You know, sometimes you forget how much you fell in love with certain characters until another chapter in their lives comes along and you realize just how much you’ve missed reading about them. Such is the case with author Kaje Harper’s men from the Rebuilding Year novels, John and Ryan. If you aren’t familiar with the first two novels, The Rebuilding Year and Life, Some Assembly Required, then by all means abandon this review of the latest in the series, Rebuilding Forever, and walk, no run, to snatch up the others. These are two of my favorite works by this talented author and John and Ryan are simply a magical couple. Magic and romance aside, these guys have work hard for their happy ever after and run the emotional gamut during their years together. This latest novella finds Ryan in residency some four hours away from John and that reality most definitely has both men unhappy to say the least.
Those familiar with the series will recall how much has changed in John and Ryan’s lives. Ryan, grappling with a life crippling injury that changed his trajectory and aimed him solidly at med school has also had to deal with coming to grips with loving not just John, but his two children as well. If you recall, neither John nor Ryan had understood their attraction to men and firmly pushed those feelings aside as an impossibility until meeting each other. Through a few rough patches, like finding out your dad now loves a man and dealing with a poisonous, homophobic mother, the kids have grown up and have fully embraced John as the stepdad they hope he will one day be. However, this story is set in 2014—when gay marriage was still a state by state reality and SCOTUS had not yet handed down it’s history altering decision and while the two men could marry in the state of Minnesota, Ryan wants to wait until it’s legal nationwide.
Kaje Harper combines just the right amount of exhaustion and tension caused by a political environment bent on denying gay rights, and long distance relationship challenges to make this new story riveting and emotionally charged. You can feel the frustration pour off Ryan as he attempts to make med school and loving/seeing John work. He has never given less than 100% to anything he’s done and now that he is in residency that hasn’t changed. The crushing loneliness that both men endure is so palpable as it permeates nearly every moment they are apart. Poor John just wants his man home and we see that reflected in how uncertain and doubtful he becomes when attempting to make the most of every stolen day he can have with Ryan. It’s as if, in some ways, both men are walking on eggshells as they figure out how to make this new season in their lives work. Add to that the worry over whether their desire to marry will ever come about or be recognized as legal and you have one gut churning moment after another.
Once again, this author gives us a gorgeous romantic story with complex and believable characters who spring to life from her talented imagination. Fans of the series will delight in this latest installment and, like myself, greedily ask that it not be the end of John and Ryan’s story, but the springboard for a new chapter in their lives just waiting to be told.