Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Cornell Collins
Length: 9 hours, 9 minutes
Austin Russell never intended to stay for long at Glynn Harber. When he first came to the school, Austin’s job was to find ways to cut corners to save money. Even once Austin left his horrible job and came to help Luke, the headmaster, find ways to raise money and for the school to thrive, Austin never planned to stay. He can’t stay, no matter how much he loves it at Glynn Harber and can imagine a quiet, peaceful live surrounded by caring friends and co-workers. There is no way Austin is going to meet his goals working for a small school in Cornwall. Even if he isn’t so sure that a life of non-stop work and push for advancement is the one he wants anymore. So Austin plans to stay just long enough to review the bids for the art building renovation and get the project off the ground.
When one of the young students, Maisie Dymond, is in grave danger, Austin doesn’t hesitate to rush in and help. Austin is furious at Maisie’s father, Dom, who seems to never be paying quite enough attention to his daughter, always late to pick her up and now having her almost lose her life when someone should have been keeping a better eye on her. However, Austin can also admit that he can’t stop staring at the gorgeous man and finding that despite his frustration, he finds Dom incredibly appealing.
When Dom decides to bid for the art school renovation, it means the two men are working close together. They also begin spending time together socially, and Austin realizes how much he truly enjoys Dom’s company, as well as what a good, caring father Dom actually is. Even more, how much Austin himself enjoys being part of Maisie’s life, even though he has never thought of himself as someone able to adequately take care of children. As Dom and Austin grow increasingly close, they are building a real connection, one both men hope to explore further. But Austin’s time at Glynn Harber is running down. Now, he must decide if he is going to go back to his corporate life, or take a chance on the happiness he has found with Dom and Maisie.
Austin is the fourth book in Con Riley’s fabulous Learning to Love series, set at the idyllic Glynn Harber school. While each book features a new couple, we meet Austin in the third book, Luke, as the corporate accountant sent to slash the school’s budget. In that story, Austin is the villain early on, and we get to know him and some of his backstory there. So I think having the foundation of having read the prior book will set things up nicely here. (Also, if you have not read the first book in the series, Charles, stop whatever you are doing right now and read it. Trust me.)
I love the way we have seen Austin grow as a character over these two books, from someone uptight, rigid, driven, and miserable, to a man who has friendships, love, and joy in his life. Already, by the start of this book, things have eased for Austin. He is happy at Glynn Harber, but he can’t let himself even think about staying, because of this huge weight of obligation. But he isn’t the same man he was at the start of Luke (nor the same man he was when he dated Sol). Now he knows what he wants and what will make him happy, he just doesn’t think he can have it. Over the course of the book, we learn more about Austin’s past and what has been driving him, as well as see him finally accept that he deserves to live a life that makes him happy and fulfilled.
I really enjoyed seeing Austin find his match with Dom, a laid back man who is fierce in his love for his family. Dom is such a good balance for Austin and he helps him to slow down and enjoy life more. Through Dom, Austin also gets to know Maisie better (another series regular), giving him the confidence that he really can be there for a child and bringing him a family. The two men are a great match and there is such a lovely connection between them. I also really appreciated that we get some resolution between Austin and Cameron, Sol’s nephew, which is again a thread that has developed over the books. Plus, we get some cameos from the entire Glynn Harber gang, including Charles, my complete favorite, so it was a nice way to round out the books.
I have listened to all the books in audio with narrator Cornell Collins, and he continues to do a wonderful job. Austin and Dom have nicely distinct voices, and the side characters are well done. Many of these folks have appeared in multiple books, and Collins carries the voices over well across the series. Everyone is easily identifiable and feels consistent through the books. There is a warmth to this series, a sense of Glynn Harber as a home that make everyone feel happy and welcome, and Collins captures that tone really well in the audio. I have really been enjoying listening to these books and can highly recommend the audio.
Austin finishes up the four main books in the series that each focus on a new couple. The final book, Heppel Ever After is out in audio and I already have it ready to go. As noted, I am beyond in love with Charles, so I can’t wait to read more about his wedding to Hugo. Overall, this story really ties up a lot of the series nicely and is a great installment.