Rating: 3.75 stars
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When Jefferson Fontaine returns to the States after months working overseas to find his boyfriend screwing the dog walker, Jeff is done. The letter from a lawyer requesting a meeting in his hometown and the mysterious wicker basket of chocolate rabbits that remind him of home draw him to the very place he’s avoided for the past year and a half—Crooked Creek, Colorado. Memories of the disease that killed his father and the only man that Jeff has ever loved haunt him, yet he returns home in hopes of closing that chapter of his life before moving on to the next leg of his architectural journey in Chile.
Things have changed for the better in Crooked Creek, but it still holds heavy reminders that he doesn’t want to deal with. Until he has no choice. When Jeff comes face to face with Ash, his long lost love, at the lawyer’s office, he’s stunned. But nothing compares to the reason they are both there.
Jeff and Ash, along with Raleigh Rabbit III, had been the best of friends, and Raleigh had supported his friends’ relationship. But after Raleigh died and his family moved out of the Rabbit Mansion, only Jeff and Ash were left, and no one knew about their relationship. A fight about their future together tore them apart, and Jeff has regretted ever since.
Together again but not happily, Jeff and Ash discover that when old man Dalton Rabbit died, he left Rabbit Mansion to both of them in hopes that they will work together to bring the old place back to its former glory. Neither man is particularly thrilled to work together, but they are willing to follow the guidelines in hopes that a part of their past will shine again.
Being together again ignites the sparks between Jeff and Ash once again, but they still have different goals. Jeff is successful and wants the career that waits for him in Chicago, and Ash loves his life and is following his dreams in Crooked Creek, but the games old man Rabbit has laid out for them have both men reevaluating their futures, professionally and personally.
So, let me start off by saying that I think this might be the beginning to a series, but I’m not sure. That being said, I’m reviewing this book as a standalone because I can’t find any indication that there will be another book.
I liked this book a lot. And before you start in on me about my rating, let me tell you about it. Like I said, I liked the story. I liked Jeff and Ash. And I like the romance. But there are so many unanswered questions at the end of the story that I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I’ll get to that in a bit. Let me tell you about the high points of this book.
I liked that these characters have a history and that their history is fraught with discourse and misunderstanding. It makes their relationship and the trials they face so much better. I enjoyed the tension that the author creates as a result of the extensive past Ash and Jeff share. And then there’s Jeff’s personal battle with himself and the history of his family’s health. That adds a whole new level to this story. Not only is the conflict between Ash and Jeff so very delicious, but the conflict between Jeff and himself, his fears, his past mistakes is so very good.
I really liked Jeff and Ash. They’re both great guys who are immensely stubborn. Jeff’s struggle to accept himself and what he wants is pretty much the entire point of this story. The challenges that Mr. Rabbit planned for both men makes way for Jeff’s self-discovery. It also makes way for these men to find one another again, which was obviously inevitable, but it is the conduit and works out so well for these guys. Ash… well I adore Ash. This book is written in Jeff’s POV, and I want so badly to know what was going on in Ash’s mind. Gray does a wonderful job of creating his character through Jeff’s eyes, but after falling in love with him right along with Jeff, I wanted to know Ash’s thoughts as well.
Yes, this story is very sweet and I liked it a lot, but there are SO many plot lines left open. What happens to the chocolate factory? What about the house? What about Jeff’s job? How about the other challenges? So, whereas I really liked this story, I was disappointed in the lack of conclusion.
Overall, the romance was very good, but the rest of the story lacked finality. I’m hoping that maybe somewhere down the road there will be another book to complete this one, but who knows. This story is six of one, half a dozen of the other for me. But I liked it. If you can handle not having every plot tied up in a neat little bow, then I would recommend this story. It’s a sweet friends-to-lovers story as well as a story of self-acceptance.