Tucker Ellis and Lawrence “Laurie” Kensington III had a whirlwind romance and elopement 20 years ago. It was a cinderfella story, until Laurie’s wealthy relations demanded an annulment, and the men capitulated because Laurie’s grandfather was going to wreak havoc on Tucker’s family if they didn’t dissolve the union. Except grandad’s lawyers didn’t ensure that the annulment was valid, and they’ve actually been legally committed to each other all this time.
Laurie broke away from his greedy, capitalist relations, building his own angel investing business to aid small-town mainstays. He’s kept tabs on Tucker as best he could, even visiting his hometown once before, only to learn Tucker had a partner at the time. But, with a windfall inheritance at stake, Laurie’s in Granville, Nebraska to woo his “husband” back, as the will states he must be happily married.
Tucker hasn’t forgotten Laurie, but he hasn’t been looking for him, either. He never told anyone about his short-lived marriage, or his extreme heartbreak when he returned to his hometown alone, marriage supposedly annulled. He’s built a good, quiet, solitary life as the city manager of Granville, and he’s doing fine with that—even if it’s kind of lonely. His family and neighbors love him, and he’s got a sweet dog to give him affection, but he’s not even a little prepared for the bombshell of his legal husband to return.
Laurie’s all in on convincing Tucker to be his husband for all time, in all the ways, but Tucker’s gun shy and pretty embarrassed to have his secret marriage made public without his consent. He understands that maintaining the appearance of a marriage could help Laurie stick it to his family, but he’s afraid to lose his heart again to the man who’d help shatter it, even if they agreed to the annulment. It’s down to Laurie to prove that his intentions are honest and earnest, and he makes good on every vow he ever took in the process.
This is a sweet and sexy reconnection romance between mature men who’ve been pining for “what might have been” for a long, long time. Tucker’s family is initially upset about the secret marriage, but they adopt Laurie immediately, all wooed by his charming manners and good looks–and his willingness to help out their Granville family. Laurie’s angel investing gets him some big attention, especially as there’s a huge campaign, that Tucker’s spearheading, to bring investments into their neighborhoods to keep their small town vibrant ads stop the exodus of young folks to bigger cities. Laurie’s generosity of spirit is what wins Tucker over, however. Making Tucker breakfasts and dinners, popping in with lunches, and taking care of his dog and neighbors while Tucker works long hours demonstrates Laurie’s commitment and selflessness, and that does more than a number on Tucker’s heart.
I loved how Tucker wasn’t dead set against Laurie, even from their startling reunion. Tucker acknowledged their once deep connection, and acknowledged there was still love in his heart for Laurie. I also loved how cautiously he approached their situation, being thoughtful instead of impulsive. His reasonable attitude forced Laurie to really work on building a relationship, and while it was frustrating for both of them in the moment, they came out stronger from having proved their intentions were true. I appreciated that the meddling Kensington family was not going to accept their union at face value, and the inheritance was something they would go to great lengths to keep for themselves. As a plot point this was clear, but what I liked most was how that crisis was managed, so that the relationship didn’t suffer as a result. After all that work to finally bond, I didn’t want there to be a huge wedge forced in the middle, so I was grateful as a reader that the story didn’t follow that common formula.
This is the second book in the Rules We Break series, but reads fine as a standalone. There’s a huge community of Granvillians, and they’re all characters in and of themselves. I’ve read some of the stories, and appreciated that secondary characters’ backstories were brief, allowing the love story between Tucker and Laurie the spotlight. I did get a kick out of septuagenarians on the city council finding love, though. Clearly “Granville shrinkage” is strictly a population issue, not a more intimately personal experience.
I definitely recommend this one, especially if you love small town romances, reconnection romances, or just low-angst, somewhat dirty, romances between mature men.