Narrator: Kevin R. Free
Length: 15 hours, 24 minutes
Ok, a few notes before we start. First off, Something Like Autumn is the third book in Jay Bell’s Seasons series and it links closely with the first two books. Jace Holden, one of our heroes here, is a prominent secondary character in Something Like Summer and Something Like Winter. In those books we learn some major stuff about Jace’s life that we see play out in this story. Which means, this book also will spoil some of the stuff that happens in the first two books, because again, they are all related. So I guess the bottom line is I will spoiler tag this review, but you probably want to read the first two books before starting this one (they are amazing, by the way). Second note is that Jason has also reviewed this one as well in ebook format, so you can check out his review here, if you want a second perspective on this book.
All righty then, here we go.
When Something Like Autumn opens, we see a teenage Jace Holden getting ready to take his own life. He has just come to accept that he is gay and he is sure this means he will die alone. Every biography he has read about a gay man seems to see him tragically alone with no one to love him. Jace loves his own family and has a happy life. So he figures this is the time to end it, while things are still good. As soon as he jumps off that bridge, however, Jace realizes he doesn’t want to die. Fortunately, he is rescued by a fisherman named Bernie, a man who takes Jace under his wing and becomes a good friend and father figure.
Bernie tells Jace he needs something to keep him busy, to stop him from fretting about his future. So he gives Jace a job working at his convenience store. There Jace meets Victor, beautiful and wild and fascinating. Victor wants to live free of society’s rules and refuses to conform. Victor’s motto is “no limits” and for Jace, who has grown up in a very traditional family, Victor is completely alluring.
Jace falls hard for Victor, finally coming out to his friends and family. He has his first love and his first sexual experiences with Victor and can’t get enough of him. But as much as Victor cares for Jace, and even loves him back, he is not the type of person for monogamy or commitment. And as much as Jace craves Victor with every ounce of himself, he also can tell that Victor is not the right man for him. Jace wants love and commitment and a real relationship and he realizes that he is never going to get that with Victor. As Jace goes off to college, he still can’t get Victor out of his mind. It gets in the way of his other relationships, and he struggles with wanting someone who is so wrong for him. When tragedy strikes, Jace is devastated.
Years later, Jace has graduated and works as a flight attendant. There he meets Benjamin Bentley, the man who will become his husband. With Ben, Jace finds everything he has been craving his entire life: love, companionship, commitment, and a real home. Even with the challenges of Ben’s old boyfriend Tim back in the picture, the men make it through on the strength of their love for one another. Jace’s childhood fears are a distant memory, as now with Ben, he knows he has someone who will love him and be with him for his entire life. Jace will never die alone.
Ok, so as I said, this book focuses on Jace Holden, Ben’s husband from Something Like Summer. As with the first two books, this one has an overlapping, connected plot line, that gives us the story from a different POV. In this case, about the first 2/3 of the book is Jace’s life pre-Ben and the rest focuses on the time after they meet. Like the first two books, Bell does an amazing job of giving us different perspectives on the same events. What is so captivating here is the way that Bell illuminates so much about Jace’s character and actions in those books through his story here. We can understand why Ben is so important to Jace and why he is so understanding about Ben’s love for Tim. Like Ben, Jace has had a young love, one that has never died despite the fact he is no longer with Victor. He can understand how Ben can love both him and Tim. But at the same time, he wants Ben for himself. I don’t want to give too much away here, but truly, this book is fascinating in the way it fills in all the little details about Jace from the first book. Bell really manages to create a fabulous story here that gives us so much of Jace, but also amplifies our experience with Ben and Tim as well.
So here is the spoiler part. If you have read Something Like Summer (or Winter) this part won’t give anything away you don’t already know. But if for some reason you are starting here with this book, this will be a big spoiler for how this story (as well as those books) ends…[spoiler]Ok, so I had this book for a while and had a hard time working up the nerve to read it. The idea of reading a book where the MC dies seemed daunting, especially because Jace is just so likable. I was kind of terrified to see how this one would go, but also so curious I couldn’t resist, and I am really glad I did. I have to say, Bell manages to make the tragedy of Jace’s death just so beautiful and full of love, despite how sad it was. We know from the start how much Jace fears dying alone. All he wants is to have that love and companionship throughout his life, to have someone with him when he dies who loves and cares about him. And that is exactly what he gets with Ben. Jace is happy and content in his final moments. He loves Ben, and if he has to go, this is exactly where he wants to be, in Ben’s arms. Now I won’t say it isn’t still tragic. God knows I am practically crying just writing this. The whole experience of Jace getting sick, how he deals with recovery, and how he faces the fact that he may not live to grow old with Ben is just handled so beautifully and deftly in Bell’s hands. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more and it is a wonderful end to Jace’s journey. [/spoiler] Ok, done.
So as I mentioned, most of this book focuses on Jace pre-Ben, and for the most part I think it works quite well. Watching Jace grow up, deal with his first love and major life experiences, we learn so much about him that impacts the man he is in the first two books and the man we get to know even better here. Seeing him with Victor really explains Jace’s feelings on relationships, as well as his understanding about Tim’s role in Ben’s life. So without that context of Victor, the book wouldn’t have worked. That said, I did wish for more time with Ben and Jace. As important as his relationship with Victor is, for me it was just the foundation for the relationship I really cared about – Jace and Ben. So I found myself anxious sometimes for the story to move on to that point in Jace’s life and to see the payoff for all the build up.
I listened to this one in audio format, and once again Kevin R. Free is an amazing narrator. He has narrated all three audiobooks so far and really manages to take these characters from late adolescence to adulthood so seamlessly. Now I didn’t compare Ben here to Ben in the first two books or anything like that because it is has been too long in between listening for me. But I did feel like the narration really worked and Free continues to do a great job giving the main characters all distinctive voices that make it easy to discern who is speaking. I did find Victor’s voice drifted into either sort of “stuffy nose” or “stoner” at times, but other than that, I don’t have any real criticism of the narration. The audiobook flows smoothly with clear chapter and section breaks, good tone and pacing, and really spot on narration. So a great job.
So I really loved this one, both for Jace’s story in its own right, as well as for the way it further illuminates the first two books. This continues to be a wonderful series and I can’t wait to start the next book.