Joe Applin owns the café, Apple’N Pies, and is happy baking pies and enjoying his makeshift family of eclectic employees. He’s comfortable in his tiny corner of the world, and he’s not looking to expand on it. But when he finds a beaten man in the garden outside his café, and the man insists he can’t go to the cops or the hospital before he passes out, tender-hearted Joe brings the man up to his apartment. When he finally gets the man to wake, they quickly learn that the man has no memory of who he was or why he was outside. He just knows that he can’t go to the police and he can’t get medical attention. Joe offers him a place to stay, and he calls the man Tom.
Right from the start, there’s a connection between the two men. And though it only goes as far as flirting and acknowledging the attraction at first, it’s definitely simmering under the surface. Joe is reluctant to trust anyone, let alone a man he knows nothing about, but he’s drawn to Tom. When their passion finally boils over, they begin a tentative relationship, albeit one that doesn’t go beyond the apartment walls and downstairs in the café. They are no closer to figuring out who Tom really is, and Joe is holding a piece of himself back.
When Joe’s ex shows up, things turn disastrous, and Joe turns to Tom for comfort. And just as they seem to finally be getting somewhere, Tom’s past shows up looking for him. It’s almost impossible to separate the truth from the lies, and everything comes to a head very quickly. With Tom finally remembering who he is, and what he needs to do, can the two men find a way to live their happily ever after?
Forgive and Forget is the latest Dreamspun Desire title, and it fits right in with what the line is supposed to be. It’s a trope-filled, light-hearted romp populated with quirky and endearing characters. Take this at face value, and you’ll find an enjoyable read that has that classic category romance feel.
Joe is adorable and endearing. It easy to see how a guy like him would take in and help a stranger who had no recollection of himself. In that, Cochet wrote the perfect MC. Joe is just a genuinely good guy, right down to his bones. Big hearted, tender, open, and accepting, I get why he brought Tom into his apartment and into his life. It’s a part of the story you just have to roll with, and Joe makes it, if not believable, then easy to accept. And at first, he seems like just a really good guy with some weird yet charming habits. We learn pretty quickly that he’s been hurt badly before, but it was a long time ago, so he seems to be past it. Slowly as the story progresses, we see underneath those layers, see how he’s using his habits, actions, and attitudes as a shield. And we don’t even really see it until he drops it to let Tom in. It was nicely done, and gave Joe even more appeal.
What the author also handled well was letting us get to know a character who didn’t even know anything about himself. There were little clues, tiny things, peppered throughout the story that made sense afterward when we learn who Tom really was. But we got to see his heart, his soul, even though he couldn’t remember a single thing about his past. It was clear why Joe was drawn to him, and their chemistry absolutely worked. So even though there was a great deal about him, and his actions, I had to take on faith, I had no problem seeing why these two men would be together.
So as much as I liked this story, I also found myself with a couple of quibbles that I can’t quite overlook. Even though the nature of the story, and the line of books itself, is about embracing tropes, I had a little trouble with the lack of framework here. One minute everyone is suspicious of Tom, and rightly so, and the next they are trying to hook Joe and Tom up. I wanted just a little bit more to that, to see something else which would have made that easier to believe. It required too much of a jump for me. On top of that, I occasionally found the dialogue too over the top. While it was a personal preference, some of the prose got way too purple, and it pulled me out of the story.
I have to make quick mention of the ending as well. The first part of the ending, where all of Tom’s secrets came to light and his life was sorted out, was handled really well. The whole wrapping up of that storyline totally worked for me, and I was appreciative of the little nuances the author had tossed in that made it all the more believable. But it was the second part of the ending, where Joe and Tom figure out how they are going to live their life together, which left me wanting. Part of that part was fine, and I was on board. But then there was one final twist. I don’t want to give it away, so I’m going to be cryptic and say I found it unnecessary and ever so slightly creepy. But I do acknowledge that it is personal preference, and others may have no issue with it at all.
Overall, I liked this book and think it’s a great addition to the line. Cochet captures the right feel for the series and gives us memorable characters to tell the story. While I had a few quibbles, don’t let that deter you. If you’re a fan of category romance, and the amnesia trope in particular, then definitely consider picking this one up.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.