Rating: 4.25 stars
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Thomas’ marriage has ended and now he is starting over in his 40s. Things hadn’t been good for a while, but finding out his wife was cheating on him was the final straw. Thomas has always pushed aside his interest in men, assuming he would never have a need to explore any other relationships. But now that he is newly single, Thomas has decided this is the perfect time to try out some new experiences with men.
Ben’s time with his ex-boyfriend may have been short, but even a month was long enough to know that Cody was not good for him. The relationship has left emotional scars, as Cody was cruel and verbally abusive, and Ben is left second guessing so much about himself in the wake of their breakup. Finding a hookup for the night is a much better choice for him than looking for another boyfriend, and when he meets Thomas through an app, the two have a great night of hot, no strings sex.
The experience is good enough that the guys both are interested in a repeat, but they are also both clear that it can be nothing more than sex. Ben is still recovering emotionally from his relationship and is definitely not ready to jump into anything else. And Thomas has never been with a man before and is just starting to explore life outside his marriage and the identity he has long had as father, husband, and provider. So the men agree that while they want to continue the hookups, they are definitely not interested in more.
Of course, as they get to know one another, Ben and Thomas realize that they actually quite like each other’s company out of the bedroom too, and what started as just sex slowly begins to broaden into friendship, dating, and feelings for one another. Neither man planned to fall in love; it was just supposed to be casual. But as Thomas and Ben start to have real feelings for each other, they must decide if this is just a rebound, or a chance for something more.
I really enjoyed this story of two men who start out looking for some casual sex and find themselves falling hard for one another despite themselves. Both Ben and Thomas have good reasons not to be looking for a relationship. They are both dealing with a lot and not in the emotional place for any kind of commitment as they work through the fallout of their breakups. But what they each find, in addition to a hot bed partner, is someone who cares and listens and supports them. And somehow, that helps each man begin to heal and to explore who they are and what they want.
This is such a rich, character-driven story as Hawthorne explores both Ben and Thomas so well over the course of the book. The story has a really close focus on the two men, and almost the entire book features just the two of them together or the men alone, with few side character interactions. It really brings an intensity to the connection between the men as we spend so much time really delving into who they are and how they are growing and changing over the course of the story. There is a large age gap here, as well as an experience gap (as Thomas has never been with a man before), but somehow, these guys just really connect in a special way. And that connection leads them to realize that they don’t want to be just sex partners, but that there is something between them worth growing despite their initial plans.
The story is relatively low angst on the relationship end, even as their plans change. Ben and Thomas pretty much roll with it as they start to realize they want something different than they originally expected. But both men are also dealing with some intense issues and working through their pasts, as well as what they want for themselves in the future. I loved that they support each other, but they aren’t “fixing” one another. Yet that support is what helps each of them find their way forward. I will note that Ben is coming off a verbally abusive, manipulative relationship and we do see some of it on page early on, as well as hear him discuss the impact of the relationship on his current sense of self and self worth. So do be aware if this is a sensitive topic for you. And in true Kate Hawthorne fashion, we do get a major hurdle the guys have to work through along the way. But I do think, overall, this one is actually a pretty smooth ride and really focuses nicely on the way Ben and Thomas are growing and changing as individuals, as well as how they are finding their way together.
I enjoyed this story quite a lot and couldn’t help but root for Thomas and Ben to make it all work. They are sweet, supportive, and super sexy together. This one is a great choice for contemporary fans, particularly those who like age gap stories, as well as first times exploring same sex partnerships.