Author Wendy Qualls gives us a romance set in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the States of Love collection from Dreamspinner Press. This is a fairly quick moving romance complete with mis- and non-communication, which sparks conflict for the burgeoning love story between the two main characters. We also get a picture postcard view of the area as seen by recently transplanted Julian Barlow while he settles into his new job at NASA. His coworker and tour guide is the only other gay staff member on the engineering team, Cody Ewing.
After Julian is able to put aside his preconceived notions that all of Huntsville must be homophobic, the two men actually begin to hit it off. However, Julian is well aware that he needs to be seen as someone who can work independently and is very knowledgeable, so an office romance is the last thing he wants everyone to know about before he can establish his own reputation for being able to get the job done. I didn’t think it was a great reason, but Cody, being the really good natured guy he is, agrees to keep their relationship a secret. Then, while on a date, they run into Cody’s supervisor, which threatens what might have been.
In many ways, Rockets and Romance has some really good things to offer. Cody is incredibly kind and forgiving—an instantly likeable character who is willing to play the game Julian sets out in order to keep seeing the man. I had to warm up to Julian gradually as he really had a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it came to southerners and what he was sure their reaction to gays might be. Without any real evidence or knowledge, he dismissed the idea that he might find acceptance and that made it tough for him to really feel at ease in the new city he now lived in. It also made him a bit untrusting and inclined to see the worst in most situations. This then was the premise for most, if not all, the conflict in the story. Thankfully, the novella moved swiftly enough that this didn’t become too predictable.
I did enjoy the chemistry between both men and their easy way together. I think that aspect of their relationship was very well written and lovely to read. With low angst and a swiftly moving story line, Rockets and Romance made for a nice addition to the States of Love bookshelf.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.