Theo is a simple man who runs his own landscaping business (total employees: himself) and works as a bartender to supplement his income during the lean winter months. He was orphaned as a teen and pseudo adopted by his best friend’s family. Theo is the only out gay man in town—a fact everyone knows because growing up in Maplehurst, NH is a bit like growing up in a fish bowl. It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone else’s business. Which is why Heath’s arrival is a big splash: no newcomers arrive in the early spring.
Heath Blackwood is a wealthy Duke in northern England. He’s also the only out gay Duke, which made him a sensation when he accepted the title after his father’s untimely death. Heath is estranged from his elder sister, and his younger brothers are still gallivanting about, newly graduated from uni as they are, but recent death threats made against Heath have caused him to seek shelter in Nowhere, USA, also known as Maplehurst, NH.
The first person Heath meets socially is big, burly, bartending Theo, who Heath royally pisses off. He’s brash and condescending, two traits Theo can’t overlook–no matter how attractive he finds Heath. Night after night, Heath turns up at the bar, and “spars” with Theo, which Heath finds thrilling and Theo finds exasperating. Heath expects to stay stateside a few days, maybe a week, but the investigation drags on. Lonely, scared and homesick, he begins to reach out for a real connection with Theo—particularly when he learns that Theo is both gay and available.
Their courtship is, naturally, on display for the whole of Maplehurst. It seems to go swimmingly, until, well, the big reveal of Heath’s identity. I liked the way this was handled; Heath and Theo have been dating long enough for each man to have serious feelings for the other. They are smitten, if not more, so it was easy to see how this revelation, and the accompanying hoopla, was truly disastrous for the shy and awkward Theo to completely embrace. For his part, Heath cannot imagine his life without Theo in it. So, he might have to change a few plans if he wants his man by his side, permanently.
This is a sweet hidden-identity romance. The book is fun and light, considering the reason for Heath’s flight from England. The banter is witty and engaging, and the development of the romance is slow and steady. I loved how straight-forward Theo is with his background, and how he is a man who needs to be wooed, a bit. Heath is all too eager to find a man who has a steady heart and a kind nature. He’s been too isolated in his estate to find a true companion and relishes the opportunity to connect person-to-person. Naturally, there are some trust issues that need to be remedied once Theo learns the truth, and I think that was done realistically. The logical progression of the major conflict and its resolution was reasonable, even if it went against my starry-eyed wishes for a little while. Expect a sweet HEA for a cute couple. The sexytimes are nice, but I’d have loved a little bit more of them.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.