Raf is putting his life back together after everything seemed to fall apart. He had a happy family with a wife and daughter, and a job he loved as a school counselor. Raf’s Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) was mostly quiet; though he still had some mild tics, they were not very noticeable. Then, suddenly, after years of his TS feeling like it was managed as well as he might hope, the tics came unexpectedly flaring back. His wife couldn’t take it and left him, taking his young daughter with her across the country, and his job fired him. But Raf is determined not to lose his daughter and, while a judge let his wife relocate to Colorado, Raf is following her there in hopes of regaining partial custody. The move will also hopefully give Raf a chance to reconnect with his brother, Tony, whom he hasn’t seen in almost two decades.
Luke is a tattoo artist at Irons and Works, Tony’s shop. Luke has spent some time away, traveling the country and working at other shops, but he is back now and it feels like home. It takes Luke a bit to settle back in, but being around the guys and the family they have created is just what he has needed.
Raf and Luke definitely notice one another as Raf gets settled in with the group and there is a clear attraction between them. But neither man has a lot of experience with good relationships and both are a little wary about getting involved. Luke has recently come out as bisexual and has never really been with a man, and Raf is realizing that he is into guys as well as women. Not to mention that Raf has so much on his plate, between finding a new job, working through new treatment plans for his TS, and fighting for custody of his daughter. At first, it all seems like too much for the men to overcome, but as their friendship grows, so does their attraction. Soon, Raf and Luke realize that they can have happiness with each other if they just give their relationship a chance.
Ornamental is the eight book in the excellent Irons and Works series and I just love being back in this world. I am a huge fan of found family stories and this series is a great example of that theme. The guys of Irons and Works are like brothers; they take care of each other and stand up for one another and share an easy affection that welcomes people into their circle. The books focus on this same group of men and they are in and out of each other’s stories. However, from a plot perspective, the books largely stand alone and I think you would be fine starting with this one. I actually read the series mostly out of order and have missed a few of the books and did just fine.
This story focuses on two men who are settling back into their lives. In Luke’s case, he has been traveling to other tattoo shops and has now returned home. He didn’t have the best home life growing up, and the guys of Irons and Works are his real family, and so he feels a relief at being back. For Raf, his life has been turned upside down in so many ways — marriage, job, health, and residence — and he is just trying to sort it all out. The two men start off as friends, but there is an attraction there from the beginning. But given the large age gap and everything Raf is trying to manage, plus both of them just recognizing their bisexuality, they both think anything more than friendship isn’t going to work. So from a relationship side, we get a really sweet story as the men build this lovely connection that turns into more.
One of the highlights of this series for me is that it features characters with diverse physical abilities and health conditions. In this case, Raf has TS, a neurological condition that causes vocal and physical tics, like slapping his neck or repeating random words. As can be common for adults with TS, many of the symptoms had lessened over the years, so it is hard for him when suddenly so many of the tics come back and it throws his life into chaos. Luke (and the rest of the gang) takes it all in stride and accepts Raf exactly how he is. That support really helps him as he thinks about facing those who may be more judgmental, like potential employers or the judge who will decide about custody.
I always love revisiting this great group of characters and I am so happy Lindsey has extended the series from the original batch of books. I am pretty sure there is at least one more coming, so this is a great time to check out this book and the series overall.