Rating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel


Eric Turner is hurricane prepping at his local grocery when he encounters three international travelers who are about to be abandoned by their hired driver. Their flights out of Newark are canceled, and all the hotels in the Hartford, Connecticut area are booked. Eric remembers how hard it was being alone when his parents cut him off after coming out, so he generously offers his spare rooms to the stranded trio: a man, his mother, and his “lover.”

Carrington (“Howard”) is the president of a small eastern European nation that regained its sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet Union. His father had previously been president, and Carrington was urged to run after a scandal-ridden presidency following his father’s death. He was escorting his mother for follow-up treatment for a rare cancer when they got stranded in the U.S. Carrington’s frustrated by the situation and not especially kind to Eric, at first. A dressing down by his gracious mother turns his entitled attitude around–enough that Carrington is unexpectedly charmed by his young and attractive host.

Carrington’s bodyguard, however, is not happy with the situation. It turns out Stefan, who’s been a longtime friend, as well as Carrington’s personal security guard, has harbored a crush on Carrington. He’s absolutely incensed that Eric could turn the seemingly straight Carrington’s head. Eric’s not even trying, though. He’s super awkward and shy, with an enormous inferiority complex thanks to the emotional abuse of his estranged parents. Carrington’s initially attracted to Eric’s naive vulnerability, something Stefan never embodied.

The more time this crew spends together, the more Carrington’s attraction to Eric grows. He’s supposed to be guarding his identity, due to a credible threat of possible assassination by a pro-Russian reconciliation group. But, in the dark of night, Carrington can’t help confessing all his secrets, including his confusing attraction to Eric. Eric’s stupefied, sure that the sexy man would only use his body and abuse his heart. Still, he lets Carrington explore his nascent attraction, and they begin to build a connection that might bridge their geographical gap.

This is a sweet story, though I had some issues with plausibility. The set-up is pretty wildly contrived, but that didn’t bother me overmuch. I liked the way Carrington and Eric connected, and how they each poked fun at the other’s English usage. Carrington was educated at Oxford, so he’s got a decidedly Queen’s English dialect. Honestly, I struggled with too much telling and often-stilted passages, including long dialogue and some rather over-the-top cliché moments. Stefan’s interference was important to the conflict, but it was extra divisive. Carrington’s mum’s initial approval was nice, but I got frustrated on how quickly (and strongly) her tune changed later. All the reactions seemed to become over-reactions and the disingenuousness of it got a little exhausting.

In all, I struggled to connect to the characters, mainly because they seemed more caricature than people. Eric’s too naive and innocent, Carrington’s too forward, Stefan’s too jealous, and Eric’s bestie, Mateo, is too honest. His neighbor is too homophobic, and his parents are too heartless. Meanwhile, the assassin’s too incompetent. It’s not a bad book, it just didn’t hit the right notes for me. I think people who really enjoy these kinds of age- and power-gap tropes will dig it, however.