Ben Thompson runs the local library and is happy to be doing it. When he notices a young man who comes in and yet never checks anything out, Ben strikes up a conversation. Jason Barnes is very young, just 19, and beautiful. But Ben says something wrong and scares the young man off. Putting the pieces together, Ben figures out that Jason is illiterate, and when a chance meeting brings them together again, he offers to help Jason learn to read.
Jason can function in the world, but being barely able to read has hampered his expectations. Combined with losing the gym at which he did gymnastics, and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his step-father, and Jason has extremely low self esteem. But now he is in a secure place, and with Ben befriending him, he can finally blossom. Ben also encourages Jason’s enjoyment of gardening, and takes Jason on part time to clean up the garden outside of the library.
The two men become close quickly, and though Ben has worries about their age difference, which is almost 30 years, and about the abuse Jason experienced, there’s no doubt they are drawn together. Their relationship becomes intimate quickly, and their love happens easily. Jason is giving Ben life again, and Ben is helping Jason find himself. And together they can build a future that will last a lifetime.
This story is sweet and lovely, and I enjoyed it. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into with this book. The blurb lays out the big dramatic elements, which I think is important as they can be triggers. But Masters handled them well, without miring the story in deep angst. Instead, this was a lovely tale of two men finding love and healing.
In particular, I appreciated the way the author handled some of the more touchy subjects. Jason has suffered some pretty traumatic events in his childhood that still affect him. But Jason has also begun to heal already, though he has a way to go. When he relates his story to Ben, he does it in such a way that it’s clear he’s come to terms with some of it. And because his abuser was his father, I liked that Ben and Jason had a conversation about their age difference and how that could affect them both. At the same time, there weren’t pages and pages of hurt and angst. Instead, it was a tale of hope and healing, of falling in love and overcoming obstacles.
Both MCs are well developed and fleshed out, though Ben more so. He’s the first person narrator for this story, so we understand his thought process the best. He gives us a very clear picture of Jason, though, as well as the myriad of secondary characters that help to develop the story. While I didn’t always find the secondary characters as charming as they were supposed to be, it wasn’t because of the way they were written. Masters excels at characters, and this is a very character driven story. Ben and Jason both have growing to do, though Ben is nearly there. He just needs to learn to accept that good things in life can happen twice, and that he is worthy of Jason’s love. Jason had much farther to go, but with Ben’s help, he put in the work. I adored them together and I loved watching them fall in love. These guys fit, despite their age difference, which really should have been a detriment. But their personalities were such that it made complete sense, though not without question, and I believed every moment of it.
This story was nicely done from start to finish, and Masters has a smooth style that really allowed me to be absorbed into the tale. I loved the MCs, and enjoyed their story. If you’re looking for a book with some heavier themes that aren’t too heavily done, and enjoy age difference stories, then this one is definitely for you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.