Anthony Mercer is in Paris for the book expo at Salon de livre. The first night in town, Anthony and his boss Patricia have dinner at a small family owned and operated restaurant. The food is outstanding and the service even better. And there’s no mistaking that the waiter is giving Anthony a come hither look. Since his relationship ended six months ago, Anthony hasn’t been with anyone. And he’s never been one to hook up either. But the pretty server, Paul, has his attention and Anthony decides to do what he’s never done and go home with the man. He makes it clear right up front that he’s only in town for five days before he heads home to the States, but that’s just fine with Paul, who’s not one for relationships either. Their night together is amazing, and they decide to spend all of Anthony’s night left in Paris together. Their chemistry is undeniable, but it’s not enough to keep them together, and Anthony goes home to North Carolina.
The emails start off innocently enough, and then Anthony pings Paul when he sees the man is online. The friendship only grows from there, both men sharing their lives with each other, including who they are dating and sleeping with. There’s a little bit of jealousy on both men’s parts, but since they don’t have a claim to one another, they both find themselves happy with their friendship. When Anthony gets the opportunity to move to Paris for a year or two to set up a branch of the publishing house he works for, Anthony can’t wait to take the offer. Getting to see Paul in person again, as well as getting to be in the city he loves, seems like the best opportunity. He stays with Paul as he gets his life in order, but when he finds and apartment and is ready to move, Paul finally admits the truth of his feelings. Anthony knows what kind of man Paul is, and cares for him, but he also knows how much sleeping around Paul has done. So he asks that they take things slowly so that they can get to know each other even better, and Anthony can really know that he can trust Paul not to stray.
But living apart takes its toll on Paul. He lives for the days that he gets to spend with Anthony, and barely survives the rest of the week. He doesn’t have enough of Anthony, the one thing he needs, and he’s nearly ready to crack at the strain. And it isn’t until the problem is brought to light by Paul’s brother that Anthony and Paul can begin to sort things out. They have the potential to build something great if they can just talk to one another.
I am definitely a fan of this author, and I knew I’d be getting a good and solid read with this book. At Your Service definitely didn’t disappoint in this regard. I fell in love with the characters easily, and the story line was one that drew me in and kept my attention. It was well written and well-paced, and that goes a long way to making it a good read. I had a few small quibbles, but overall, I really enjoyed this story.
For me, this one all came down to the characters. From the moment we first met Anthony, I felt like I knew him. He has a good head on his shoulders, and he loves books and France. He’s recently single and it wasn’t a great break up. And then he meets Paul, and I felt the tingles of appreciation and attraction right along with Anthony. The whole first meeting was so well written, and the chemistry between the two MCs just leapt off the page, so I was right there with them as they traversed the first 60% of the story. Their vacation fling was perfectly done, with both men getting more invested than either one would admit, and then having to say goodbye and not wanting to let go. I loved the natural way their relationship built when they were on two different continents; from email, to instant messaging, to Skype. And how they really started to rely on that friendship.
When Anthony made it to Paris, I was afraid that the Big Miscommunication was going to be the thing that kept them apart. But fortunately, it didn’t drag on too long. In fact, it was perfect for the characters, who were wonderfully consistent. These guys had their own issues, and it took them a little bit to talk to one another. And when they did, their concerns were valid. I liked that they both felt they had something real, and that they were willing to do what it took to move their relationship to the next level. These are guys you want to root for, to see them work through their obstacles in order to find their HEA.
But I did find myself having a few small quibbles with some aspects of this story. And mostly it was after Anthony was in Paris. They were in closer proximity than they’ve been for the last year, but they seemed to talk with each other less. We didn’t get to see as much of them together, and that bothered me considering they were living right down the street from each other. That, coupled with Paul’s issues, felt like too much. And Paul’s problem with being not able to hook up felt a little contrived to me. Perhaps I didn’t understand it as I should have, but it felt almost like an addiction he was trying to break. Paul is the kind of guy that needs to feel wanted, and craves attention. But he’s such a considerate lover that Anthony misses it. I understood what the author was going for, but I think it could have been handled better. The whole feeling like an addiction didn’t sit well with me the way it was presented.
But overall, I really enjoyed this story. I couldn’t put it down once I started, and I fell in love with Anthony and Paul. There wasn’t a whole lot of angst here, but it had the weight and heft of a well-rounded tale. If you’re looking for a nice read with two endearing characters—and also Paris—then definitely pick this one up.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.