back where he belongsRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novella

For the last five years, Kier Campbell has been living on a sheep farm in Australia, having left Scotland looking to see the world. He also wasn’t ready to come out and live openly with his best friend and lover, Douglas, and so leaving was a way to end things and move on. Now Kier has returned to Scotland to see his family for Christmas. When his car breaks down on Christmas Eve in the midst of a snowstorm, he finds himself rescued by none other than Dougie himself.

Kier knows he made a big mistake with the way he left Douglas and he hasn’t been truly happy ever since. Kier knows he has no right to expect Dougie to want to pick up where they left off, especially since Kier is only in town for a couple of weeks. They have both grown and changed and he doesn’t deserve Dougie’s forgiveness. But spending time with the man again makes it clear to Kier that he still wants Douglas, that he made a mistake leaving, and that he would love a chance to reconnect. Now he just has to hope that Dougie can forgive him for his mistakes and that there is still a chance for a future between them.

I love a good snowbound story, and one set in the Scottish Highlands definitely caught my attention. This is a romantic, holiday, lovers reunited story with a lot of sweetness along with the kink. Starling does a nice job setting the stage here with our two guys, getting us caught up on their past relationship and the connection they clearly shared. We are in Kier’s POV so we only see his side of things, but I got a good sense of these two men and how they fit, as well as what went wrong between them. Kier readily admits that he was too scared to come out and really claim a life with Douglas, so he left for Australia, but now clearly regrets his mistakes.

The guys coming back to together felt natural and never forced. Even after all the time had passed, I could just feel the warmth between them and the sense of connection. In the past, the guys had shared a mutual enjoyment of puppy play, and when they come together again here, it is through a puppy play scene. In general, I think the scene is generally pretty accessible even to readers unfamiliar with puppy play. That said, for me Starling takes things in a somewhat uncomfortable direction in that Kier as a puppy is referred to by his puppy name “Freckle” during their sex scene and it is told as if Freckle the dog is doing the action. For example:

“Good boy, Good boy.”  Douglas praised, his voice becoming strained and needy as he held Freckle’s head in place so he could grind against him. Dougie pulled one of the popper fasteners open making a gap for Freckle to push his tongue in and lick at his flesh. The head of Dougie’s erection peeped through, and with his mouth, Freckle sucked and drew it out of the sleep suit. He went down on Dougie like a starving man receiving his first meal, and as he sucked he made grateful whimpering sounds at the back of his throat.

“Ohhh, you love that bone, don’t ya.” Douglas groaned, his hips flicking rhythmically.

Freckle knew exactly how to drive his owner crazy–and he knew by the timbre of Dougie’s voice and that he was unraveling. The most sensitive area of Douglas’s dick was just below the ridge of his glans. Freckle drew off the spit-wet shaft and licked at that very spot, making Douglas wantonly gasp “Ohhh Freckle,” holding his head in place and grinding against him. Freckle’s heart leaped in his chest. Pleasing his master was so satisfying.

Now I’m totally down with puppy play if that is something you enjoy and I have read many scenes of this kind of kink. But the way this is written bordered a little too close to man on dog sex to make me feel fully comfortable. I wanted to see Kier as a man playing puppy and enjoying sex with Douglas, not “Freckle” giving his master a blow job, ykwim?

My only other real issue here is that the pacing feels a little off. This is a short novella, so I don’t expect the same level of plot development as with a longer book. But the majority of the story is a detailed lead up to the guys getting together, with background on their relationship, Kier being rescued, the dinner they have together, etc. They then get together physically, and the story wraps up immediately after with everything resolved for them all in a bow. We never get to see them discussing their future or figuring out next steps. With such a well developed lead in, I felt like the story just moves at light speed at the end without nearly the same attention to how these guys work things out after getting in bed together.

Overall though, this is a romantic and sweet holiday story that I think will especially appeal to fans of the lovers reunited trope. Starling does a really nice job establishing the connection between these men and it had me really believing that they could make it work again, even after years apart.

Note: The book ends around 78% on my Kindle and is followed by a short story, The Christmas Bonus, featuring different characters and that appears unrelated.

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