Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Note: This review is written based on the original version of the book, co-authored by Jaime Reese and R.J. Scott and released by Silver Publishing. There is now a revised version released by Jaime Reese alone.
Sometimes a novel comes along that resonates far beyond the written page. It speaks to the places in ourselves where we find fear, defeat, and the simple yet complex desire to be someone others are proud of—to reach beyond our sometimes petty and small existence and make a difference. When that novel also includes a tender and life affirming love story…well, then you really have hit the jackpot and found a real prize.
Welcome to A Better Man by R.J. Scott and Jaime Reese.
The story revolves around two broken men, both seeking to find something better, something beyond the wall of lies and distance they had built around themselves. For Matt, his wealthy former existence had led to 5 years behind bars for a crime that in fact he did not commit, but instead for one he shouldered as a consequence of failing to look after his younger brother Alex.
He is out now and seeking to help change the lives of other ex-convicts by renovating and building a halfway house where men like himself can find a safe haven while they reestablish their lives on the outside. But Matt is not a master carpenter and he needs one desperately. Enter Julian. Julian is a master at hiding his real emotions. Having survived an abusive father and the death of both his mother and brother at a young age, Julian is used to never having anyone stick around long enough for him to lower the wall he keeps wrapped so firmly around his heart.
As Julian moves in to work onsite and refurbish the old abandoned building that Matt also lives in, the two men find a developing attraction for each other that grows beyond both of them. It sweeps them up and carries them along until they come to grips with the fact that they are falling head over heels in love with each other. But the road is paved with half-truths and hidden secrets and when they are revealed they threaten the very fragile love the two have come to profess to one another.
Ahh, where to begin. The characters. Here were two men who, while wounded, both strived to make something better of themselves. No whining, when they both would certainly have the right, no sappy or unbelievable insta-love. No these were real men, fully fleshed out and carrying very real pain and refusing to let it run their lives, instead turning it around by sheer force of will. I loved Julian and Matt so much so that I sincerely hope they get a spot in a sequel. I want to see this relationship grow and change. It has such an incredible beginning, such a strong showing.
The story was multilayered with the men’s relationship growing and evolving even as the old building changed. I really enjoyed watching the love story weave itself around Matt’s conflict with his mother and the secrets he kept from both Julian and his family. The side characters that include a former landlord, the friend and counselor from prison, and Matt’s family are so well drawn, so in depth you feel as though you have known them all your life.
I truly enjoyed this novel. A Better Man was simply a delight to read, at times bitter sweet and at others simply gorgeous in its scope and depth. I cannot say more other than it is a 5-star read worthy of your attention.