Rating: 3.25 stars
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Length: Novel

Gordon James has had a thing for Colby McBride for quite some time, but the timing never seems right to do anything about it. Gordon’s relied upon their friendship to get Colby to do some work for him around his restaurants — he owns two, in Boulder, Colorado — as well as some tile work in his own bathroom. Colby’s true gift, and true passion, is tile and Gordon has plans that include a fully tiled fireplace, something Colby would be perfect for. Gordon didn’t mean to start something that night in his shower. He just wanted to thank Colby for his phenomenal work, turning it from a utilitarian space into a shrine to relaxation and cleanliness. Not that he regrets the kiss. Or what followed after. Unfortunately, before Gordon and Colby have the chance to do much more than bask in the brief afterglow, Colby’s world is turned upside down. His sister, who he hasn’t seen in years — and hasn’t thought of in about as long — has taken her own life, leaving behind a five-year-old daughter. Olivia, Gordon’s only remaining family member, is now his responsibility.

Gordon has no idea how to take care of a child. Fortunately, Colby does and Gordon is grateful for the friendship and the help. Between the two of them, they make a good parent, but can they find time for themselves? With the his restaurants needing him every second of the day and a little girl who just lost her mother, Gordon’s at his wits end. Colby loves Gordon with all his heart, and Olivia, too. He’s willing to help out however he can, if only Gordon will let him in.

There’s a fine line, when writing children, between too cute for words and too precocious for the story. Fortunately, these authors seem to be able to balance it because Olivia comes across like an honest kid and neither rots my teeth with cloying sweetness, nor seems to be a forty-year-old woman with a teddy bear. I honestly don’t care for kids in my stories, but this one almost managed to charm me.

Gordon is well-off and likes to be in control. He’s used to micromanaging everything in his restaurants, and when it comes to his relationship with Colby, Gordon prefers to be in charge. It’s his house, his schedule, and it’s Gordon who makes the first move. That’s not to say he’s either domineering or a jerk, he’s just very much a type A personality. Colby balances him out, being calm and laid back and oozing an old-fashioned charm. He has more nicknames for Gordon and Olivia than I can count, often calling Gorden three or four different versions (baby, honey, sir, mister, cupcake) in one conversation. He also has a good half dozen for Olivia. It got to be a bit much halfway through the book, but Colby is such a pleasant guy I could almost forgive it.

The two men have known each other, and wanted each other, for some time. Both Colby and Gordon are thinking longing thoughts about each other within the first page, hinting at a relationship already almost in progress. Gordon makes a brief thought that he shouldn’t go for Colby — don’t make a mess where you sleep — but, when presented with an opportunity, doesn’t hesitate to go for it. The two guys have their moment in the newly tiled bathroom, but there’s no real conversation between them about what their relationship is or what they want it to be. In fact, throughout much of the book, there’s very little conversation at all.

Everything in the story was sort of … taken for granted. There was no ground work to show how things started between Colby or Gordon, no tension or buildup. They were in an already established friendship that launched into a physical romance within pages, followed by an instant family with very little talk or discovery as to how a child deals with losing her mother and having a new family, or how Gordon has to deal with having his life taken over. It’s all just … done. Everything went so easily, so perfectly, that I found it to be a bit boring. There’s no work in this book, no effort, and no real chemistry between the two male leads. I didn’t feel any spark between Colby and Gordon. There was a hint of city boy vs. country boy, but other than Colby mentioning the mountains, that never goes anywhere. While I believe Colby is falling in love, I don’t buy it on Gordon’s part. I do believe in their friendship, and that Gordon needs and wants Colby’s help, but, again, I didn’t feel any sparks between them. Maybe because their passion was already a banked fire, with the sparks happening long before the book started.

The Olivia scenes take up perhaps half of the book with her new room, her breakfasts, and first day of school, playing with toys, talking about library books, going swimming, meeting Colby’s parents … If it hadn’t been for the care the authors took to make her relatable and honest, I think I would have honestly considered DNFing. As it is, her arrival affected the dynamic between the two men so much that it completely derailed the story. Instead of this being a story about Gordon and Colby dealing with the arrival of a child, Gordon dealing with the loss of his sister, and Olivia’s grief at the loss of her mother while at the same time the guys are trying to be a couple, it became a happy family story with sex scenes in lieu of plot. While there is a brief confrontation near the end where both characters acknowledge that the lack of conversation has caused problems, it’s again easily settled.

If you like cute family stories, or stories with pleasant kids who aren’t either too precious for words or too worldly for their own good, give this one a try. The writing is good and it’s a fast read, but it’s also a bit of a hollow read. The sex scenes are good, but there’s not much story here. I’d be curious to try other works from these authors because they have a rapport with their writing, for all that I didn’t see it carry over to their characters.

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