When an intensely shy and strange young man named Jerry needs help at the home improvement store, Gabe is drafted to assist. The guy shouldn’t attract Gabe, but for some reason he does and when he begs Gabe to become the project manager on the massive home renovation job he has, Gabe finds himself agreeing just to get to know more about the elusive Jerry. The mansion in question may need a huge overhaul, but the place is still gorgeous and Gabe can’t wait to get started. Then he discovers that Jerry is living on take out and sleeping on a mattress on the second floor—can the guy actually afford to redo the house he seems to love so much?
Gabe decides to help Jerry as much as he can, but his first priority is his daughter, Ellie, whose mother is just looking for the chance to take over custody and cut Gabe, who is gay, out of her life. When secrets about Jerry are revealed and spill over to threaten not only Gabe, but Ellie, the tentative relationship that has begun to build between the two men looks like it may be over before it starts. But worse yet, Gabe may lose more than Jerry, he may lose Ellie as well.
Please forgive me if I gush a bit about Tara Lain’s latest novel, Home Improvement. I loved this story. From the wonderfully mature and loving Ellie who had her dad’s back, to Jerry who just wanted to be seen for who he really is, to Gabe who has sacrificed everything, including a personal life with a potential partner for his daughter, this book is a sweet and tender romance, as well as a lovely reminder that family is what you make of it and not necessarily what you are born into.
From the very beginning, Jerry stole the spotlight for me. It was so great to watch him grow into a person who took control of a life that he had never really loved, but one he’d pretended fulfilled him despite it never really doing so. His metamorphosis in this story was key to Gabe finally realizing that putting his own life on hold due to the constant fear that he might lose Ellie was doing neither of them any real good. Jerry not only showed Gabe that he was still a real “catch,” but also that when the chips were down there was someone who would fight for him and his daughter.
Gabe was just the best dad ever. I loved how he and Ellie respected each other and took care of each other. Ellie was a very mature high schooler and, at the age of seventeen, she showed both emotional vulnerability and a bit of savvy that felt ageless. This was a great example of where a side character really added to the story in positive ways and made you love one of the main characters even more due to their presence in his life. This book had it all—romance, a big reveal that was both shocking and yet realistic, and a secondary conflict that lurked in the background forcing the hand of not one, but three characters to walk a tightrope lest the hammer drop and Ellie be taken away.
Home Improvement definitely rates as one of the best novels of 2019 for me. This is a story that I will assuredly file under reread when I desire a beautiful romance with just a bit of angst on the side. I highly recommend this to romance lovers everywhere.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.