Rating: 4.5 stars
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After his husband of three years filed for divorce, Ellis Broad was left to raise his infant son Harrison alone. It is exhausting working and being a single parent, but Ellis adores 7-month-old Harrison and is happy with his life, even if it is not the one he imagined for himself.
Ellis’ friends accuse him of becoming a hermit, but it is hard to get out and socialize with a young baby at home. Ellis has no interest in dating, but when he finally makes it to a night out with friends, he finds himself drawn to Zane Hadlin, a young art student. The two men connect immediately, settling into a relationship that neither expected. Somehow things are just right between them, and not only does Zane fall for Ellis, he adores Harrison as well. The men soon find themselves becoming an unexpected family and Ellis’ life is everything he had wanted when he first got married and had a child.
But both Ellis and Zane have complicated pasts that are interfering with their lives together. Zane was involved in some trouble as a young teen, and while he has turned his life around, aspects of his past are coming back to threaten his safety, and Ellis and Harrison’s as well. And Ellis’ ex-husband, Oliver, who had almost completely dropped out of his son’s life, now suddenly wants back in, and is causing trouble and threatening Ellis. Zane and Ellis have managed to make an unexpected family with Harrison and find true love in the process. But their future is threatened as people from their pasts put it all at risk.
Ok, so full disclosure here. I almost never read romances featuring kids. In fact, I pretty much actively avoid them. I love children, have two of my own, but something about dealing with parenting often spoils the fantasy of romance novels for me. So I am not quite sure what made me pick this one up other than my love for Anna Martin’s writing, but I will say I am really glad I gave it a chance.
So yes, this book is in fact A LOT about parenting and building a family. Harrison is not one of those kids that shows up for a scene or two but is mostly set decoration. Ellis is a single parent and the vast majority of his day is spent with his son. When Zane becomes part of Ellis’ life, he becomes part of Harrison’s as well. So in may ways, this book is as much about the three of them building a family as it is about the romance between Zane and Ellis. It is almost the perfect fantasy where Ellis finds this gorgeous, sexy man who also is gentle and loving with his son, who is mature beyond his years, and who not only wants Ellis, but wants Harrison as well.
The two men hit it off very quickly and the relationship develops quite fast. In some ways, it seems a bit too unbelievably perfect, but I think it works here. Like I said, it is almost a fantasy over the first part of the book as these men fall into an almost fairy tale relationship. Yes, they still have to deal with diapers and fussy babies. But they fall for one another hard and fast, they adore one another and they adore the baby, and they are so incredibly happy together. And once they have created this bond and this new little family unit, they are strong enough to face the conflicts that begin to hit them when both their pasts return.
I particularly enjoyed how the story takes on the issue of recently legalized gay marriage in New York where the men live. Ellis and Oliver were one of the first couples to legally marry in the state, and also one of the first to divorce. Since they had child together, they were a landmark case as they dealt with custody and other issues. I found it all quite interesting to think about how these story elements would play out in real life and I think Martin really does a nice job of highlighting the legal issues in a way that is easy to understand and fits in so nicely with the story.
Zane’s past plays mostly a secondary role and I think it is well developed. I had a bit harder time with the Oliver story line, mostly because his motivations are just so vague. Oliver is the primary antagonist in the book, but we never really get to understand why he behaves like he does. For most of the book, Ellis has no idea why Oliver suddenly decided he wanted a divorce. Oliver is the one who pushed for marriage and a child in the first place, and then he just walked out on Ellis. We get a little resolution to this late in the book, but his reasons are still quite vague. We also know that the men decided they would both donate sperm for the surrogate and not find out who is the biological father. But then when the men divorce, Ellis basically decides if Harrison is not his biological child, he is not interested in raising him. It wasn’t clear to me why all of a sudden he feels this way when he was perfectly fine not knowing while the men were still married. The issue seems to come out of nowhere. I don’t want to spoil too much of what happens by going into more detail, but I just felt like Oliver’s motivations were either so unclear, or were explained so late in the story, that it left things feeling confusing. He plays such a big role in the book, I just wanted to understand him more.
Overall, I really loved the warmth and sweetness of this story, along with the heat and passion of the relationship between the two men. This is a low angst book that really focuses on two men who find happiness not only with each other, but with the new family they have created. It may be a bit idealized at times, but it really worked for me. Ellis and Zane are sexy and romantic together. Zane is adorable with Harrison and they all three fit together so nicely. This story just made me happy and I really enjoyed it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.