The Mating of MichaelRating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

Michael Lamont is a caring, compassionate guy who has dedicated his life to helping others.  He works as a nurse taking care of people at their homes, a job that he loves.  Michael also works as a sex surrogate, another job he loves, though it is one that is hard for others to understand, especially potential romantic partners.  Michael finds it incredibly fulfilling to help people who are desperate for touch and an emotional and sexual connection with others, but who are unable to find it due to physical or psychological road blocks.

Despite his warm and sweet nature, and his many patients that adore him, Michael is lonely himself.  He spends a lot of time alone when he is not working, reading science fiction.  When Michael hears that his favorite author and long time crush is doing a book signing nearby, Michael is thrilled for the chance to meet the man.

James Gallway hit the height of his writing career at age 18 with a hugely successful book, and since then things have been on kind of a downhill slide. He has never found that same inspiration or creativity since then, and at this point his publisher is ready to drop him if he doesn’t start selling better.  James’ agent convinces him that he absolutely must get himself out there in the community to generate some buzz, especially since he is potentially up for a big writing prize this year.  James is terrified of meeting his fans, however.  He was paralyzed as a young boy from polio and uses a wheelchair, something he keeps very private. The idea of having to face readers and expose himself to people is almost impossible for him, but he knows he must take that step.

When Michael sees James he is even more awestruck than he thought. The wheelchair doesn’t phase Michael a bit and all he can think is how much he wants to get to know James. But James sees the beautiful young man and can’t even imagine what Michael would want with someone like him.  He resists Michael’s advances, but Michael is determined to get past James’ defenses.  Slowly the men end up building a friendship, and as James gains some confidence in himself, he opens himself up to a relationship with Michael.  It is everything both men have dreamed about and both are thrilled with the connection they have found together.  Michael still hasn’t told James about his job as a surrogate, however, and now that the men have finally found love together, they must hope that the truth doesn’t derail what they have built.

Ooh, I really liked this one!  It caught my attention when Easton stopped by the blog for a guest post and the book hit lots of my hot buttons.  I am always interested in stories with heroes who have disabilities so I was immediately drawn in by James. Add in Michael as a hot, young sex surrogate and I was totally hooked. And I am so pleased to say that this story totally lived up to my expectations.

First off, Michael is just a fabulous character.  He is the most warm, caring, empathic guy you can imagine. It is not just that he can look below the surface to see the person inside, whether it be physical scarring or emotional fragility.  It is that he so truly cares deeply about others and will do anything to help someone else be happy.  We see it in the way he interacts with Marnie, his elderly nursing patient, and we see it in the gentle and compassionate way he works with his surrogacy clients. He is just so good that you can’t help but want good things for him too, so I was rooting for Michael from the very beginning to find his happiness with James.

James, on the other hand, is kind of a prickly guy.  His defenses are up so high he can barely see around them anymore.  His whole life, James has been made to feel unwanted.  Being in a wheelchair doesn’t help things, and he is fearful of letting anyone in lest he get hurt.  He one semi-relationship turned out to be a guy more interested in dating an author than being with James, and he has no real experience with dating.  So James takes a while to even believe someone like Michael could want him. It is kind of sweet the way he looks at Michael as this perfect ray of sunshine, something he wants so badly but doesn’t believe he can have.  It is very rewarding to see these guys together, especially as they are both so lonely, and are both so happy when they find one another.

Easton takes an interesting approach with this book and has multiple story threads happening at once. The main focus is on James and Michael’s developing relationship and we follow along with that from the beginning.  We also see Michael working privately with two of his surrogacy clients, one who he has been working with for a while and one who is new.  We get to see exactly what Michael does and how he helps these men in coordination with their therapist.  We also see Michael with his patient Marnie who is a total riot. She is full of vigor and wants to know all about his sex life and brings a little spark and comic relief to the story.  Along with all of this happening in real time, we also get flashbacks to James’ past, including how he contracts polio and what happens to him afterwards.

I think this could have been muddled or complicated, but Easton really pulls all these threads together wonderfully.  I was totally captivated by all the story lines and they work seamlessly so I never felt we were being pulled out of one story to get to another.  Everything integrated very smoothly and flowed perfectly together.  I think part of the reason this worked so well for me is that I found it all so fascinating.  James has quite an unusual history, as few Americans get polio any more, and learning about the disease and how he contracted it was really interesting.  And I found Michael’s job as a sex surrogate just incredibly fascinating. I loved following along with his two clients as we see the techniques he uses to help them. One is a young man who is burn victim and is severely scarred. People are scared to even touch him and he has no real intimacy in his life.  Michael helps him using both friendship and erotic touch to give him a real connection with someone, even if it is only professionally.  The other client is a man who grew up with a fanatical mother who taught him sex was a sin.  Now that she is gone he is desperate to find love, but even talking to an attractive man has him terrified.  Michael helps him slowly get used to physical interaction with someone to help him gain the confidence to find love and companionship.  So I really found this subplot so interesting and loved learning about Michael’s job and clients.

The Mating of Michael is actually the third book in Easton’s Sex in Seattle series, but I jumped into this one without having read the others. I had absolutely no problem following along, and trust me, I virtually NEVER read a book out of order in a series.  The books are only very loosely connected, with the hero of one book being a therapist at the clinic where Michael works and the hero of the other seeming to have been a patient. Although I believe Michael may appear in one or both of the other stories, I had no trouble reading this independently.

So ok you guys, go and read this one. Michael is such a lovable hero you can’t help but root for him. This story is warm and sweet, with great characters who have really fascinating backstories. I was totally drawn into this story and enjoyed it so much.

Cover Review: Oooh, I love this cover. The guy in front is so EXACTLY Michael. That so rarely happens that you see a cover model who captures a character so perfectly. Plus it is beautifully designed and overall quite lovely.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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