only were the protagonists older (approaching their late 30s), but because they communicated so well.
On the face of it, it sounds like it would be a default second chance romance, with recriminations to be overcome and long-felt guilt and hurt to deal with, right?
But it’s so much more than that.
It’s a clever exploration of how sometimes the person you were in love with at 16 is the right person, but the timing just wasn’t and no-one is ultimately to blame for why you didn’t stay together.
It’s clear from the moment Luis is told he’s being sent back to Oregon – because of his specialist experience in investigating forest fires and arson attacks – that he’s dreading returning to the place where he and Tucker fell in love.
A California boy, his family’s brief eight-year stay in Painter’s Ridge before they moved back to the warmer climes, holds only painful memories for him now, but he’s also dealing with a personal loss at home too.
When he bumps into Tucker on his first day at work, he’s thrown for a loop. He’d expected his teenage love would be married and working his family’s ranch, not running the teams dealing with forest fires, but you can see instantly the sparks are still there.
What I loved that there was no big blow out here when Tucker and Luis met again. They didn’t sulk and mooch about passing sly comments or fighting some angry sex demons – (not that that would have been a problem either because they were both fine #justsaying).
Instead, there’s a totally mature conversation about long distances, about one time mistakes having life-long consequences (and twin boys 😉 ) and about how the longer time goes on without speaking, the harder it gets to pick up a phone or write a letter.
There’s still big issues to deal with though. The path to happiness isn’t a straightforward one. There’s extended families, the twins are about to graduate and they’ve got big decisions to make too. And Luis’ placement is only temporary.
You get this feeling of overwhelming melancholy alongside the joys with this book and I think Annabeth has picked the narrative perfectly. On the face of it, there is no easy answer.
Both men have commitments in the places they live but they also know they’re it for each other and if it doesn’t work out again, the future looks sad and lonely. As the tale unfolds, both Luis and Tucker have hard decisions to make and they never try to avoid facing up to the obstacles in their path.
Tucker is demisexual, but his connection to Luis is clear from the start. I felt this was handled in a thoroughly believable way. His feelings for Luis just came back to the front as soon as they saw each other again, his willingness to explore his sexual needs were honestly earned.
There’s a real sense of gentleness with this romance, even with all the hurdles the two men have to fight through and, for me, the ending was a true compromise which gave me such a feeling of happiness.
This is a romance with grown-up people making grown-up decisions and it’s honest and compelling throughout. I loved it.
#ARC kindly received from the publishers Carina Press via NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.