life on pauseRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Niles Longfellow works at a historical museum and considers himself pretty geeky, as well as not much of a catch. So he is less than thrilled when his car breaks down and he is aided by a super hot hipster guy — all while wearing his historically accurate western settler costume. Niles is kind of taken aback at Rusty Adams’ apparent interest, as a guy that hot shouldn’t want anything to do with Niles. Niles’ sexual history pretty much boils down to random hookups with strangers and some solo play. So he figures Rusty most likely is looking for friendship, nothing more.

Rusty moved to the small Oklahoma town of Bison Hills with his sister and her young daughter. He loves having them as part of his life and enjoys his job as the school choir director. Rusty definitely finds Niles attractive, awkwardness and all. But Niles seems hesitant about going out with him, so Rusty agrees to see him as friends. But as the guys spend more time together, the attraction between them continues to grow and things move from friendship to something more.

Unfortunately, Niles’ insecurities weigh heavily on him, even in the face of Rusty’s apparent attraction. He is sure he is not good enough for a guy like Rusty and can’t imagine it won’t all end in heartbreak. Niles can’t help but let his own fears get in the way of things between them, especially when he learns that Rusty might be moving away when his sister leaves town. But the connection between Rusty and Niles is strong and this could really be something special, if only the guys can figure out how to trust one another and be open with their feelings.

I love a good geeky hero so this story intrigued me right from the blurb as it describes the meet cute between the men with poor Niles in his homesteader costume. I found Niles to be charming and sweet and the guys to be a really good fit together. They settle into such an easy friendship, and the attraction is clear right from the start. There is just a nice touch of lightness and humor between them, a bit of self deprecation from Niles, and the story is easy to read. Not to mention these guys are smoking hot together and a practically Kindle melting pair.

I did find myself frustrated, however, that these guys can’t seem to get out of their own way. Niles has a lot of self doubt. A lot. Like he has so little a sense of his own attraction or self worth that he barely manages to function sometimes. The first part of the book is the guys starting off as friends and moving to more. Niles needs a lot of confidence boosting to even believe things are working out with Rusty, and the guys struggle a bit with lack of communication about their feelings, but they eventually manage to overcome that to get together. But then things fall apart as Rusty omits mention that his hot coworker is also his ex and Niles pretty much spirals out of control. From then on the guys just can’t seem to get on the same page. They both want each other, that is clear. But they are both avoiding each other, are afraid to be honest with each other (or themselves) about how they feel, and pretty much just miscommunicate all over the place. Each is quick to assume the worst and they spend a large part of the book at odds, trying to find their way back to each other.

In some ways I found this pacing refreshing, as rather than a last minute conflict, these guys are working through issues for a larger chunk of the book and the author develops things well. But the epiphany on both their parts comes fairly late and wraps up quickly, despite the long time they have to work through things. If I am going to see conflict for so long, I want a more in depth resolution. Also, I’ll admit it become frustrating to see so much self doubt, so much miscommunication, and so much inability to get their acts together. I did, however, really enjoy their meddling friends Victor and Todd who help get them through it. And the sexual tension between this pair was amazing. Although this isn’t listed as a series, I’d LOVE a story between these two enemies who can’t stop eye fucking one another.

One thing I did really appreciate here is the wonderful sense of setting and culture that fills the story. These guys live in a small Oklahoma town and Niles works at a historical museum. He is part Native American and he takes his culture and the history of the area very seriously. McLellan manages to work in wonderful details about the history of the state and the settlers, along with building this quirky little town. This isn’t a part of the country that is often part of most books I read, so it was really nice to see how well the story is placed within the setting and the culture.

Overall I enjoyed this one, despite my frustrations with the miscommunication and self doubt. The guys are charming, their relationship sexy, and the writing smooth and crisp. It kept me engaged throughout and was a very entertaining story.

P.S. I also love this cover. Aside from being attractive, I loved that it includes details like Niles’ cowboy costume, as well as the fact that he is appreciably taller than Rusty. These details so seldom make it into a cover, so I really appreciate it when I see them.

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