highballerRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novella

Remy Delacour’s family doesn’t believe in modern medicine. So in order for him to study nursing at university, he keeps his major from them. When they find out because Remy’s spiteful boyfriend tells them, it’s as bad as Remy thinks. They cut him off and refuse to help fund college. Now Remy is not only done with boyfriends, he’s also desperate to find a way to finance his final year at university, hopefully without taking out loans. That’s when he learns about how much money he can make planting trees.

Levi Aronson is a veteran planter. After a disastrous trip following a guy to Australia, he’s back in Canada. He’s determined to forget about guys for a while, plant as many trees as he can, and head back to university. When he spots Remy, he’s sure the new guy will never last. And he’s determined to keep his distance.

But Remy is even more determined to do the job. It’s grueling, backbreaking, tedious work. But there’s a lot of money to be made, and Remy will not quit. When Remy helps Levi out, a tentative friendship begins to form. It’s isn’t long before the relationship moves to more. But Levi has his own baggage and Remy knows what he needs. Taking time apart is the logical choice. But life throws them together again, this time in a harrowing situation, and Levi is determined not to let Remy go again.

As part of the World of Love collection, this book does a great job of giving the reader a feel of Alberta, Canada. From the remote wilderness where the planters are reforesting, to the bigger city of Edmonton, and the small town of Eden Pax, this book touches on it all. It also does a really great job of giving the reader all the information needed about how grueling tree planting is, without it ever feeling like an info dump.

This story is told in a non-linear fashion. It starts in present day and part of the narrative moves along the journey as Remy starts work and his relationship with Levi develops. But at key intervals, it also delves backward into Remy and Levi’s history, and gives the reader the important information needed to understand what brought each character to this point in his life. Now, in general, this isn’t my favorite way to tell a story, as my brain works in a linear way. However, it’s a credit to the author how well this worked, because I didn’t even really think about it until the book was over and I was sitting down to write this review. Hayden gives both the present and the near-past the time and attention each deserve, without one overshadowing the other. And it really fleshed out the story, making it comprehensive and complete.

I really enjoyed both MCs. They each have baggage, though Levi’s is a little heavier than Remy’s. I liked that Remy was his own person. He didn’t let his family dictate his desires, and he was unashamed of who he was or what he wanted. Okay, he did keep his course of study a secret from his family, but it was self-preservation. And when it’s revealed, he doesn’t let that deter him from his goal. He went about planting in the same way. It was a necessary task to complete his goals, and no one was going to stop him. He also had a lot of empathy for Levi, understanding where the man was coming from. But when Levi’s wants didn’t mesh with his own, Remy gently walked away.

Levi, as I said, had some baggage. He grew up in a household where emphasis was placed on “manliness.” He’s been burned recently by someone he thought cared about him, so he’s understandably got some issues he needs to work through, and him wanting to keep things quiet makes sense. My heart hurt for him, and I just wanted him to treat himself and his sexuality the way he viewed the rest of his attributes. He got there in the end, but it took a big, potentially life changing event to make him see it.

So throughout this book, I thought the pacing was great, and we got all the pertinent information exactly when and how we needed it. But I did think the end rushed a little bit, and that the climax of the story was a little extreme. Now, there were parts of it that totally worked for me. But I had a little trouble with Levi’s about face. While I understood it, I would have thought that he’d need to work through his new mindset a little more than he did. So I would have liked to see a little bit more from Levi there at the end.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story. Great writing, coupled with enjoyable characters and an engaging plot, made for a really nice read and one I have no trouble recommending.

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

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