Vaughn Winter’s life is full trying to establish his veterinary practice in a small town. When a stranger flags him down on the highway begging for help for his dog, Vaughn can’t refuse. It’s clear Alex loves his pug, Roxy, and it’s just as clear that Alex is in a very rough place, as he is homeless. Vaughn’s heart breaks when Alex cracks, unable to pay for Roxy’s care. Vaughn is quick to strike a deal. He needs help sprucing up his place to draw in clients and offers Alex the opportunity to work off the cost of Roxy’s care, as well as room and board while Roxy recovers.
Alex clearly doesn’t know how to accept such generosity, but he’ll do anything for his dog. Over several weeks, the two men strike up a friendship, and Alex works hard doing everything that needs to be done. Their attraction sparks from the very beginning, but it only grows as they get to know one another. Slowly, Alex opens up about his past and what made him end up on the streets.
Though the two men are falling in love, there are barriers in their way. The people in Vaughn’s life are afraid Alex is taking advantage of him. But Vaughn knows Alex’s heart, and knows he’s a good man who needs a place to heal. But communication, or lack thereof, gets in the way and soon things seem dire. Vaughn knows his heart belongs to Alex, if they can get past what stands in their way.
Kim Breyon is a new-to-me author and, I’ll admit, I went into this with a wary eye. But I quickly fell into the story, the slow build of the romance, and the deftly executed narrative. It wasn’t perfect, and there were a few small things that bugged me, but overall this is a solid book.
Vaughn is a kind hearted, hard working man. He has a sister who loves him to pieces, even if she’s trying to set him up with a woman she knows, and a mother who accepts him for who he is. He’s building his practice and he has a small, dedicated staff to help. Vaughn’s the perfect person to flag down when you have an injured dog, and he immediately knows he has to help not only Roxy, but her dad. He’s also bisexual, and I love to see positive bi representation.
Alex is wounded. The author does a great job showing how guarded he is, and slowly, over time, he becomes more comfortable. Or at least enough to let down some of his walls. Alex is healing. His life hasn’t been easy the past few years, and he did what he had to in order to make it through. His love for his dog is the catalyst for a few of the plot points, but even that shows what kind of man he is in his heart. I will add a content warning here for physical abuse that’s not shown, but talked about in some detail, for those who need to avoid that.
The romance is definitely a bit of a slow burn in the beginning, and even after the MCs get together, it’s an easy, gentle kind of thing. I really enjoyed that even though there are some heavy themes in this story, it isn’t overly angsty. There’s just the right amount of weight to the tale, and things mostly have a positive lift.
I will say that for me, the big sticking point was the miscommunication between the MCs. But even then, the author gave enough background on the guys that it sort of made sense. Not completely, because they could have both had a rational conversation to settle things. But for the most part, I understood exactly why they didn’t. In Alex’s case, in particular, it was clear he wasn’t in a headspace where he could articulate it. I could also mostly understand why Vaughn didn’t push, though, I will be honest and say the conclusions Vaughn jumped to kind of irritated me.
There was also one moment at the end where a new character shows up and, without giving anything away, I knew who it was right away. And to have them show up got under my skin. I get why the author did it, and what Breyon wanted to accomplish with it. But to have that character show up felt like salt in an open wound and I would have rather seen the end resolution come about in a different way that didn’t include that.
But all in all, this was a good read. I enjoyed the author’s voice, I loved the characters and the pacing, and it left me with a smile on my face. If you’re looking for a fairly low angst, gentle love story, then this one is for you.