Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 4 hours, 56 minutes
Malachi Booth is a supermodel, a wealthy man who travels the world and keeps others at a distance. His latest job is a photo shoot on a farm in Cornwall, which would be going fine if it wasn’t for the fact that he is so sick he can barely stand up. Mal may not be a friendly guy to most people, but he is a consummate professional and takes his job seriously, so he is determined to keep going despite how awful he feels. But despite his best efforts, Mal ends up collapsing right in the cow field with a bout of severe bronchitis.
Cadan Landry appreciates the money that comes from having the photo shoot take place at his farm, but not the chaos that comes with it. He assumes the models are all vapid and vain, including the gorgeous man who has been engaging in some snarky banter and biting quips with him all day. But when Mal ends up passing out from illness and everyone else just takes off, Cadan doesn’t have much choice but to help the man lying unconscious in his bed. Cadan has been determinedly alone since his last relationship fell apart. Not only did his lover betray him, but he made it clear that Cadan’s life of farming is never going to be one he can share with anyone. Still, someone needs to look after Mal and Cadan has no choice but to be the one to do it.
As the days pass and Malachi slowly recovers, a friendship begins to unexpectedly grow between the men. Mal shows a surprising interest in farm life and is determined to help out, forcing Cadan to re-evaluate the stereotypes he has about lazy and vain models. The men find an unexpected camaraderie and a close friendship. They also find themselves so attracted to each other, and eventually give in to their desires. Mal can imagine a life with Cadan, but Cadan can’t help but be wary after being hurt so badly before. He is sure that Mal will tire of farm life and is afraid to open his heart once again. Now, Cadan has to find a way to trust in Mal’s feelings and believe in the connection the men have together for a chance at lasting happiness.
Somehow, out of the vast number of books by Lily Morton that I have read, I missed this story when it first came out. I’ve been familiar with Mal and Cadan from their cameos in various other books, as well as from their stories in the Short Stack, Volume 2 anthology, but I have never read their book. So when I saw Spring Strings was released in audio, I was eager to listen and I was not disappointed. This is a relatively short novel at about 150 pages, so the storyline is pretty straightforward, but the romance is just so lovely between these men.
While there is some of Morton’s trademark snark and banter, most of the book is the slow build for Mal and Cadan as they fall in love over the course of Mal’s recovery. Their first impressions of one another aren’t great; Mal is sick and irritable and behaving haughtily, while Cadan is annoyed about the chaos of the photo shoot and judgmental about models in general. But it doesn’t take long for the men to start to become friends and to see behind the walls that each puts up. Neither is quite ready to admit to feelings for one another right away, as neither man thinks he wants a relationship. But the connection between them is so clear from the start and there is just a lovely sweet fall into love over the course of the time they spend together. It is just supposed to be during Mal’s recovery, but the men find that they aren’t ready to give up their time together. Cadan needs to be brave enough to take a chance on love and, with a little outside meddling, it all comes together well. It is just a really sweet and sexy story and I loved seeing the softer side of both of these men, particularly after getting glimpses of them from other of Morton’s books I’ve read.
Joel Leslie narrates the story and he is such a great fit for Morton’s style. His voices for Cadan and Mal work really well and the men are easily distinguishable from one another. The book has a pretty close focus in on Mal and Cadan, but there are some key side characters who play a role, including Cadan’s mom, and their voices are also done well. Leslie captures both the edginess and the sweetness to the book so nicely and it was easy to fall into this story with him narrating. There is just a lovely warmth to the book and it comes through well in the narration. I would definitely recommend this one in audio if you enjoy that format.
I am so glad I finally had a chance to hear Mal and Cadan’s story. The characters have intrigued me and their journey was everything I wanted.