Three years after losing his husband, Jasper Cunningham is still struggling. Michael and Jasper had been together for their entire adult lives and the lonely emptiness hasn’t gone away. But Jasper has just started taking the smallest steps toward moving forward with this life, breaking the stasis that has gripped him.
Liam Luckett needs a break from his life and the demands of his father. Liam’s life is all planned out for him, and while he may not know what he wants to do with it, being a politician and following in his father’s footsteps is not it. So Liam has taken off for a cross country road trip, skipping out on his master’s program and not telling his family he is gone.
When Liam’s car breaks down in the middle of Vermont, he is lucky to be near enough to Burlington to make it safely into town. There he ends up at Vino & Veritas, a local bookstore and wine bar, and the bartender connects him with Jasper, a nearby mechanic. With a storm brewing and Liam’s car dead, Jasper offers Liam a place to stay while he waits for the repairs.
It turns out fixing Liam’s car takes longer than planned and so the men end up spending days together waiting. Jasper and Liam share an intense attraction, but they both know there can’t be anything between them. Liam has a life waiting for him in California, a life he can’t escape for long. And Jasper isn’t sure he is ready for something serious as he just begins to explore a connection with another man after Michael. But as the days pass, the relationship between Liam and Jasper grows. Neither one is ready for things to end, but they must take the chance on the love between them or risk losing all they have built.
Daybreak is Kate Hawthorne’s installment in the Vino & Veritas collection, a set of standalone, multi-author books that all feature the wine bar/bookstore, and are part of the larger World of True North universe. This book was definitely one my favorites of this collection and it is such a lovely, warm story that kept me totally engaged.
We start the book with a little bit of a snowbound vibe as Liam gets stuck in town and stays with Jasper as they ride out the storm. You just have to go with the set up here that a mechanic is going to invite a stranger to stay in his home while he fixes his car (or maybe they are just like that in Vermont), but I found myself rolling with it. It sets up a very character-driven story as Liam and Jasper spend their days together while they await the parts for the car. These guys are so drawn to each other and Hawthorne makes their connection feel so clear. Even when the weather allows for Liam to leave, neither man really wants to separate and so they just keep on living together.
It is to Hawthorne’s credit that she made me feel totally invested in a story where not much actually happens plot-wise. After the guys meet, most of the book is just the two of them getting to know each other, spending lazy days together in Jasper’s cozy house. I loved exploring each of these men and watching them both struggle to keep their distance, yet failing because the connection between them was too strong. This is a bit of a slow burn as Jasper needs some time to come to terms with sex after losing his husband, but there is great chemistry throughout. Also, bonus points for the smaller twinky Liam being the more dominant partner and generally the top. Plus, I am pretty much always going to be there for the gruff, gentle giant who softens for the sunshiney one.
The two main conflicts here are Jasper being ready to move on and Liam’s family issues. Jasper’s piece develops slowly throughout the book as he takes each small step toward moving forward and reaching for something with Liam. It takes time, but I never felt like things were stagnant. It helps that the story alternates POVs so we really get that insight into what Jasper is thinking and feeling. I do feel like things with Liam needed more development, however. We know the bare bones — his father wants to plan his life and Liam isn’t interested — but even when we are in Liam’s POV, we don’t get much detail about the situation until the very end. So when this is the main roadblock to them being together, I felt like I wanted to understand the issues better, particularly why Liam felt so compelled to do as his father demanded his whole life. Some more insight into his backstory and their relationship would have really helped strengthen this for me.
Overall, I found this one totally engaging and it left me with all the warm fuzzy feelings. Hawthorne really does a great job exploring the relationship between Liam and Jasper and it was just sweet, sexy, and really lovely.