Luke is the headmaster at his own alma mater, Glynn Harber, an alternative boarding school in Cornwall that serves students of all types, but especially those who need a more sheltering hand in their education. Luke was one of those kids, one needing gentle guidance and the open air to heal him from an early childhood filled with neglect. His foster parents didn’t have the money for tuition, but Luke was given a needs scholarship, and he aspires to make Glynn Harber affordable for kids who need aid. This might even mean Luke sells off his personal possessions and doesn’t pay himself a salary, but he doesn’t mind going without to keep the doors at Glynn Harber open.
However, the school had been purchased by a management company and they keep tightening the budget, squeezing every margin narrower. Luke is growing ever more tired of the bureaucracy. He’s also stressed because his former on/off lover, Nathan, has returned to Glynn Harber for what seems to be an extended visit. And, Luke isn’t sure he can keep to his resolution to not have any more casual flings with Nathan, as Luke has loved Nathan since they were in the teaching program together back in uni. But, it soon became clear that Nathan wouldn’t reveal their relationship to his parents and, well, Luke felt inconsolably snubbed. They still had a no-strings thing going, but Luke wants a real partner and Nathan’s always jetting off to help refugee kids in war zones. It’s not like Luke can ask Nathan to stop being noble. This time, however, Nathan realizes he needs more time off. His last assignment was one he barely survived, and he’s willing to recuperate at Glynn Harber, helping the school—and Luke—in any way he can. When the management company sends an accountant to go over their books, Luke is furious, and Nathan only wants to shelter him.
The cadre of partnered friends Luke has at Glynn Harber are a balm and a bane. Luke wants so desperately to have a settled life, and he fears he’s on the brink of losing everything he’s worked so hard to achieve professionally, while also being the sad, single guy, pining for his dear friend. Luke reveals some of his most desperate memories from his childhood, and this encourages Nathan to begin to confide some of his youthful traumas, as well as his most recent scrapes. They both acknowledge their mutual affection, and Nathan finally feels able to commit to more than a night or two. Whatever life holds for Luke, Nathan wants to be at his side for the experience. And, when Nathan recognizes the force behind the financial chokehold on Glynn Harber as one of his own personal demons, well, he’s off to face the danger unarmed, but undaunted.
Luke is the third book in the Learning to Love series and reads fine as a standalone, though I do think this book is probably best appreciated after at least reading book 2, Sol. This story has a lot of returning characters from the previous two books, and these folks take a hand in Luke’s love story. There are lots of tender moments, especially when Nathan and Luke are recounting their personal stories. Nathan realizes that he has to stop running from his struggles, and stand strong against the situations that had previously rendered him powerless. Luke learns that he needs to step back and let others help him carry his burdens, and when he does, well, he finds unexpected allies and all the happiness he can grab with both hands.
This is a sweet story, with a definite happy ending, not only for Luke and Nathan, but for the family they seem poised begin. It looks like we might get another book from this this series, too, so I’m happy about that.