Rating: 4.25 stars
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Clay Kartwell could not escape his family farm in Wisconsin fast enough. Living with his angry father was sheer torture, and he hasn’t had much contact since his mother died. Clay has been living in the Chicago suburbs for the past five years, working at a job he doesn’t love. He’s stunned when he turns up for work only to learn the business isn’t turning a profit and his boss has closed the doors with zero notice. On his commute back to his apartment, Clay gets a call from his estranged father, with whom he’s barely spoken in the past five years, with a plea for help. It’s harvest time and his dad broke his foot. He’s unable to bring in the crops and, if he doesn’t, the farm will fall forfeit to the loans his dad had made to expand operations.
Clay doesn’t want to return to the farm, but he won’t let his father down, either. So, he packs a bag and drives north. Their reunion is charged and frustrating, and Clay is no state of mind to encounter his old high school crush at the pharmacy where he’s picking up dad’s pain pills. Dell Warrington is a sexy as ever, and he’s got a preschool son in tow who has his daddy’s dark hair and mischievous eyes. Archie is beguiling and over the moon to play with Clay’s old pooch, who’s been waiting in the parking lot. A little conversation with Dell ignites all the confusing wanting Clay thought he’d locked down years ago. And, when Dell reveals that Archie’s mom hasn’t been in the picture since the birth—and that Dell is out as gay to his folks—well, it’s been a heck of a day.
Clay is swamped with the many projects that have languished in his father’s sole proprietorship of the farm. Dell has been a help for the past few years of Clay’s absence, something Clay only learns upon his return. With that comes the knowledge that Dell was always interested in him sexually, but he didn’t know how to manage his attraction back in high school. It’s heady for Clay, learning that his crush wasn’t one sided. His dad has arranged for Dell to assist with the harvest also, especially with driving a harvester he gets on lease through a farmer’s collective. Clay would be more frustrated with the situation, but Dell helps him see his dad was working himself to the bone, building the farm into a real legacy, one he wants to leave Clay. And, while Clay doesn’t want to see himself as a farmer anymore, and is still struggling with his father’s views of his homosexuality, well, he can’t help admitting that the connection growing between he and Dell is more than infatuation. When Dell makes it clear he’d love for Clay to consider moving back to their small town permanently and be a true partner to him and a father to Archie, well, Clay’s not sure he can do it. Having his grouchy old man in favor of the idea, blows Clay’s mind.
Can Clay reconcile himself to what seems a backslide into the small-town life he hated? And, how will the folks of their community react to having two openly gay men shack up and run the Kartwell farm? Beside that, is Clay going to be able to build a big enough bridge to have a healthy relationship with his dad? Complicating matters is a new job offer back in Chicago, and Clay’s dear friend Alan whom he would miss if he gave up his urban life.
This is a sweet and tender reconnection small-town romance. The headfirst fall into love seemed a bit quick, but Clay and Dell are not strangers, and their shared childhood infatuation only ignites in their close proximity now as single adults. Archie’s already build a bond with Clay’s dad, and it’s about a minute and a half before Clay falls for him, too. Clay waffles a bit regarding how to figure out his future, but Alan’s counsel, as lascivious as it is, points him in the only direction he can reasonably take. The angst is fairly low, with good pacing, a dash of yearning, and a bit of sexytimes. It’s a happy ever after for everyone.