Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Sometimes a book just does it for you. I picked up Age, Love, and Understanding with zero expectations. I’d never heard of the author, and the description sounded good, but not extraordinary. And I loved it. It hit all of my buttons: two smart, good-looking men; an age-difference story with a bit of a Daddy kink; and a powerful love that is able to overcome all obstacles.
Aaron Bancroft is reinventing himself. He’s 58 years old, a gay rights attorney turned law professor, and back on the market after breaking up with his lover of 23 years. When his relationship went south, he focused his energy on getting in shape, and he has no problems turning heads when he enters a gay bar one evening.
Rafael Gomez is looking for an older man, and he’s immediately attracted to Aaron. His “papi” needs a bit of persuading, but eventually takes him home for a night he’ll never forget. Rafe wants more than just one night, but Aaron is wary of the age difference (Rafe is 25). Aaron hesitantly invites Rafe to run with him the next day, and he finds they have more things in common than a sexual compatibility. Rafe mentions his brother Julio, who has been battling cancer and an insurance company that refuses to pay his charges. Before Aaron realizes what he’s doing, he’s volunteered to help Julio pro bono, and, at the same time, made Rafe a more permanent fixture in his life.
As the two men grow closer, Aaron has to decide if he’s willing to be in a relationship with someone who’s in the closet and who, because of the strong beliefs of his Latino family, is terrified of being found out. Aaron begins to realize that this thing with Rafe isn’t just a fling, but he’s quite certain he’s not about to go back into the closet at 58 years old. It may be a deal-breaker for Rafe, who can’t imagine being able to be out and open to his family.
The main characters, Aaron and Rafe, are the strongest element in this novel. There was something fascinating and compelling about Aaron, who was in a stable, happy relationship for 23 years and then, one day, is single again. There was nothing monumental that made that relationship implode. They simply grew apart, and the content yet complacent relationship is an interesting contrast to the explosive chemistry and growing love he feels for Rafael.
Rafe, this handsome, confident Latino boy, is an adorable treasure. He is undeterred by Aaron’s initial rejections, and chases and woos him until Aaron can’t remember why he’s been so resistant in the first place. He has a passionate and caring heart, and wants to make a difference in the world. His familiar ties are strong, and the love and commitment he has to his brother is touching. Even when this backfires on him, he still has a protectiveness and loyalty that is admirable. When he turns this passion for life on Aaron, it’s exciting to see the older man open up his heart to new experiences and new feelings, even though he thinks he’s way too old to be so intensely involved with this hot young thing.
And the kink. Oh, the kink. It’s mild, but it’s hot. The age-difference between these two is about as big of a span as possible (33 years!), but the Papi/boy aspect of their relationship is explosive. Rafe has two loving parents and insists he doesn’t have a daddy kink, and in a way, it doesn’t truly come off as such. It’s just a younger man madly attracted to an older man, who can have him wrapped around his finger with a sweet utterance of “Papi.” There’s also a mild BDSM/role-playing scene that isn’t what it seems, and that I found extremely surprising and sexy.
The writing here is top-notch. Because the book is so short, there are no wasted words. Everything about it felt real, including a hesitant older man skeptical about being involved in a relationship with someone so much younger. And the final climactic scene was gut-wrenching in its honest brutality. It was highly emotional, while at the same time lacking in dramatics. It was a sadly realistic depiction of many people’s views on homosexuality and portrayed the devastating effects it can have on the victims of such close-mindedness. It really killed me. But luckily, there was a HEA to make it all better.
I wish this book was longer. I felt it was concise and just short of being the perfect length, but the end felt clipped to me and I would’ve liked just a few pages more of the future of this relationship. I loved the interaction between Rafe and Aaron so much, I wanted to see more of them together, especially once they’d settled all of their issues.
This was one of those books that, after I finished reading, I immediately started searching for other books by the author. Evan Gilbert was a new to me author and I’m so happy I discovered him. I don’t know that this book will change your life, but it’s a little gem that I’m so happy to recommend.