london fog coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Percy has come to the U.S. to be with his sister, who is adopting a little girl. In anticipation of becoming an uncle, Percy took sign language lessons in the U.K. so he could talk to his niece, only to learn that British Sign Language is not the same as American Sign Language and that he still doesn’t know how to speak to the little girl. Percy also embarrassed himself by getting angry and frustrated about the situation while at BrewBiz, the local deaf cafe, and he has now managed to alienate people before he has barely settled into his new hometown. Percy is not long out of a horrible relationship with a narcissistic man who made him doubt everything about himself. This recent humiliation is only fueling Percy’s anxieties and feelings of inadequacy.

Wren is part-owner of BrewBiz and takes pity on Percy when he realizes how sorry Percy is for his rudeness. It is clear that Percy is sweet and awkward and means well, and was just having an off day and got overwhelmed. Wren also finds himself attracted to Percy, but while he can admit to desiring him, Wren worries hooking up is a bad idea. Wren is still figuring out the specifics, but he knows he identifies mostly as aromantic. Wren tries to be up front with the men he meets that he is not going to want more that a sexual connection, and typically ends things after a night to keep from leading anyone on. But despite trying to be clear on exactly what he can give, Wren often finds himself hurting people unintentionally. Even knowing Percy a short time, it is clear that the man is already hurting quite a bit from his past and Wren doesn’t want to do anything to make it worse.

However, when Percy lets Wren know he isn’t looking for anything more than a hook up either, the men have a hot night together. It is one neither can forget, but for Wren, it throws him, as he finds himself drawn to Percy in ways he really never is with his sexual partners. Neither man really knows how to proceed, however. Wren worries about leading Percy on, especially as Wren is still figuring out what his feelings for Percy really mean and what he can offer. And Percy is still finding his footing in so many ways, trying to learn ASL and find a community in town, as well as move forward emotionally from his past. It seems like as much as they like and want each other, both Percy and Wren have too much complication in their lives to make something work. But Percy and Wren are both developing strong feelings, despite their attempts at keeping things casual between them. Now, both men need to figure out what they want and what they are able to give, and they just may find a way to more together.

London Fog is the second book in E.M. Lindsey’s BrewBiz series, set around a deaf cafe and coffee shop. This is definitely a found family type series, as the folks at the cafe form a close group, one that extends to many members of the local Deaf community. This story stands alone from a romance standpoint, and I think works fine as long as you are OK missing some of the backstory from the prior MCs in Affogato. My one caveat is that we see Percy have his encounter at BrewBiz at the end of the first book where he gets into an argument due to his confusion about BSL versus ASL. While that is referenced here and you can probably piece together the basics, I was surprised that this story doesn’t recap that a little more clearly, as it jump starts some of what happens here. That said, you can get away without knowing the details if you want to start the series with this book.

This story is almost completely a character study, which is something at which author E.M. Lindsey just excels. The plot is fairly straightforward, with Wren and Percy meeting, having a hot hookup, and then realizing that they each want more than a night. But at the same time, both men have a lot holding them back and significant things they have to work through. Wren identifies as aromantic and he struggles because he feels like he is always hurting people. He tries to be as clear and up front as possible about what he wants and what he can give, but sometimes people still get hurt. Wren feels like he can’t even hook up more than once for fear that he is going to be unintentionally leading someone along. Then, he is thrown even more when he realizes that he does want more with Percy, and he doesn’t know what that means for his identity as he has come to understand it. On top of that, even as Percy assures Wren that he is fine with what Wren can give, Wren still can’t help but worry he is going to hurt or disappoint Percy. For his part, Percy has had a lot of emotional trauma from his past relationship. He is left with a lot of insecurity and self doubt and a sense that he is unworthy and undesirable.

These guys have some fits and starts throughout the book, as they navigate their own emotional challenges, as well as figure out how (or if) they can be a good partner to the other. They make some mistakes and jump to wrong conclusions at times (including both mistakenly thinking the other was cheating at various points, which felt like a lot to me). But, as always, Lindsey gives the characters such depth that I could understand their struggles and why they sometimes can’t get out of their own way. The resolution comes a little close to the end after developing throughout the book, though, and I would have liked to see more after they get together to see how things play out.

I am enjoying this larger community and we meet some more characters here that I assume will continue to build this found family. Most of the characters we meet are Deaf or part of the local community in some way, and it adds a nice layer onto the story to learn more about Deaf culture. We also see the struggles the characters sometimes encounter, particularly from ignorant hearing folks. There are some intense moments where we see two encounters with local law enforcement/security who react badly when interacting with people who can’t hear them. So there is a nice added layer to this series that I think is really interesting and explored well.

I really enjoyed this installment and found Wren and Percy an appealing pair. I couldn’t help but root for them, especially sweet, awkward Percy who is struggling to find his way. I am looking forward to the next book and can’t wait to reconnect with these characters.

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