Leo Secombe is in his late 20s and mostly settled in his life. He’d like a steady bloke, but he’s a retail manager and he has a committed relationship as a “buddy” to Clyde, a surly, gay septuagenarian. They got linked up through a program at their LGBTQ center, which pairs an older and a younger person together to help ease the isolation felt by lonely, single seniors. Leo will admit to enjoying this connection, which has delightful banter and has eased his own personal loneliness. Each week, Leo and Clyde get together for a day—they shop, they take classes together, they play cards/games with other buddy pairs. This week, Leo and Clyde are due to begin pottery classes at a local studio with three buddy pairs. And, that’s where Leo swoons for Merrick, the studio owner.
Merrick has spent the past 7 years getting his business built. He skipped a lot of things in his early 20s to make himself successful. Now secure, Merrick’s excited to give back a little, opening his studio for discounted classes with LGBTQ buddy bridge program. His own 70-year-old Uncle Donny is a closeted gay man who’s only ever come out to Merrick and Merrick’s mother. Merrick would love to get Donny involved in the classes, to see other elderly gay folk in real life, and maybe break out from behind social stigma that no longer exists. Meeting Leo and Clyde is kismet—first because Leo is adorable, but also because Clyde reminds Merrick of a close friend to Donny and he thinks they could become friends.
Clyde notices Leo’s immediate attraction to Merrick and isn’t subtle about trying to get them to connect. And, they do—carefully and quietly, without the classmates’ notice. Both Leo and Merrick have had a long dry spell, but their attraction isn’t just physical. Leo admires Merrick’s fashion sense, size, and capability in the class. He’s a great teacher, and Leo’s amused with the clay work. Merrick sees Leo’s deep friendship with Clyde and suspects he’s a great guy—one he could build a real relationship with.
It’s a sweet connection, one the men want to pursue, but carefully. I really loved Merrick’s commitment to dating and building a rapport. His few recent experiences had penetrative sex, but were one-offs for incompatibility. Through meetings and conversations, Leo and Merrick grow their relationship. The advent of Uncle Donny into the class brings Clyde up short. He’s a salty codger, but Donny’s a show-stopper of a man and their intimate conversations become the basis for more than Merrick’s scheme to get Uncle Donny to finally come out.
This book was an absolute pleasure read from start to finish. The interplay between Leo and Clyde, Merrick, and Leo’s lesbian roomie, Kell, are all so fun. It’s light-hearted without being fluffy. Uncle Donny has real issues with his self-concept and identity that gentle loving from both Clyde and Merrick help heal. And Leo’s knowledge of queer culture norms ease the coming out. The banter and camaraderie between characters are entirely fun and occasionally frisky, particularly between Leo and Merrick, who are barely able to restrain themselves while out to dinner or catching an open air movie.
While this is Leo and Merrick’s love story, the side characters and their growth provide texture and contrast. There’s significant depth of characterization and the interactions between generations felt genuine and realistic. Clyde has a “no time to wait” personality, and he’s always urging Leo to charge forward for what he wants. I laughed aloud at his chiding comments, and his snarky quips to all and sundry.
There are delicious sexytimes and a totally happy ending in store for readers.