Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Cornell Collins
Length: 9 hours, 35 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
Solomon Trebeck never expected to find himself back in Cornwall, working as an art teacher and raising his nephew. Sol had a quiet life as an artist in London and a boyfriend to share it with. But when his mother died, leaving him responsible for his teenaged nephew, Cameron, Sol took a job at Glynn Harber where his teaching position helps fund Cameron’s schooling and his nephew feels more settled. But Sol still misses his old life; he doesn’t feel on steady footing as a teacher, Cam is acting out and sneaking out of school to spray graffiti, and the school art facilities are falling apart. What’s worse, Sol learns that Glynn Harber is in danger of closing as they are in desperate need of funds. Even if the school can stay afloat, their scholarship positions for students may have to go and, with it, Cam’s free tuition.
When Sol was a teen, he fell for his classmate, Jace Pascoe. The two danced around each other for a while until they had one night together. But Sol’s family moved away the next day and the men haven’t seen each other since. Sol is surprised to learn that Jace is back in Cornwall for a while, living in the house his famous artist mother used to rent. Sol has never really gotten over Jace, still feeling a connection to the man after so many years. When he learns Jace is back in town, Sol approaches him to see if he can help with Glynn Harber, perhaps donating one of his mother’s works. While Jace unfortunately can’t help out financially, it does give the men a chance to reconnect, and they quickly realize that the feelings they had for one another so long ago are still there.
The men begin to spend more time together, rekindling their relationship and enjoying getting to know one another again as adults. Jace is there for Sol as he deals with the stress of raising a nephew who seems to want nothing to do with him, and the uncertainty with the school. Jace finds a way to connect with Cam over their shared love of street art and, slowly, Sol finds his own footing with Cam, learning to bond with him in new ways. Sol also begins to find his way at the school, realizing how much he truly loves working with the children. Instead of longing for his old life in London, Sol is beginning to realize how much he loves the life he has built for himself and Cameron in Cornwall. Even better, he starts to see Cam really thrive. But even as Sol and Jace begin to fall harder for one another, their future is uncertain. Jace has a life outside of Cornwall, one that Sol doesn’t want to see him lose. Not to mention that if Glynn Harber can’t weather this storm, Sol will need to leave Cornwall to find a new job and a new school for Cameron. Sol has finally found his place and a love and happiness with Jace, and he will do whatever it takes not to lose it.
Sol is the second book in Con Riley’s Learning to Love series and brings us back to the lovely and idyllic Glynn Harber school. We met Sol briefly as a fellow teacher in the first book, Charles, but this one stands alone fine. (That said, you should definitely begin this series with Charles because it is amazing and you totally need to read it!) This is an engaging lovers reunited story that brings Sol and Jace back into each other’s lives after their initial connection as teens. I’ll admit, I had to make a bit of a leap that they guys still felt so strongly after so many years apart, particularly given most of their prior relationship was friendship. But Riley does a nice job of developing the chemistry and connection between Sol and Jace and I quickly settled into things with them. I appreciated that Jace doesn’t come in and “fix” things with Sol’s life. But at the same time, it is clear that Jace’s love, support, and perspective really helps Sol find his way. This is particularly true with Cameron, as Sol has been struggling to connect to his nephew as he gets older. Cam’s mother can’t take care of him (we learn more about why over the course of the book) and the grandmother who raised Cameron died, leaving him in Sol’s care. Sol knows he bungled things early on, not prepared or really knowing how to raise Cameron. Now, Cam is rebelling and Sol is worried he is going to be taken away from him. Jace not only finds a way to connect with Cameron, but helps Sol also see a way to connect as well. Watching them together helps Sol realize the way he can also reach Cameron and helps build that relationship between them. Overall, Sol and Jace have a really lovely connection, full of heat and caring and mutual support.
This story continues one of the themes from the first book in terms of the situation with Glynn Harber. In Charles, we see the school as this incredibly idyllic, almost magical place, a true safe haven for its students and a place that everyone can thrive. Then here, we learn more about the danger of the school closing, of their financial struggles and how serious things really are. It opens things up for Sol and Jace to reconnect, as Sol reaches out to Jace for help. But it also leads to some nice story moments as Sol begins to work with both Jace and Cameron on finding ways to help save the school. We also deal with the other side of things as Sol must contemplate leaving in order to secure a job and a place for Cameron. So I liked how this overarching plot ties in nicely with the specific situation for these characters.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator Cornell Collins and, once again, he does an excellent job. The recurring character voices carry over well from the first book and both Sol and Jace sound distinct with voices that fit them nicely. Collins captures Cam’s petulance and that sense of a boy right on the cusp of adulthood, but not quite there yet. The pacing is good and there is just a calm, steadiness to Collins’ narration that is a great fit for this series.
I am having so much fun with these books and this world. It appears that many of Riley’s works take place in the same universe, and each one I read gets me itching to jump into more. I am looking forward to continuing on with this series, as well as to exploring more of Riley’s books.
I enjoyed the first book in this series; this one sounds good, too, Jay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.