luke audio coverStory Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrator: Cornell Collins
Length: 9 hours, 3 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links:  Amazon | iBooks

Luke loves his job as the headmaster of Glynn Harber. He prides himself on leading a school that caters to vulnerable children, that teaches them through play and caring and compassion. But, lately, the financial side of running the school has been wearing Luke down. The company that bought Glynn Harber is demanding increasingly rigorous cuts to the school budget and Luke doesn’t know how much longer they can stay afloat. The latest indignity is having to deal with an accountant sent to examine Luke’s books and try to find still more money to cut from their already strained budget.

When Luke’s old friend Nathan offers to help fill a teaching vacancy for free, it is a bit of a reprieve from the increasingly dire situation. But it is also stressful, as Luke has feelings for Nathan that the other man seems not to return. The pair were close friends at university and have been regular sexual partners over the years. But while Luke would love something more with Nathan, Nathan flits in and out of Luke’s life and appears to have no interest in staying. Luke isn’t sure how much longer he can take the pain of opening up to Nathan, only to have the man leave again for months on end. To protect his heart, Luke is determined to maintain the friendship, but drop the benefits.

However, spending time with Nathan makes Luke realize how much the man has changed. Nathan works with refugees in Syria and recent experience have made him reconsider his priorities in life. When he tells Luke that he is interested in more between them, Luke is thrilled, but also wary. He has been hurt too many times before to fully trust Nathan’s words. But as the men spend more time together, it soon becomes clear that Nathan is sincere in his change of heart. And as Luke learns more about Nathan’s past, as well as his experiences overseas, the men begin to really connect over more than just sex. It seems like Luke has finally found happiness with Nathan and a partnership that gives him so much joy. But with his beloved school on the line, Luke may find professional heartbreak just as he is finding his personal happiness.

Luke is the third book in Con Riley’s wonderful Learning to Love series. I absolutely love this series and was eager for Luke’s story, as he has been a prominent side character in the first two books. Having some familiarity with the series will help you here, as the school is the setting for all the books and the financial issues have been a recurring theme in the first stories. The books also feature a recurring cast of side characters who appear in each other’s stories. That said, I think the romance here stands alone well enough that you could start here if you wanted to.

I loved getting to know Luke here, as we have seen him as the caring, but perhaps a bit intimidating headmaster in previous books. In this story, we really get to know so much more about him and Con Riley just brings Luke to life as a character. He has a complicated past that drives so much of his feelings about Glynn Harber and the importance of providing a place for children in need. It also has made the hurt even more raw when Nathan doesn’t seem to want him for anything more than sex. When Nathan returns, this time claiming he has changed, it takes time for Luke to really let himself believe there is a chance for the two of them. But as he learns more about Nathan’s own past, it helps Luke understand him better. Once the men get past Luke’s fears, the pair have a fairly easy slide into happiness together. They are so clearly meant to be and have such strong feelings for each other, their fall into love feels inevitable. I liked how these long time friends and lovers learned new things about one another that helped in their journey to their happy ending.

One of the major series plot arcs has been the issue of the school’s finances. We learn a lot more about how precarious things are in Sol, and now that we are in Luke’s POV, we get even more detail. Now, not only is the company that owns the school cutting funds, but they have sent an accountant to review the books on site. Those who have read Sol will already know that his ex-boyfriend, Austin, works for the company that owns the school and he is the one who is sent to look at the books. At first, Austin is a source of major conflict for Luke, but as time passes, we get to know him better and things soften (which isn’t entirely unexpected given that Austin’s book comes up next). I was a little worried that the plot wouldn’t resolve here with Luke and instead carry over to Austin’s story, so I was pleased to see Luke able to be an agent in solving the problem he has been struggling with for so long. It also ties nicely in with his relationship with Nathan in ways that become clear over the course of the book, which enhances things as well.

This is really an ensemble series, for all that each book focuses on a new couple. As fans of the author will likely already know, many of her books also take place in a larger Cornwall world and we often so those characters pop in as well. I really love getting a chance to see and reconnect with all these folks and love the community that Riley has built here. As I said, I think new readers can jump in with this book, but fans of Riley’s larger Cornwall world get a richer experience as the various connections are made across backstories and characters.

I have been listening to this series in audio and Cornell Collins provides such great narration. He is really the voice of this series for me and his tone feels spot on with the tone of the books. As I noted, we have recurring characters in and out of the books and Collins does a nice job creating consistency of voices from one story to the next. Luke and Nathan’s voices fit well with their character and are easy to tell apart in conversation. So I have really been enjoying the audio experience and can definitely recommend it.

This is such a great series and I am really looking forward to continuing on, as well as to more books set in this world.