the applicantRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Short story

Brilliant, young scientist Forbes Pohle is interviewing new research assistants for his lab. When Oliver Lennox shows up on his doorstep, Forbes is immediately taken by the gorgeous man. But Forbes is totally shocked when Oliver reveals he is not there for a job, but has been sent from the future by Forbes himself. And even more stunned when the sexy man reveals that in the future, he and Forbes are romantic partners. For the awkward, virginal Forbes, this is almost impossible to imagine. But Oliver does manage to convince him that he is truly from the future and here to help.

First Oliver steps in to help Forbes deal with a robotic teddy bear gone wrong that is destroying his lab. Then he makes sure that Forbes picks the right new research assistant, one that will make his future smoother (instead of the bad choice would have made). And along the way, Oliver also takes some time to show this Forbes how sexy they are together in the future. But as great as things are between them, Oliver needs to return to his own time and his own version of Forbes. But not before imparting some key information that just might help the men find their way back to each other a little sooner.

Oh, this was such a fun, romantic story! I really had no idea what to expect and I found it just delightful. First off, as many of you know, I am a fan of time travel stories. And I loved the way the time travel dynamic is woven in here. It is interesting because we start the book in Forbes’ POV, so we see him encountering Oliver and trying to sort out what is going on. Many stories I have read have us in the POV of the time traveler, so it was interesting to me to see it from the other side. Oliver is just here for a quick visit, and he is almost a fairy godfather of sorts, helping to get some key things straightened out for Forbes that his future lover asked him to impart. But while he is there, Oliver also shares a bit about how the guys eventually meet and gives some hints for Forbes about how he can change some hurdles they will both face. I will say that the world building on the time travel end is pretty sparse. This book reads pretty much as a straight contemporary, and no attempt is made to explain time travel or how it works, or discuss life 25 years into the future. Given that this is a short story, and that the real focus here is on the relationship, that didn’t bother me, but just be aware this isn’t really focused on the sci fi end of things.

I kind of was expecting quirky with this one, between the cover and the rampaging teddy bear that opens the book. And we do get that to an extent, but I actually found the book unexpectedly tender and romantic. Oliver shares a little about his past and things that happened to him before and after he meets future Forbes, and it is clear how important these men become to one another. It is very sweet and quite romantic and I love the way it sets things up for the second book. In the current timeline, the guys are only together for part of the day, so we learn about their future relationship, and we see a bond form between them, but this isn’t a traditional romance arc by any means. I also mention my one concern and that is early on these guys have sex, and at first Forbes is hesitant while Oliver comes on quite strong, so much so that I was getting uncomfortable about consent. Now before they actually have sex, Oliver gets very clear consent; he even stops to make Forbes be more clear in his response. But I think this part could have been a little smoother.

So I mentioned the next book, and this story sets that up perfectly. I don’t want to give anything away, so I am not going to go into too much detail about the set up (I’d also caution against reading that blurb because it will give away some elements that are revealed in this story). But while this book can stand alone, it does lead into The Break In, the follow up story. And I am DYING to read it after finishing this one. Ladnier really does a great lead in here and I think once you read the first story, you are going to be excited about the second one. And luckily, it is out already! Just by way of background, The Applicant was originally released as part of an anthology by Torquere Press, and has now been revised and republished by Dreamspinner. Since the first version came out, Ladnier released the second story in the set through Dreamspinner and that one is not being revised, so it is available now. So I am going to grab that one and encourage you to as well.

I am happy to say I really found this a delightful story. It is a short read and I pretty much downed it in one sitting. If you are a fan of time travel stories, I think you will particularly enjoy this one, but fans of fun romance with some likable heroes and a great plot will find lots to like here as well.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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