After things fall apart with his boyfriend (and boss), Oz Gallagher is left with no job and no place to live. On a whim, he decides to apply for a position as a house and collections manager for a country estate in Cornwall. The job is a six-month assignment to oversee renovations and preparations to open the Earl of Ashworth’s home to visitors. After he sees all the posh applicants vying for the position, Oz figures he doesn’t have a chance with his lower class background and accent, so he lets his full snarky self out during the interview. Much to his shock, however, Oz is hired on for the job.
When Oz arrives in Cornwall, he expects to find the earl is a stuffy, older man, but it turns out that Silas is warm and caring and quite down to earth. In fact, Oz finds himself drawn to Silas, and Silas definitely returns his interest. But Oz already lost one job due to sleeping with his boss, and he knows getting involved with another is a bad idea. Silas has had his own troubles mixing business with pleasure, so he is determined to keep his distance as well. But as Silas and Oz work together in attempt to get the crumbling estate turned around in time for visitors, they find that the attraction is more than they can handle and the pair begin a tentative relationship. Silas admires Oz’s strength and determination, not to mention is his snark and his unwillingness to take any hassle from anyone. For his part, Oz loves how caring and self sacrificing Silas is, how willing to give anything to others, even at his own expense.
The pair are falling hard for one another, but the end of Oz’s contract is rapidly approaching. Between Silas’ mother’s disapproval, Oz’s own self doubts about his worth, and Silas’ fears of scaring Oz off, the situation is complicated. But the men have found a connection with one another they never expected, and now they must fight to keep what they have built together.
So I probably say this after every Lily Morton book, but wow, was this story incredible! Morton has a way of combining warm, tender romances with snark and humor, keeping a reader in turns laughing and experiencing all the feels throughout the story. I was captivated from the very first moments and couldn’t put this one down.
Before I go too far, Oz is the first book in Morton’s new Finding Home series, which is a spin off of her Mixed Messages series. If you have read my reviews of those books, you will know I went crazy for that series, and this story has much the same style and tone as those, particularly the first two. If you are familiar with the other series, you may remember Silas as Henry’s brother from Risk Taker, and Henry and Ivo do appear here (as does the infamous make-out coat closet). However, you can easily read this story as a standalone. But seriously, even if you read this one first, you truly need to go back and read Mixed Messages if you haven’t already because it is a standout series and absolutely too good to miss.
So this story is appropriately titled Oz, because as much as Silas is all kinds of wonderful and you will want him for your very own, Oz is the star of the show here. He is strong and snarky and doesn’t take crap from anyone. Oz grew up poor and he and his mother have a fierce bond. He is used to being looked down upon for his background and he knows how to put anyone in their place who dares give him a hard time. Oz is also excellent at his job, taking on the chaotic building project and whipping it all into shape until everyone is pretty much eating out of the palm of his hand (or too terrified of him to argue). Oz is snarky and hysterical and things just fly out of his mouth and you won’t be able to help but laugh. However, what Morton does so well here is make Oz more than just the comic relief. She develops his character so well, letting us see where his strengths come from, as well as his insecurities. At one point Silas compares Oz to a hedgehog, all prickly on the outside but with a soft underbelly he tries to protect, and that is just a perfect description.
Silas is just the perfect partner for Oz. Not only is he totally charmed by Oz, but he also is completely down to earth and totally accepting. Silas has had a lot of partners, but no one who truly cared for him. As the Earl of Ashworth, people see his title and his position. But Silas lives mostly as a regular guy, working as a veterinarian and helping out in the community. He takes care of everyone else, sacrificing so much of himself to look out for others. And with Oz, Silas finds someone who puts him first, who takes care of him and who can stand on his own two feet. These guys are just so perfectly balanced that they fit together wonderfully. The story has a bit of a slow burn as the men are clearly crazy for one another, but trying to avoid the whole boss/employee romance and you can just feel the chemistry between them crackling. When they finally get together, they are incendiary and you can’t help but feel how perfect they are for one another.
What I loved best here is that for all the hysterical conversations and quirky banter and crazy goings on, this story is full of heart. It is so warm and lovely as these two men who thought they could never find love end up falling for one another. There are not many stories that can make you cry laughing, as well as choke up on all the warm, romantic feelings, but Morton manages both here. I couldn’t have loved this one more and highly recommend it to you.