Today I am so excited to welcome one of our new reviewers, Veronica! Please give her a big welcome and enjoy her first review!
Note: This is the third book in The Bristol Collection, but can be read as a standalone.
Dare is a big, bald bruiser of a bloke with his own business restoring camper vans. He owns a scrap yard on the riverfront in Bristol with a view that developers will pay big money to acquire. He’s an independent, out gay man with satisfying work and realistic dreams, but lately he’s wishing he had a partner to share more than just his bed. At a friend’s party Dare collects a very drunk, very surly Grant and shuttles this posh man to his swank flat. Grant, it seems, had made quite a scene confronting his ex-lover, and Dare teaches a bit of down-home manners to Grant—not that Dare expects the inebriated Grant will remember.
Grant is thirty-six and finally acknowledging that he’s gay. It comes as a devastating shock to his wife, Harriet, and could cost him visitation with his two daughters, whom he adores. Though closeted, being gay is a new experience for Grant, and his first foray into a gay relationship ends badly. (This happened in a previous book, and is only alluded to in Scrap.)
Fast-forward six months and Grant is ringing Dare’s buzzer on a mission to buy his property. Dare knows his space is worth loads more than Grant’s company is offering, but the plain truth of the matter is the offer is irrelevant—Dare won’t sell. He also clues Grant in on their first meeting, which is particularly mortifying to Grant. Plus, Grant’s boss implies that failing to purchase Dare’s property could result in Grant’s termination, and he’ll have to scramble his life even more to keep supporting his little girls.
Feeling rather desperate—emotionally and sexually—Grant attempts to lure Dare into a deal, with poor results. I loved how Dare wouldn’t tolerate being treated as “beneath” anyone, and especially not by a potential lover. He continually asserts his worth, and this causes Grant to take more than a cursory look at the self-made, tattooed man Dare is. At first, Grant keeps turning up on Dare’s gate drunk. Dare has his own struggles with addicts—his brother is one—but he doesn’t let his baggage color the way he treats Grant. Plus, he doesn’t take Grant to bed on the first, or second, offering. Dare may not be a stylish man, but he is a decent man, and Grant comes to realize that the friends-with-benefits arrangement they develop is becoming something more. Still, Grant’s an uptight prig, not wanting to out himself at work, and also not sure he is willing to bring “rough trade” Dare into his social sphere.
Unfortunately, Grant’s close association with Dare gives him insider info that could force Dare into selling—if Grant reveals it, that is. I found the slow descent into mutual vulnerability very rewarding. Each revelation was seemingly small, but they added up to a staggering amount of knowledge—mostly to Dare’s detriment. I kept waiting for Grant to ruin Dare, and this kept me reading far too late into the night.
I really enjoyed the slow development of this romance. It is told from both Dare’s and Grant’s POV, so we understand what’s happening beneath the surface. The more time they spend together, the more invested each man becomes—not that he’s willing to confess such to his partner. Grant has had a lot of changes in his life, and more keep coming. His discussion of his sexuality with his daughters was a particularly poignant scene, especially as it kicked Grant’s feelings for Dare into the forefront. I liked the way he approached his negotiations with Harriet, and how they reached equitable agreements without nuclear meltdowns. It felt very real, and I enjoyed there not being a lot of back-and-forth, hostility, or vindictiveness.
From the beginning of this book to the end, Dare is a treat. He is so real, and so compassionate. His weekly visits to Jace, his junkie brother, and how he maintains a safe space for Jace, without being preachy, are commendable. Dare is a man who stands on his own two feet, and won’t let anyone shove him around. He is honest and patient, and I loved how he never treated Grant poorly, even when Grant acted insensitive or pompous. Like Dare, I ached a bit when Grant would slink out after an encounter. And I, too, felt Dare’s trepidation that Grant would find someone more socially acceptable and move on.
The book falls squarely in the HEA category, with a well-paced narrative and delightful British slang. I have never been to England, and yet I felt as if I was admiring the Plimsoll Bridge alongside these men.
A brilliant story I’d read again.
Veronica is a full-time scientist, full-time wife, and full-time mother to four sons. She reads to escape all that stress! It makes no sense why she reads a metric ton of M/M romance, but she thinks it’s the ambient testosterone saturating her brain. At least her dog is a girl.