Paul is a divorced construction worker in his mid-40s who’s depressed, mourning his dead son, gone now five years. Paul lives alone, but he has begun rebuilding his friend circle through new workmates, none of whom know about his tragic family implosion. He’s on great terms with his ex-wife, who’s getting remarried soon. She really wants Paul to find a new partner, to restart his life. However, he doesn’t feel worthy after the way he let down their son, leading to his death.
One night, following some after-work drinks, Paul saves a homeless young man from a gang of men beating him. It seems the small, sassy man was a thief, but Paul can see the hallmarks of homelessness on him. So, he rescues Charlie and gets him some food, new clothes, and first aid, since Charlie won’t accept Paul’s inexplicable offer of a safe bed at his home. Paul’s motivation isn’t apparent, but he couldn’t just leave Charlie bleeding in an alley. After a week, Charlie returns, forcing Paul to accept repayment–and that’s when Paul’s able to connect with this 19-year old. It seems Charlie’s folks wouldn’t accept his gay femme sense of self, and Charlie ran away to escape their abuse. It awakens Paul’s need to make amends for his own son’s death, and though he’s ashamed to admit it, he’s really turned on by Charlie. Paul won’t act on his desires, however, because it would be wrong–though Charlie’s a-okay with the silver fox being his Daddy.
This is an odd couple, bisexual awakening, age-gap, Daddy kink romance between a femme boy and his gallant rescuer. It’s laced with remorse, as Paul laments his behavior of years before, not accepting his dear son’s struggles, and the behavior that led his son to run–and later die. Paul has grieved those choices so long, having since changed his whole life and the faulty morals that guided his path in those days, as did his ex-wife. Both of them needed a lot of therapy, and some serious soul-searching, to make sense of life before and after their son disappeared. The fallout broke their marriage, and though they are friends now, it’s shaky when Paul’s ex learns about Charlie living with him–and Paul’s attraction to the much younger man.
Charlie is pragmatic. He’s never had anyone in his life care for him the way Paul does. He loves it, loves him, when it’s cards-on-the-table time. Charlie’s struggled to love himself as himself for a long time, and had to do some really unsavory and unhealthy things to survive in his home, and now on the streets. When Paul finally admits that he’s attracted to Charlie, Charlie’s going gloves off, wanting everything that he believes they both deserve from this fledgling relationship. But can he still love Paul when he learns Paul’s role in his son’s death?
I liked the story; it was quiet and had a lot of gravitas with moments of deep pain. The way Paul and Charlie have suffered is sad, but it will improve, if they can help each other out. The age gap is large, but Charlie had to grow up fast in his abusive home and on the streets; he’s not a typical nineteen-year old. It’s clear that Paul still doesn’t forgive himself for his past mistakes–and it takes him a lot of time to confess both his attraction to Charlie and his dark history. He’s convicted himself, and he’s not willing to let his guilt die until Charlie gives him something to live for–saving this boy, and later loving him unconditionally. Then, maybe Paul can find his own self-worth again.
Expect a lot of soul-searching, sassy comebacks, and crop tops, as Charlie gets his femme on. Paul seems enchanted by Charlie in every way, and he’s definitely acting as a guardian to the younger man, in many ways. It’s not as syrupy as many Daddy/boy stories I tend to run across. Interestingly, neither Paul nor Charlie have any preconceived notions about the need or desire for such an arrangement, but the dynamic seems to develop organically as their physical relationship progresses. I had a couple of diction hiccups when these Georgia men had some distinctly British quips. Beyond that, I questioned the plausibility of these men wearing hoodies or sweaters, and afraid of overnight exposure temperatures, in the heat of August when they supposedly meet. But, honestly, it was a good story, allowing the redemption of a heartsore man as he lifts another out of danger. There are some steamy first times and lots of devotion.