This is the third book in the Treading the Boards series and can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.
Twenty-eight-year-old Craig Rosen is a lab rat, working hard and having little social life—unless you count his Warhammer tourneys. (Discosure: I will admit to not knowing that Warhammer is a tabletop war game that exists IRL. Or that there are tourneys where people battle their handpainted game pieces against other teams of players. And yet, this is all true!) Anywho, Warhammer gaming fills some gaping wounds in Craig after he was orphaned as a young teen and his foster brother got him to play as a way to bond. Sigh. Good backstory.
So, Craig’s lab mate encourages him to come out for a drink, and there he meets some of the Sarky players—because Craig’s lab friend is Stuart from Summer Season. Craig also meets a sexy older man who takes up for him against a handsy drunk in the pub. As the am drammers are always looking for fresh actors, Craig is pressed to come for an audition—and he meets Jason, his rescuer from the pub, properly.
At thirty-nine, Jason Carter is a newly divorced, newly out gay man. He has two kids, an adult daughter and a teenaged son. Jason has a close and amiable relationship with his ex-wife, and endeavors to have good relations with his kids. He’s never even dabbled with a bloke, and hopes to take off his “training wheels” with an older man—like himself—who’d be a patient teacher to him. Meeting Craig is not serendipitous. There is an attraction, but Craig’s younger than Jason had hoped for a partner. Still, they get on well, and Craig seems kind and generous.
I loved the novice feel of this story. Craig and Jason are both timid and eager. There’s so much vulnerability on the page. Craig’s sure that Jason—a dapper, successful lawyer—will leave him behind, as all the important people in his life have done. His self-esteem is rather low, despite being a brilliant man in his own right. He feels he’ll always be the geek people use until they find someone better. Meanwhile, Jason’s sure that Craig won’t want an old man as a partner very long. This idea is bolstered when both Jason’s kids are enamored of Craig, and find their dad the lacking partner in the relationship.
Expect a TINY hiccup in the form of Craig making a bad decision to preemptively save himself the brush off. It’s a small squall in an ocean voyage, and quickly resolved. I loved that this was such a low angst read. I wanted Jason to be able to celebrate his new life with a stable partner, and Craig is that. I also appreciated the frank conversations they shared. No pulling punches, or half-truths. When Jason contemplated buying Warhammer gear for Craig—as he was buying some for his son—Craig quickly disabused him of that notion. You don’t buy similar Christmas gifts for your lover and your son, man. When Craig freaked out over a small detail, Jason remained respectful, and worked to fix the problem rationally. Also, they have a delicious sexual connection, and Craig is as patient a partner as Jason could have ever dreamed.
I really liked this one, and the extended time frame of their courtship sealed the deal for me. Craig and Jason seem to build a solid, stable, and loving relationship that is applauded by their friends and family. We should all be so lucky. My biggest quibble regarding the book? The cover! It looks like two YOUNG men, and doesn’t do justice to Jason’s distinguished mature looks. (He’s the one in the foreground putting on hose for the Christmas panto show. If that’s a 39 year-old man, I’ll eat his yellow taffeta gown.)