For Charlie Matheson, life has been essentially one long sacrifice. When he was 18, his parents were killed and he was left with the raising of his brother, Jack, and the running of the family hardware business. Even now, Charlie tends to spend his time caring for others rather than focusing on his own needs. He’s content and it’s enough that Jack has found a happily ever after with his boyfriend, Simon. And when Charlie meets Rye Janssen, his natural inclination to help rears its head.
For Rye Janssen, Garnet Run, Wyoming is the end of the line. He used his last bit of money to leave Seattle for a house left to him by a grandfather he never knew. But the house is on the verge of collapsing and Rye doesn’t have a clue what to do. When he meets Charlie at the local hardware store, he finds the man has plenty of ideas about how they might save the crumbling old house. At first, Rye sees Charlie as bossy and bulldozing his way into Rye’s life, but behind the bluff and bluster, Rye realizes Charlie desperately needs someone to take care of him. Convincing Charlie it’s okay to let his guard down may be even more work than rebuilding a house.
Best Laid Plans is the direct follow up to Better Than People in the Garnet Run series. I suppose these books could be read as standalones, but they work better when read together. When I initially reviewed Better Than People, Charlie struck me as such a sweet character and I was hoping the author would give Charlie his own story, so I was thrilled when this book came along.
Charlie has spent his entire adult life either caring for his brother or trying to keep the family business solvent. He hasn’t pursued any kind of relationship or even allowed himself to think such a thing is possible. Initially, it seemed as though Rye was going to be another person Charlie was destined to take care of. But Rye realizes that Charlie is desperate for affection, for something other than the rigid world he has created for himself. Their romance was sweet and warm and tentative, just as you’d expect when one of the characters is a virgin and so blind to his own needs he has no idea how to express himself. Rye’s character isn’t quite as dimensional as Charlie, but he still feels believable. Rye and Charlie just work and, while their moment of conflict read as far-fetched, I still appreciated their journey.
I also appreciated that Jack was called out a bit for failing to see all that Charlie had done for him. He came off as being somewhat insensitive towards Charlie’s help in Better Than People. Here at least Rye calls him out and while Jack has been appreciative for all of Charlie’s sacrifices, it’s clear he didn’t know or care to know the true depth of them. The pacing issues that tripped up Better Than People are not present here for the most part and while there were a few laggy moments, I felt the book flowed well overall.
Best Laid Plans was an excellent follow up to Better Than People and in many ways surpassed it. Charlie and Rye are a great couple and they work together wonderfully. I enjoyed getting more of Charlie’s story and if you enjoyed Better Than People, then you’ll love the follow up.