Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Note: This is the first book in a new series, which is a spin-off of Carol Lynne’s popular Cattle Valley Series. The most recent book in that series is a set up for Lobster Cove, but this book works completely as a standalone and you don’t have to have prior knowledge to understand this story.
Boone Jensen’s partner left him when he gained custody of his younger brother, Laddy, who has Down’s Syndrome. When Boone applies for housing in Cattle Valley, he’s informed that a new town in Maine has been purchased and is being set up as a similar refuge for LGBTQ people. Boone has nothing keeping him in Indiana anymore, and with the new town in need of carpenters and craftsmen, he sees it as the perfect opportunity to relocate and begin a new and better life.
Dante Madia was betrayed by his business partner and best friend, and he too needs a fresh start. Selling his restaurant, he packs up and heads for a new future in Lobster Cove, along with his foster sister, Ava. But when he meets the stonemason he hired to lay the stone work in his new restaurant, Dante is instantly attracted to Boone. Boone returns the attraction, and eventually the two men act on their feelings. But Dante has a lot of ghosts in his past that make him think he’s incapable of being loved. And Boone has to put his brother’s needs first, despite the fact that he’s falling for Dante. At an impasse, they decide it might be better to cool things for a while. But when Laddy goes missing, the two men reconnect to try and find him. And it gives Boone and Dante the chance to have the conversation they sorely need to have.
This book is classic Carol Lynne, and if you’re a fan of her Cattle Valley series, you’re definitely going to want to pick this one up. It’s a quick, easy read with a somewhat predictable, but enjoyable plot. There are a lot of characters introduced, but it’s not too overwhelming, and the focus of the story remains solely on Dante, Boone, Laddy, and Ava. It begins with a bit of exposition, but I think it’s necessary to give us the background on Lobster Cove and its origins. From there, we move into the lives of the men, and the two people they consider family.
I admit that I adored Boone right from the start. He’s a kind and patient man, and doesn’t resent caring for his brother at all. In fact, he considers it an honor and thinks of Laddy as his best friend. Their relationship was sweet and wonderful, and it showcased exactly what kind of man Boone is. He’s still smarting from the breakup of his previous relationship, but he’s also ready to move on. Though he wants to protect his heart, he’s still willing to take the risk on the right man. I thought he was a well-developed and well-rounded character, and I wanted him to find his happy ever after.
Dante was, for me, a little bit tougher to like. I thought he was less developed, and he felt a little two dimensional to me. I understood where he was coming from, as the events of his past have shaped his mindset. But I also thought that his about face came about too suddenly. If his pain and issues ran as deep as I was lead to believe, there was no way he could have changed his mind so quickly. I think that the length of the story was a bit of a detriment here. He had so much going on, and his growth and changed could have been wonderful. But as it was, I wasn’t as invested in him as I should have been, due to his lack of characterization and the time it took for him to reevaluate his beliefs about himself. I liked him, but I didn’t love him.
And that leads me to my other quibble with the story. Boone and Dante clearly have chemistry, and their relationship made sense. But I also though, given the men’s issues, and Dante in particular, that it moved way too quickly. As much as I liked that the story didn’t focus solely on their relationship with each other, I needed more from them to believe they were doing anything more than having sex. The parts of the story that were Boone and Laddy, or Dante and Ava, were wonderful and really showed the reader who these characters were. But I had trouble believing that Dante and Boone could be a long-term couple.
So overall, I liked this story, and I think the series is off to a good start. I would have liked more from the relationship aspect to really connect to the romance, but the characters were nicely drawn. I’d recommend this for Carol Lynne fans or anyone looking for a nice, easy read about characters living in an inclusive and accepting community.