After losing his wife ten years ago, Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George moved to the small town of Colton, California with his three kids. He has gotten to know, and long admired, the high school principal Mr. Larkin (Larx to everyone, including his kids). Larx is also a single dad, having divorced years before. Aaron has been focused on raising his kids and so has Larx, and neither man has quite been ready for more. But after seeing a shirtless Larx jogging down the road day after day, Aaron finally gets up the nerve to make his move.
The men begin to get to know each other better, running together every morning. Both men still place a priority on their children, but as their kids are in high school and college, they are reaching the point where they can live for their own happiness as well.
Even as the men begin falling for one another, the real world and their responsibilities begin to intrude. Two boys at the high school are coming out, and although Larx is doing everything he can to support them, not everyone is happy about two openly gay kids in school. In addition, between an act of violence at school, a dead body in the lake, and a school board all riled up, both men are dealing with pressure from all sides. Added to that, both Larx and Aaron anticipate public fallout when they come out as bisexual and together, but neither man is interested in living in the closet. As the world begins to spin out of control around them, Larx and Aaron will rely on each other, and the new family they are building, to get through things together.
It’s no secret that I am a total Amy Lane fan, and I have to say that this is probably my favorite book by the author in a while. I just loved this story, and particularly appreciated the older heroes and the idea of finding love in a new phase of life.
First of all, both of these men are just absurdly likable. They are both natural caretakers, both with their kids and with others. Aaron is strong and steady, a calming force to Larx’s intense energy. I loved Larx as the former bad boy who now is a school principal charged with keeping trouble-making kids in line. Larx is the kind of guy that every kid would love; he talks to them like real people, lets them see him as a person and not just an authority figure. When things start to go crazy, both these men are determined to care for their kids, the students, and anyone else who is caught in the crossfire. I loved the banter between them, the way they are so excited about this new love and getting a chance at something they both had thought had passed them by. These aren’t young boys in love; these men know the realities of life and how easy it is to lose it all, and yet they still take the chance because they have the opportunity for something wonderful.
They were grown men, nearing fifty, but it didn’t feel ludicrous at all. Every touch, every whisper, every shiver between them was brand-new. It wasn’t young love—it was worse, bigger, more painful. They’d lost before. They knew the dangers of love. And they fell anyway, whispering each other’s name in the dark, their bodies coated in sweat and come, vulnerable to the cold.
At the same time we have the romance building between Aaron and Larx, we have side stories that all come together, mostly centered around a pair of teens who are coming out. Colton is a small town and things are very conservative. Some folks, particularly the teens, are more open to diversity, but there are still many who don’t accept what they don’t understand. I don’t want to get into too many details, because there are a lot of overlapping arcs here that connect to this side story and become the focus of the tension and conflict in the book. It is well developed and a little bit twisty and enhances the relatively easy fall into a relationship we see from Larx and Aaron. The conflicts also give us a chance to see the men these guys really are, and help them to really define what is important to them and their lives.
My only teensy note here is that things are pretty much idyllic in the home front. With the exception of Aaron’s oldest daughter who gets some very brief mention, the kids are pretty much universally precocious and accepting of the new relationship. They feel like teens, but kind of super cool and perfectly behaved ones. I think it works here because the whole focus of the story is how these men are building something together and the way the support of their new family is what gives them the strength as they face these external battles. So that is why I could roll with it, but did note that things are extremely easy when dealing with all these teenagers.
Overall I just adored this story. There is such warmth and love here between these men that you can’t help but want everything good for them. Lane gives us some interesting conflicts that enhance the relationship, and also let us really see how the men can come together to face these challenges. I particularly loved having heroes at a later stage of life than we often get in romance novels (and I REALLY loved that these guys are still just as interesting and sexy as any young hero). So Bonfires is a wonderful addition to Lane’s library and I can definitely recommend it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.