Audiobook Review: Prelude to Love by Anne Barwell

Prelude to loveStory Rating: 3.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars

Narrator: Andrew McFerrin
Length: 6 hours, 35 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks


Joel and Marcus first met at a wedding. Marcus came with his then-boyfriend while Joel’s partner, Reed, had just left him. Now, five years later, Joel has a second chance to make a first impression when Marcus moves to town to be closer to his sister, Ella, and to start fresh after his breakup. Darren, Joel’s best friend and Ella’s husband, just so happens to think the two would make a wonderful couple and, with the help of their daughter, are doing everything they can to get the two of them together.

Marcus is trying to get his life together after his longtime boyfriend decided to move on. Rather than stay where he was, where everything reminded him of the breakup, Marcus decided he needed new city, a new job, and time to grieve for what might have been. Their parting was amicable, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. When his niece and brother-in-law, and even his sister, begin hinting about the young music teacher, Marcus is amused. And, maybe just a little, interested. Joel is attractive, charming, and really does need someone to mow his lawn. He’s good with children, friends with Marcus’ sister, and what would the harm be in just saying hello?

It’s been five years since Joel broke up with his boyfriend. Reed had been controlling, always making the decisions for the pair of them, but the last straw was when Reed not only accepted a job in Australia, but bought plane tickets for them both, assuming Joel would go along with it without even asking. Ever since, Joel hasn’t been looking for love, or any sort of romantic relationship. Instead he’s focused on his teaching. His students are preparing for a concert and he has foolishly agreed to perform a solo. He needs to practice, and practice, and practice, and make certain his students are doing the same.

Distractions come in the form of Marcus, who he’d been quite taken with at the wedding, enough so that he made a bit of a fool of himself when they first met. Marcus is everything Joel wants in a man. He’s honest, open, smart, caring, and willing to let Joel have an opinion. Marcus is patient and cautious and plays his cards close to his chest, while Joel has a tendency towards passive aggressiveness that leads to unhealthy and harmful behaviors — to both himself and Marcus. For example, when he suspects Marcus of cheating on him, Joel doesn’t ask him about it or try to talk to him about it. He doesn’t even stop seeing Marcus. The two of them continue to have sex, it’s just that Joel isn’t whole heartedly into it anymore. Not until Marcus comes forward to explain what had happened, and why it had happened, and why it wasn’t what Joel thought. This behavior — the lack of communication and the inability to stand up for himself — make me wonder if Joel is ready for a relationship, even if it has been five years since Reed.

Another of Joel’s issues is his relationship with his father who cut him off and disowned him when he discovered his son was gay. Joel still has a relationship with his mother and sister, but he’s had to accept his father’s feelings. Until, that is, his father has heart issues, and then Joel can’t live without meeting his father again and trying to find some way to bridge the gap. Joel is a ball of insecurity and emotions and ends up taking most of the attention in his and Marcus’s relationship. It’s an exhausting and unhealthy situation for Marcus to be in; he has very little time for his own needs because he must focus everything on Joel. When Joel isn’t focused on himself, he’s focused on his music (and his stress about and work for the concert take up a good third of the story). I don’t see them as a long-term couple, not without some counseling, but the two become incredibly serious so very quickly. It’s only a week or two from the first lawn mowing to a major commitment. Personally, I don’t think the two of them make a healthy couple, and I think Marcus got the short end of the stick.

Prelude to Love is not a bad story, but it’s not one I can really recommend. Long stretches of the book were just tedious, with long portions focusing on Joel’s practicing and lessons with his students. They weren’t badly written, but they did linger on and added little to the plot. Adding to that, I just didn’t feel any real chemistry between the couple.

I listened to this in audiobook, narrated by Andrew McFerrin, who did an impressive job with the accents, though they all sounded a bit more British than New Zealand, to me. I, however, am neither British nor a New Zealander, so don’t take my word as gospel. He did a good job and, if you’re going to get the book, I’d go with the Audible version.

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

elizabeth sig

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