Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Sterling Harper is a widowed, busy dentist trying to raise a 10-year-old trans daughter. Summer vacation is upon them and Sterling thinks hiring a nanny would make things easier…especially since his plan of leaving Alexa with his in-laws fell through. They don’t approve of Sterling allowing Alexa to go through what they say is a phase. Sterling gets a little more than he expected when he discovers the “nanny” he was interviewing would actually be a “manny.” Jericho is more than qualified, and Sterling knows he’d be the best fit for Alexa.
Jericho Johnston has been working in Haiti with poor children, and before that, he worked at a summer camp for LGBTQ+ children run by his aunt and uncle. Jericho has lined up a substitute teaching job for the fall, but until then, he could use some extra funds, and working for Sterling (and with Alexa) seems to be the perfect job.
Jericho hits it off with Alexa right off the bat, and he also gets along nicely with Sterling. There is an attraction there, and Jericho learns Sterling is a gay man who married his best friend after a sexual experiment led to her becoming pregnant with Alexa. They begin a relationship that is supposed to be short term because of Jericho’s job, but it begins to go deeper. Sterling doesn’t want to give his in-laws any more ammunition for their battle for custody of Alexa. Jericho understands, but he doesn’t want to be Sterling’s dirty little secret, either. Can the men work past all the hurt to start a life together as a family with Alexa, or will the custody battle and all the baggage that comes with it destroy their blossoming love before they get a chance to explore it?
After reading and reviewing the first of this series (Worth Waiting For), I was excited to be able to read this book. I had high hopes because I really did enjoy the first, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the slightest. This was an incredible story, with characters I fell in love with. I read it straight through in one sitting. It was compelling and captured me from the very first page.
My heart hurt for Sterling. He seemed…lost. He had a very busy work schedule and was considering buying out the share of the other dentist in the practice. He didn’t get to spend enough time with Alexa, and he felt awful about that. Her transition was difficult at the end of the last school year. Other children laughed at her when she showed up in a dress and told them. His in-laws are trans/homophobic and have accused Sterling of abusing Alexa by allowing her to go through this “phase.” To top it off, Alexa is on the Autism spectrum and she sometimes has angry meltdowns. The man needed someone like Jericho, not only a help with Alexa, but to be a calming influence on him.
Jericho captured me and held me close. He was such a good man. He’s helped a lot of children, and he loves what he does. I loved how he bonded with Alexa, and how he really did become a rock for Sterling. He’s definitely attracted to him, but he doesn’t act upon it because he’s not sure it would be reciprocated. When he finds out it is, he’s tender and caring after he hears the story of Sterling’s marriage.
Together the men are very sweet, but very hot. Their love scenes were off the charts from the first time to the end of the book. As I mentioned, Jericho is gentle and caring, and he’s willing to go at Sterling’s pace. There’s a nice amount of dirty talk…you all know how I love dirty talk…and detail. However, this isn’t to say any of the sex is gratuitous or simply a plot device. It felt perfectly natural, and truthfully, it was beautiful.
I want to say a few words about Alexa. I found her to be charming through and through. She was mature for her age, although she almost had to be. She lost her mother, she’s transitioning, her maternal grandparents aren’t accepting her, and she worries about what will happen when the school year begins again. I loved how smart she was, and even how she endlessly chattered on. She was wonderfully written, and it’s obvious the author did her research on trans children and autism.
I’m a fan of manny stories, and this one was virtually textbook. That’s not a bad thing. Most of the time, the children are either too precocious or too bratty. Alexa wasn’t like that at all. Falling in love is…of course…par for the course between the manny and the father, and Worth Fighting For had that, but this time, it felt a little more realistic. The attraction was mutual, but Jericho and Sterling understood why they needed to be careful, not only with Alexa, but with everyone. I mentioned the in-laws trying to win custody, and they didn’t want to give them any extra ammunition. I thought this was great, actually. Instalove is nice, really it is, but I enjoyed the somewhat slow fall.
The conflict of the story, the blowup between Jericho and Sterling, and the custody fight, was solved rather quickly. Maybe a little too quickly. Most of the story is about the familial relationship between Jericho, Sterling, and Alexa, and that was perfect. However, I expected a little more, especially about going to court. Still, everything wrapped up neatly and predictably. In this case, predictable was good. I needed this book to end the way it did, and the author didn’t let me down one bit.
I so want to tell you every single thing that happened in this story. I want to tell it to you in my own words because I loved it so much. I would love to gush and gush and gush so more, but I honestly think that Worth Fighting For is worth your time. It’s worth your heart. This is the second book in the Heart of the South series, but can absolutely be read as a stand alone. There is a short mention or two of Paul and Brandon, the MCs of the first book, but it was only casual and in no way gets in the way of this story. Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You’ll laugh, and you certainly will cry (I totally cried. Not ashamed to admit it.). I’m sure you’ll think it’s as wonderful as I do.
PS…Ok, I’ll tell you one thing that really touched me. Jericho has a trans friend who goes shopping with him, Alexa, and Sterling. When Alexa comes out of the fitting room in a dress, and they ask her how she feels, she simply replies, “I feel pretty.” My heart melted, and I just started to cry again as I typed this. Just so many feels.
Slow, hot build is one of my favorite tropes. I bought this immediately!
I’m so glad you liked it! A small correction: WORTH FIGHTING FOR is actually the third book in this trilogy. WORTH SEATCHING FOR came out this past February and features a sexy, fabulous city boy thrown into rural Alabama and meeting the love of his life while volunteering for a K9 search and rescue team 🙂
– Wendy Qualls
Err, Searching, not “Seatching.” Not sure what that would be but it sounds uncomfortable 😛
Anyway, blurb and links for WORTH SEARCHING FOR can be found at http://wendyqualls.com/books/heart-of-the-south-series/worth_searching_for 🙂