Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 6 hours, 37 minutes
Bowen Merlin has left NYC for small town New Hampshire. He landed a job as a public school band teacher and he’s looking forward to the change of scenery, although it’s way too cold there in December. Bowen has to hit the ground running as there is a lot to catch up on and a holiday concert to perfect with new students. His schedule is busy, but when he meets Felix Hansen, owner of the local apple orchard, Bowen feels his luck in the romance department may be changing.
Bowen may come off as the quiet music teacher, but he likes to take charge. Felix and Bowen seem well suited for each other, but Felix has scars, both inside and outside, he’s raising his teenage son, and he’s afraid at first to give Bowen a true chance. But, Felix feels the pull toward Bowen and while life will throw them lots of curves, things are a whole lot brighter when they are together.
This book started out cute as Bowen and Felix have an awkward meet-cute that Bowen can’t seem to find his way out of. I was then expecting a light-hearted romance set in a small town around Christmas. While we did get some of that, the book tried to achieve a whole lot around it and not all of it was successful for me.
When Bowen and his collection of bowties arrive in a small snowy town, it doesn’t take him long to meet Felix, who he wants to get to know a whole lot better. Bowen has synesthesia, which allows him to see sound as color, and Felix’s voice is the warmest amber Bowen has ever seen. This was an interesting and unique characteristic and that aspect was worked into the story well.
Felix carries scars, both on his skin and in his heart. He wants to give Bowen a chance, but he’s more than a little reluctant. However, he goes from turning down Bowen’s date invitation to then having phone sex with the man in a blink. The phone sex scene was a little oddly placed for me as the men had barely interacted with each other. If a plot is going to involve love at first sight or the MCs becoming intimate quickly, the author has to produce the chemistry and I didn’t feel that here. They then start emoting all of their feelings to each other, but with both of their schedules they have barely seen each other and that pull wasn’t there for me. Bowen starts calling Felix “darling” in a matter of days and it rang false to me, and even the audio narrator here didn’t convey that term of endearment adequately and it sounded awkward.
The book then deals with Felix’s past and Bowen fitting in at his new job. What was a small town romance then took on a homophobic plot and that all went sideways for me. After a tragic event, the culprit was so easy to spot, and it was like there was a beacon shining over them that turned the perpetrator into a caricature and then there was no full closure of that storyline. Also, Felix’s past was a huge part of his story, yet I didn’t feel that was fully developed either. The town rallies around Bowen and offers him all the support he needs during a crisis, yet Bowen has been in town for three weeks! Three weeks to have almost the entire town backing him, three weeks to have students making major life changes, and three weeks to completely change his life while falling in love, all while carrying an incredible work load at the school. It was rather impressive what he could accomplish in these three weeks. What started as a small-town romance then wanted to be more dramatic and while the two pieces didn’t fit well for me with this one, your experience could most certainly vary.
Greg Boudreaux was the narrator here and I have come to expect a high standard for his performances. He delivers here as well with a smooth narration that is easy to fall into for an effortless listen. His character voices are always diverse, although here was a little less so. He is one of the few narrators that can pull off a female voice and Bowen’s friend, Scarlet, was well narrated, although the older woman sounded stereotypical. The emotion wasn’t as strong for me here, and during intimate scenes or dramatic scenes, there wasn’t as much inflection as I have come to expect from him or that the material warranted, and this was a more subdued performance. Still, you cannot go wrong with a Boudreaux narration as he lifts this story off the page.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.