Finley Price is a gay, Maori, young man, only fifteen, when his widowed mother marries a wealthy white man named Tom. Finley was very fond of his father, who died of a heart attack—as was his mother, but it’s been a few years and she’s lonely. Now, that his mom and Tom are deciding to move in together, Finley has to leave behind all his friends—including his boyfriend, Bennet—to move to Tom’s estate, Mansfield. Finley is determined not to like Tom or his son, who is just a year older than Finley, but Ethan is just too wonderful to hate.
In fact, Ethan is just the right man for Finley to love, if he wasn’t his stepbrother.
This book is a M/M reimagining of Mansfield Park, a classic Jane Austen novel. Finley and Ethan become the best of friends rather quickly, bonding over Ethan’s desire to teach and Finley’s need for a tutor, due to a late-diagnosis of a learning disability. And, with Ethan’s assistance and encouragement, Finley’s dream of becoming a writer might become a reality.
There are side jaunts on the way to love, because Tom is decidedly opposed to his son, Ethan, having a job that isn’t traditionally male. Ethan wants to be an early education teacher, and Tom makes his life pretty difficult to force him into following him into business. It incenses Finley on Ethan’s behalf, but the young men don’t have a lot of real power. As they grow, they are forced to separate a bit. Each young man takes a gap year tour of England and Europe before entering university. Finley doesn’t even want to go, but Ethan cons him into the trip by leaving Finley four letters to collect from his journey the year prior.
They work as stepbrothers, but they each want more, if only Ethan could commit to coming out to his dad. Their friends complicate matters; twins Cress and Ford each want to date Ethan and Finley. Cress is pushy and Finley really detests her. Ford is a suave man, who enjoys a challenge and doesn’t seem particularly interested in Finley, but it’s a fluid situation. Ethan is too gracious to tell Cress he isn’t interested, and he’s also not sure if he should live a life his father wants, or chase his happiness—and Finley.
This was a total slow burn, with the added family drama keeping Ethan and Finley separated for years. I loved that Finley was true to himself, and loved Ethan with his whole heart. He stood up to Tom on Ethan’s behalf, just the same as Ethan did for him. Their partnership is solid from the start, and their love was strong, if hidden and unacknowledged for a long time. Their fears are reasonable, but not nearly as serious as they both anticipate, in the end.
I really enjoyed the story and loved the way Ethan and Finley were so committed to one another and to their family. The moments of Maori culture, particularly Finley’s native language, were so interesting and helped really define both his character and Ethan’s, because Ethan loves learning that language and sharing his love through it. Finley’s struggles with Tom all fade in the end, and Tom shows his true nature to be much more agreeable than either Ethan or Finely had believed. So, it’s a happy ending all around.