Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Fear, Hope, and Bread Pudding reunites us with Jon and Cole from Sexton’s fabulous Coda series. It would not be overstating to say that this is one of my all time favorite series, one that I firmly believe every m/m romance lover should read. It is a series I thought was over, so I was thrilled to hear that Sexton planned one last book featuring Jon and Cole and their quest to adopt a child.
We have known Cole wanted to be a father since he dropped that bombshell at the end of Strawberries for Dessert. But here Cole shares that desire with Jon for the first time and we follow along as the men deal with the challenging experience of adoption. It is not just the difficulty of the process, though the laws do not favor either adoptive parents or gay couples. It is also the mix of hope and fear, of optimism and terror, that is the real struggle. The story opens with the following quote:
“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.”
And that totally captures this experience for Jon and Cole. This is something both men, but especially Cole, want so badly. They try to stay positive and optimistic, they plan and prepare, but at the same time there is that desperate fear that it will never happen. That no one will choose them, that at the last minute something will fall apart. Sexton captures this blend of emotion so well in the story, we can really feel for them as the months pass and they struggle to keep the faith that things will work out. For Cole, a baby is something he wants desperately, something he needs deep inside him. And though Jon truly wants a child as well, for him the hardest part is watching Cole struggle. It is so hard for him to see his normally confident husband battle all the doubts and insecurities.
Thrown into this mix of fear and hope is the third element from the title. To me that bread pudding represents forgiveness, the idea that everyone makes mistakes, and it is both the apology and its acceptance that really determine how things will turn out. We see this primarily play out with Cole’s mother, Grace, who takes her first steps back into Cole’s life with the encouragement of Jon’s father George. Cole and Grace have had no relationship for years. She has let him down time and again and now they pretty much avoid each other. But with a baby on the horizon, George encourages the two to finally talk to one another and try to work things out. And this reconciliation really highlights the struggles between parent and child, the importance of acknowledging your mistakes, and the equally important ability to forgive.
So as I said, this book is the last in the fabulous Coda series, one which I truly adore. And Cole is one of my all-time favorite characters. So I did have a little bit of the titular hope and fear as I picked this up. The excitement of revisiting a beloved series and characters combined with the concern that maybe it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. But I am thrilled to tell you that I just loved this one. It was wonderful to revisit the Jon and Cole we know and love, to see how much they have grown, but also how familiar they are. I still love watching them interact, the way that Jon sees Cole in a way no one else can (and that no one else is ever allowed). And even as we watch them deal with the anxiety and the stress of the adoption process, the love and the deep connection between these two men is still apparent.
I was a little iffy on the short interlude that takes us away from Jon’s POV and focuses on George and Grace. There is a point where they are left alone together and get to know one another and I didn’t love being taken out of Jon and Cole’s story to focus so much on Grace. But I do see why this segment is important to the story. Alone with just George, Grace is able to open up about her relationship with Cole, where things went wrong, and we finally begin to understand her in a way we haven’t before (and in a way Cole certainly hasn’t been able to). To be honest, at first I didn’t want to understand her. Throughout the series she has been a symbol of rejection to Cole, someone who has hurt him repeatedly and not someone for whom we have ever felt sympathy. But even though it is still clear that she has a long way to go in terms of making things right with Cole, for the first time we can see the other side of their relationship and why she has struggled so much. And the reconciliation between them, however tentative, is really important as Cole begins his own foray into parenthood.
Ah, so yes, I really loved this one. If you are fan of the series as I am, you won’t be disappointed here. Now I will point out that this is really Cole and Jon’s book; the other Coda guys are mentioned briefly, and Cole continues his correspondence with Jared that starts in Strawberries, but they don’t appear on page. Which I think makes sense, as their stories are really complete, and this is the last thread left unresolved.
So this was a wonderful ending to a fabulous series. It is warm and sweet, watching the guys struggle with their hopes and fears. I loved revisiting them and seeing how far they have come together and how beautiful their relationship continues to be. I will admit to shedding some tears at the end as we finally see them get their full happily ever after. Just wonderful and highly recommended.
P.S. As I mentioned, I think every m/m romance lover should read this entire series. Sexton does such a wonderful job of creating three fabulous and interesting couples. She intertwines their stories in such an engaging way and I have reread them all a million times. (For more gushing, check out my Series Spotlight where I highlight all the books). But, I will say that if you have only read Strawberries for Dessert, you can pick this one up with no problem. As good as it is, this probably won’t do much for you as a total standalone because you really need the backstory from the earlier book to truly appreciate it.