Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Mattie Green works in a diner. Every day, he becomes more and more infatuated with the older single dad that sits at his table to work. He’d never approach him, though. Mattie’s a good guy, but his troubling family life helped him to slip through the cracks of the educational system, and now he’s an illiterate sandwich maker who has a dream of attending art school but can currently only get by while selling his services as a rent boy on the side.
Simon Castle is a moderately successful writer. He works on his next big novel each day at the diner where he can get a cup of coffee and a bit of peace and quiet, while still having the benefit of a gorgeous sandwich boy to ogle. He can barely bring himself to admit that he finds the young man attractive, since he’s the single father to a five-year-old autistic boy who became his responsibility when his sister died during childbirth. His world was upended that day, and his long-time partner left him when things got too hard to handle. Now Simon is only concerned with Jamie’s happiness — but that sandwich boy is difficult to ignore.
I’ll admit that the reason I was attracted to this book was because there was a rent boy involved. I’m a bit of a lover of taboo subjects — I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a BDSM, polyamorous relationship between a rent boy and a couple of brothers. But the reason that I ended up loving this book — and by loving this book, I mean LOVING this book — is for the complete opposite reason. Sure, there was a bit of a rent boy aspect (though much more minor than you would think), but I love this book because it is beautifully written and real and lovely and one of the best love stories I’ve read.
As a mom of an autistic child, I connected to that aspect of the book. Gilbert uses such a loving hand when crafting the relationship between Simon and Jamie. It gives us real insight into the day-to-day, challenging, unpredictable life of an autistic child, but it is matched by the amount of unconditional devotion between the pair. Sometimes it was difficult to take. Why couldn’t Simon recognize how wonderful Mattie was from the beginning and not make him work so damn hard for his love? He just couldn’t. He had to give everything of himself to Jamie, and finding happiness with a younger adonis of a boy seemed frivolous and selfish, no matter how kind and mature Mattie seemed to be.
There are a lot of things to love about this book. I love the format of the story (an introduction and an epilogue that ties your stomach in knots), the realness of the characters and the relationships (Tyler is an absolute gem of a best friend), and the understated yet beautifully erotic sex scenes. Perhaps the crowning achievement of this book, however, is the confrontation scene between Simon and his estranged mother. It is so beautifully written, full of resentment and hurt feelings and eventually a forward step toward atonement. It made me, a jaded, hard to impress, not apt to enjoy overemotional displays of angst kind of gal, sob like a little baby.
If you’re able to handle the fact that this book contains a kid, and that the main character can act like a bit of a jackass sometimes, making you want to smack his face for hurting sweet Mattie, whom you’ve fallen hopelessly for, then I have no doubt that you will enjoy this book. If you don’t like well-crafted, touching, romantic as all get-out stories, you should first, stop being so cold and heartless, and then second, read it anyway. It could do you some good. There was a reason that this book was one of my favorites of 2012, and I hope you take the time to discover it as well.