AJ Fabin lives his life by a list of rules. Kicked out of his parents’ house, he was forced to sell his body in order to survive. When a former client viciously attacks him, Mrs. Choi takes him away from that life and moves him to Evergreen Grove, NC where the two of them start a new life as motel keepers. Though he sticks out like a sore thumb in his “out and proud” rainbow flair clothing, AJ’s made a life for himself where people look out for him and he brings joy to those he’s around. The downside is that it’s a small town and, though he has friends, he is lonely.
Hayden Price left Evergreen Grove after an incident in high school and went to live with his dad. Since then, Hayden has stayed in touch with his mom via a weekly call home because his life in NYC is too busy as he’s done his best to fit into the mold of his workaholic dad. Resigned to working in a job he doesn’t really like, engaged to a woman who doesn’t do anything for him, Hayden receives a call that will change his life when his mother falls ill and he rushes to NC to take care of her.
When AJ and Hayden bump into each other, neither is impressed with the other very much despite their instant attraction to one another. As the two find themselves constantly thrown into close proximity with each other, it gets harder to continue their mutual dislike of one another when their minds are saying “don’t go there” while their bodies are saying “yes, please!” As the two try to fight their attraction to one another, Hayden comes to terms with who he really is and what he really wants out of life, but in order to get it, he has to get AJ to break each and every one of his rules!
This is the third book in the Evergreen Grove series. The first two in the series are M/F romance stories in which AJ is a secondary character and now we get his story. For those of you who are not fans of M/F romance, no need to despair, this book can be read as a standalone. I hadn’t read the others in the series before reading this and didn’t feel as if I missed out on anything.
This story is told in alternating points of view between AJ and Hayden, two souls who are complete opposites of one another. One a former prostitute/escort who is an out and proud, flag waving, glitter-wearing gay man while the other is a corporate businessman who wears designer suits and is engaged to be married to a woman. The only thing they have in common is Hayden’s mother who owns the business where AJ’s best friend works and who has always gone out of her way to make him feel welcome. When Hayden’s mom is rushed to the hospital and Hayden comes home to take care of her, the two strike up a love-to-hate relationship.
AJ is the type of character that will worm his way into your heart within the first few pages. As he ticks off the “rules” on his list, interacts with customers at the motel, hangs out with his friends, and provides hair dressing services to elderly seniors, readers will find themselves falling for this compassionate soul who gives so much of himself and asks for nothing in return. Readers will also finding themselves pondering what exactly happened to AJ to make him ensure that no one ever gets too close to him again.
Hayden grew up in town and couldn’t get out of it quick enough after an incident with a schoolmate. Arriving in New York, he’s worked hard to live up to his father’s expectations, including getting himself engaged to the daughter of another businessman. While Hayden has feelings for his fiancé, he also has a secret he’s been carrying around with him. After meeting AJ, Hayden realizes that it’s a secret he doesn’t want to keep hidden any longer.
The secondary characters in this book help enhance the story without taking away from the budding romance between AJ and Hayden. I have to say, I was impressed that this author didn’t choose to make Meg (Hayden’s fiancé) out to be this evil woman – this is not to say Hayden and Meg don’t have their problems, but I think readers will come around to like Meg for her support for Hayden after he comes out.
This book is a perfect example of romance at its finest! With just the right amount of angst, humor, and emotion that readers just won’t want to put the book down. Though readers will have to wait a bit for the sheets to start heating up between AJ and Hayden, it is worth the wait! Let’s just say that AJ doesn’t bottom and Hayden has never been with a man before – but he is more than ready, willing, and able to let AJ claim him! As a reader, I appreciated that these scenes were well written and showed the emotional connection between the two characters, rather than just being erotic scenes.
Overall, it is rare that I give a book a full 5 stars, but these characters just reached out and grabbed hold of me and I didn’t want to ever let it go. I highly recommend this story!