Luke Schumaker works from home as a computer game designer. One day, Luke returns home from a walk with his dog when he finds a newspaper at the door that he didn’t order. Luke loves games and puzzles, so he picks up the crossword. However, he is shocked when he realizes that there is a hidden message in the puzzle that seems to have been left just for him. When it happens again and again, Luke realizes that the puzzle maker is likely someone who lives in his apartment complex, but he can’t figure out who it is. With some resourcefulness, however, Luke manages to track down the puzzle creator and set up a date to meet.
Alex Shaw also works from home and lives right near Luke’s apartment. He has been drawn to Luke for a while now and couldn’t resist placing the hidden messages in the crosswords he designs, even though he knew Luke might not ever see them. When Luke reaches out, Alex is nervous, but he takes a chance on meeting with him. As it turns out, Luke is everything in person that Alex had hoped and the guys hit it off right away. Luke is unfazed by Alex’s wheelchair, something that’s sadly not the case with many guys Alex meets. And they seem to have a lot in common, as both men design games and puzzles, love horror movies, and enjoy hiking and the outdoors.
As the men spend more time together, they both begin to fall quick and hard. But when Alex’s sister interferes and suggests Luke may not be ready for a relationship with a man in a wheelchair, Luke starts to panic and worry he might hurt Alex if things don’t work out. That has Luke second guessing the speed with which these guys are falling for one another. Now Luke and Alex have to work through their feelings and be honest with each other if they are going to be able to continue the relationship that has been growing between them.
I picked up Puzzle Me This for our Diverse Books Week in Reading Challenge Month. I am a big fan of Easton’s writing so I thought this would be a great fit for the event. Overall, I found this book to be a light and easy read.
Since I chose this because it features diversity, let’s start there. For the most part, I feel like Alex’s wheelchair use is incorporated well into the story. There is enough focus to show how Alex goes about his everyday life and some of the challenges he faces, as well as that Alex lives a full, rich, and independent life. But at the same time, the story is about Alex as a person, and not Alex as a wheelchair user, which I appreciated. I also liked that Alex’s wheelchair use is mostly a non-issue between he and Luke when they first meet. However, I found the ending conflict bothered me, as Luke gets warned off by Alex’s sister, Amy, who indicates that Alex has had a rough past and that Luke should back off now if he’s not ready for life with Alex. It sends Luke into this whole spiral of doubt about their relationship and I found myself annoyed that both Luke and Amy were acting so paternalistic toward Alex. He is an intelligent, independent, perfectly capable man. The fact that he is in a wheelchair doesn’t affect his ability to be in an adult romantic relationship, and the fact that they both were treating him like he was someone who needed protecting instead of an equal partner in things really bugged me.
As far as the relationship end, I found the story to be light and sweet with a nice meet-cute set up. This could have gone into weird stalkerish territory with Alex watching Luke and the crossword puzzle thing, but Easton manages to carry it off in a way that feels fun and not creepy. The guys are sweet together and have a lot of shared interests. There is enough steam to balance out the sweeter side and the relationship blooms pretty easily until the conflict hits at the end. As I said, I didn’t love Luke’s reaction and both Luke and Alex hit kind of high drama here. Fortunately, things resolve pretty quickly and the story has a nice, happy ending.
So overall, I found this story enjoyable and a quick, easy read. I’ll also note that if you are interested in stories featuring wheelchair users, I am a big fan of Easton’s The Mating of Michael, so that is one that you may want to check out as well.
Note: This book has been previously published. The author indicates this version is revised and expanded by 12k words.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Diverse Books Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of six $20 NineStar Press gift cards from the fabulous folks at NineStar Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Diverse Books Week here.