Nate Albano is a 37-year-old special effects tech working on the Wolf’s Landing show in upstate Washington. He’s been celibate for the past three years—since his last lover walked out—and expects to remain alone for the rest of his life. He’s “grace” (gray asexual), which roughly means he requires a fair amount of relationship-building before he develops a sexual attraction to his partner, and he’s had two long-term partners in his life to this point.
Seth Larson is a thirty-year-old man living in an apartment above his grandmother’s garage. He’s the youngest Larson, part of a “storied” founding family, but he doesn’t go in for all that jazz, and resents his uncle who browbeats him over caring for his grandmother. Seth is also a budding mixologist and loves tending bar. He’s never had a steady boyfriend and thinks he never will.
One night, Seth and Nate meet at a local pub and Nate’s ecstatic to learn about Seth’s heritage, but Seth takes it as a come-on. He’s never met a man who really digs history, or genealogy, and isn’t prepared for Nate to storm off when Nate realizes Seth was serious about getting it on. But, time cools heads and they actually begin a friendship. It’s such a novel experience for Seth, who doesn’t have any close friends, either. They dig deep into the skeletons of Seth’s family, in the hope they can do just enough damage to the Larson name to allow Seth’s grandma to sell her home and break the family trust—a legal situation that’s kept her virtually a prisoner in her historic home for more than a decade. Thing is, the skeletons aren’t pretty, and Seth’s family is in an uproar when the scandals hit the community paper.
And, Nate’s in an uproar, too. Of an entirely different kind. He’s feeling more than friendly to Seth, and that scares him a whole lot. How could he fall for Seth, and risk being left alone again once Seth, a vibrant, outgoing man, grows tired of his sexual inadequacies?
This book is part of the larger Bluewater Bay universe, but is enjoyable on its own.
I’ve read several asexual romances in the last few years and this one was a bit different. I didn’t study up on “grace,” feeling like the authors did a good job of explaining it in context. In short, Nate does have sexual relationships with his long-term lovers, once they have been together long enough to establish a strong bond of emotional intimacy. He actually craves touch, and is demonstrative with Seth from nearly the beginning. This sends Seth mixed signals, because he’s only ever been wanted for sex in the past, and tries to stay lighthearted in the face of his loneliness. That said, Seth relishes their friendship and fervently hopes that the cues he’s reading from Nate demonstrate a growing attraction; he’s ready for a sexual relationship with a man he really cares for.
There are a whole lot of family dynamics at play, too, regarding the Larson ancestry and Nate’s own paternity. This was interesting as a vehicle for intimacy. Seth and Nate have intense discussions regarding their personal demons and how to get past them. They both have to grow into their developing relationship, and they seem to do so without too many hardships. I loved Tarkus, the one-eyed wonder dog. What a great companion that mutt is, and it was clear that Nate learned a lot about unconditional love from him, while Seth drew his strength from his grandma.
This is a slow burn, not least because it’s a long novel. Lots of patience is exercised before their sexual connection is kindled, but I found it worth the wait.