Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 3 hours, 48 minutes
Thomas Elkin is 44 years old. After denying his sexuality for much of his life, he’s now divorced, out, and proud. Tom has a good relationship with his son and his ex-wife, and is now finding himself. The last thing he expects when the new interns show up at the architecture firm where he works is to see Cooper Jones, his son’s friend, among the candidates. Tom doesn’t hesitate to take Cooper on after he sees Cooper’s resume. But he also doesn’t expect the attraction to spark and simmer between them.
Cooper is half Tom’s age, and his son’s friend, not to mention his intern. Tom continually tells himself that Cooper is off limits. But their attraction won’t be denied and, after a conversation, they decide to act on it. While they remain discreet, and it isn’t too often, every minute they spend together strengthens the bond between them.
Tom is painfully aware that he wants to keep Cooper in his life, but that can’t happen if they work together after Cooper’s internship is done. Because of this, Tom makes a decision that affects Cooper’s life without speaking to him first. This causes strife between them, but with a heartfelt conversation, they just might find a way to be together, despite their age difference.
Elements of Retrofit is the first book in the Thomas Elkin trilogy and I was excited to dive into the audio, having read the books years ago when they first came out. Russo does a great job bringing the story to life, and I think I enjoyed it even more in this format. Walker make the relationship between Tom and Cooper feel real and believable, and despite the 22 years between them, the MCs work on every level.
Tom is the first person narrator here, and this really is his journey. Not only has he finally come out of the closet just five years ago, but he’s finally living his life in an authentic way. He hasn’t had much in the way of relationships with men in those years, and he’s still finding his way. More than that, he grows into his wants and desires as he begins his relationship with Cooper. Tom becomes more comfortable in his skin.
Cooper is his perfect complement. He keeps Tom on his toes, doesn’t let Tom get away with complacency, and respects and enjoys Tom for who he is. They banter and have fun, while also sharing a deep passion for architecture. The age difference isn’t a problem for Cooper, especially as he’s more mature (most of the time) than many a young 22-year-old would be. These guys truly work well together, their chemistry is palpable, and the spark between them catches fire and burns throughout the story.
Russo does a really wonderful job with the narration. Not only are there distinct voices for the MCs, but all the secondary characters as well. Cooper, in particular, is very well done, and it’s so fitting for his character. Fun, playful, but also serious and sweet. The emotion throughout the book comes through in Russo’s narration, and is perfectly placed to give extra feeling to the words. As I said, I think I enjoyed this story even more listening to it. There were, however, a few strange dialect choices and inflections that didn’t fit with the characters and twigged my ear every time they happened. It’s a minor detail, to be sure, but one that caught my attention enough to be worth mentioning. Overall, the narration was great and really added an extra layer of enjoyment to the story.
This one is an easy recommendation, particularly in the audio. If you’re a fan of this author and you haven’t picked this one up yet, and you enjoy age gap with only mild angst and two men finding each other at the right time, then definitely check this one out.