Alastair Harding devoted his life to the Metropolitan police and it paid off for his career as he is the first gay chief of police. However, career success required him to sacrifice his love life as there wasn’t time for both. Alastair is proud of his accomplishments but, since his life now revolves around work, he has few friends. In his early 50s, Alastair can’t fathom starting to date now and figures he will continue to be alone.
Jay Fieldhouse lives a life of a different kind of sacrifice. Arriving in London under witness protection, Jay has spent the last ten years trying not to look over his shoulder. He has managed to scrape together success for himself with a charity he started for vulnerable youth, but he can’t have close friends and he can’t have a relationship because he can’t tell anyone who he really is.
When Jay and Alastair meet at a charity dinner, the world tilts off its axis for both men. There is the physical attraction at first, but Jay can see the man beneath the uniform and the more he sees of Alastair, the more he wants. The men don’t even try to fight it and spend the night together, leading to a sultry friends-with-benefits relationship. But with each glance and each touch the men come undone beneath each other’s hands. Alastair and Jay have found their most perfect match, but neither can find the words to ask for what they want and when Jay’s past lands at his door, the men may run out of time.
J.R. Lawrie is a new author to me and The Sheltering Tree is the author’s first full length novel. I liked this book right from the start and, as each chapter revealed itself, I liked it more and more and then some more. With deep character development and sensual scenes, this book is a love story from start to finish.
We know from the beginning that Jay is in witness protection and where Alastair is in his career as police commissioner. There is instant attraction and Jay takes his shot and while he expects to be turned down, he makes a direct hit. Jay cannot believe that someone that he thinks is so far out of his league like Alastair would have a drink with him, let alone spend the night with him, and the way he calls Alastair “posh thing” and “sunshine” unravels them both. The men burn bright and hot right from the start and the chemistry that is flawlessly layered throughout this entire story is mesmerizing.
The book is told in dual POV from Alastair and Jay, with a few scenes from Alistair’s assistant, and the character development is truly amazing. The men both want more, but they both have their reasons for not being able to ask for what they want and the waiting and the wanting on both sides becomes palpable agony. They share their bodies at first and not so much of their lives and, while there’s a thrill to being together, there is also deep peace as their intimate scenes are aching and soothing and heated all at the same time. They have an incredible connection with both poignant and erotic moments that is pure magic.
Jay’s past is woven into the narrative and never takes over or takes away from keeping the men closely connected throughout the entire book. Even as the path of the story moves over to incorporate some action, the bond created for these men stays tightly wrapped around them. The ending is perfect for the men, but there were some scenes at the end involving two side characters that for me only detracted from Alastair and Jay’s final pages.
If you are looking for true chemistry with a fierce and dazzling connection, I would encourage you to step into Alastair and Jay’s captivating love story.