Rating: 3 stars
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College professor Vincent Norton is feeling every bit of his forty-five years of age. Three years ago, his partner of 20 years died in a car accident. Estranged from his family, now just his dad, Vince has used all his energy and time at his job teaching college kids. Even his apartment of three years still looks empty of personality or his past. Vince’s life is on hold until he meets one of his neighbors, one of a group of four college students from the apartment next door. Vince finds the young man attractive and that is something he hasn’t felt for three years.
Rob Bridges is 21 and getting ready to graduate at a nearby college. He has been secretly crushing on the older man in the apartment across from his. That man is tall, gorgeous, with just a little silver starting to show at the temple and Rob wants to date him. But he doesn’t even know anything about him other than he is a professor at Washington University, let alone whether he is gay. What is a man to do?
An accident in the hallway brings the two men together and a date soon follows. And while Rob is sure Vince is the one he wants, Vince is having second and even third thoughts. The age gap between them is huge and surely Rob will tire of an older man, won’t he? Opposition to their dating mounts from all sides. Will Rob succeed in making Vince believe in their love or will Vince’s own doubts and outside influences push him away permanently?
In Fool For Love, Cassandra Gold has written a very sweet love story. Her May-December romance between Vince and Rob has many lovely qualities, including two believable characters who talk and act their age. Vince is every bit the still grieving, stuck in stasis, middle-aged professor. He cares about his students and mourns the loss of the man he thought he would spend the rest of his life with. In an authentic touch, Gold has his apartment reflect this inability to move forward. It’s not decorated, bare walls and barren of spirit, it states that it is more of a staging area than a home. And I absolutely believed in Vince and his current situation. Her characterization is of a man who finally realizes he might be ready to move on but how and with whom?
Then into the picture comes Rob, another likable character. He is intelligent, compassionate, and kind. He is also quite handsome. And Rob likes older men and has been secretly crushing on Vince next door. All well and good. Rob has three roommates who are also his friends. I liked their easy acceptance of his sexuality as well as the layers to their characterizations. If one acts like a jerk, he is also capable of an apology that makes sense. Again, I like the secondary characters involved in Vince and Rob’s story. They are all quite human, funny, and flawed. And their presence goes a long way in making this story more viable and lovely to read.
Another moving element is the scenes with Vince’s dad. I think Gold handled this aspect of taking care of older parents realistically and quite movingly. And unfortunately, I think it helped highlight what might be the one obstacle that will keep readers from connecting to this book and Vince and Rob’s relationship. And that would be the huge gap in their ages.
We aren’t talking 5, 10, or even 15 years here. No, the gap is that of 25 years and for many people that will be an insurmountable obstacle. And I think I count myself among them. Cassandra Gold did such a good job with her characters that Rob feels way too young for Vince. And yes Vince is far too old for a young man of 21. As the author has Vince point out, they are at two very different stages in their lives and that gets brushed over a little too quickly. When Rob breaks down in tears because Vince had to cancel out on an important date, while we might have had some empathy for him, it also highlights just how young Gold had made him emotionally. Vince gets mistaken for Rob’s father while out on dates (again I can see that). And as Vince cares for his dying father and thinks about himself and Rob in the same position, I found myself agreeing with him that it was entirely plausible. It’s not something you want to bring up in a love affair but 25 years is 25 years and Vince is turning 47 as the book ends.
And finally, because yes, my mind goes there, there are the physical differences in physiology between a 21-year-old man and a 46-year-old* man. At 21 years old, the sexual drive can match up with the body’s ability. Unfortunately, not so with middle-age. And that wasn’t touched on at all. Perhaps because it’s not a very sexy thing to think about. Athough I have read some books where the authors treated this aspect realistically and still made the relationship sexy. Certainly though it is a fact of life that’s not exactly dealt with here. But that’s what I kept thinking about. So yes, I just couldn’t make myself believe in this romantic relationship. To be honest, I don’t think I would by it as a M/F romance either. The age difference is just too great.
There are a couple of odd phrasing heres and some confusion about ages, all minor issues in an otherwise sweet narrative. So again, how you feel about the age gap between these two realistically portrayed men will define how you feel towards Fool For Love. It has many lovely elements, but in the end I just couldn’t connect to the love affair. You make up your own mind.
Cover art by Valerie Tibbs is far preferable to the first publication. At least it shows two men of difference ages. But the blue tone makes it all a little hard to see.
*It states that Vince is 45 at the beginning of the book, then quickly 46, and at the epilogue, which occurs one year later, Vince is turning 47.