Twenty-five year old Ben Sutcliffe has returned to tiny Pilsdale after four years away in London. He fled town to escape his grief after his parents were killed in a tragic car wreck. This meant abandoning his dearest friend, Finn, and Finn’s single dad, Jasper. Burly but kind, Jasper was a good friend to Ben’s parents and helped arrange their funeral. He was also the object of Ben’s first teenage crush.
A year ago, Ben’s Aunt Eileen died and left Ben her home, also in Pilsdale, but he was too overwhelmed to return to the town for the services. However, he’s recently learned his boyfriend, with whom he lives, has been cheating on him. In order to create the space he needs to sever those ties, Ben returns to Pilsdale to sort out Eileen’s estate and sell the property. He takes a two-month break from the London massage studio where he works and heads off to the country. Ben plans to have some massage clients to earn a little for his return trip, and also hopes to make up with Finn, apologizing for nearly four years of radio silence. However, when he stops by Finn’s home only Jasper is there–bare chested and feeding orphaned piglets. Maybe that crush wasn’t as long in the past as Ben had hoped.
With Finn away for a year-long holiday, Jasper’s in need of helping hands for his animal sanctuary. Finn agrees both to help with the animals and to move into Jasper’s spare room in exchange for Jasper assisting Ben in clearing out Aunt Eileen’s home and helping with repairs before the eventual sale. Their close quarters bring a lot of tension, as Ben pines. He’s sure Jasper’s straight–because he’s Finn’s dad–but the revelation that Finn was a bit of an experimental by-blow as Jasper came to terms with his homosexuality as a teenager puts Ben’s crush in a different light altogether. Now, Ben can see that Jasper’s recent contemplative moods were really him trying to contain his attraction to Ben, and it blows Ben away. Ben’s not troubled by the 18-year age gap, but he’s not planning to stay in Pilsdale long. Would Jasper be okay with a fling? Would Ben? And, can they keep it on the down-low so that Finn will never, ever, learn about their steamy and special relationship?
This is an absolutely adorable age-gap, friend’s dad romance. Both Ben and Jasper are two lonely souls looking for the right partner. Ben’s a bit astounded that there are now actual gay people living in Pilsdale. It’s really hilarious how jealous Jasper gets when the attractive new constable would like his therapeutic massage with a happy ending–or at least to get Ben’s number. Ben’s obliviousness to both Jasper’s sexuality and his attraction leads to a lot of fun tension that gets cautiously resolved. I loved how Jasper wanted to take things slow, but then struggles with those ideals in the face of the expiry date on Ben’s residence.
I loved the pastoral setting, with the busybody townsfolk all trying to get Ben to commit to staying in Pilsdale for good. Ben and Jasper are so loving and tender to one another, and easy with their affection behind closed doors. It was only a matter of time, however, before a huge misstep would reveal their secret. I adored how this only got more problematic the second they resolved to be open. Ben’s a mess, and he freely admits this; he adores how steady and capable Jasper is in so many facets of his life. It’s not exactly a Daddy-boy story, but it’s clear that Ben relishes Jasper’s maturity. I found it to be engrossing and adored the British sensibility of this quiet love story. It’s all told through Ben’s perspective, and he’s so charmingly self-deprecating I couldn’t help loving him to bits. The pacing is awesome, with the plot progressing in reasonable beats that kept me turning the pages deep into the night. I highly recommend this story for fans of age gap or small-town romances, especially if you like the English countryside.