knowing you coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Lane Ashbury feels like he is just hanging on. He is raising his three-year old, Briar, essentially single handedly, as his wife has been out of the country on “vacation” for the last two years. Lane is overwhelmed trying to take care of Briar, run his restaurant, and cope with the increasingly awful way his wife, Sana, makes him feel about himself. The fact that Lane’s daughter seems to have become a mini kleptomaniac/shoplifter is making things even worse. But when Briar shows up with a prosthetic leg that she stole from somewhere, Lane is pretty sure he has hit the limit of what he can handle.

The owner of the leg turns out to be Bowen Galanos, the brother of Lane’s next-door neighbor, Adele. After getting his leg blown off as a stunt actor, then having his relationship with his cheating boyfriend fall apart in the aftermath, Bowen is staying with his brother while he gets his life back together. Fortunately for Lane, Bowen greets word of his thieving three-year-old with bemusement rather than anger. Even better, it turns out that Bowen also has experience as a nanny, and he is interested in taking on the job watching Briar.

Having Bowen is his life is a balm for Lane, particularly as he goes through his divorce with Sana. The two men grow incredibly close, becoming the best of friends. Bowen is so warm and caring and he makes Lane feel seen and appreciated in a way he never did with his narcissistic ex. There is even a small part of Lane that recognizes an attraction there for his handsome nanny, despite never having considered an interest in men before. But Lane also knows he is way too much of a mess right now for a relationship, nor does he have the emotional bandwidth right now for delving into his sexuality. For his part, Bowen finds himself falling hard for Lane, but he knows his heart will be broken if he lets himself fall for a straight guy. Bowen is also not long out of his own terrible relationship and is not sure he is ready for more. But Bowen and Lane have found a connection that is so strong, they can’t imagine life without one another. They are also making a family of sorts in their shared love for Briar. Now, Lane and Bowen have to figure out if they a ready to take their friendship to something more and find their way to happiness together.

Knowing You is the first book in E.M. Lindsey’s new Words We Never Said series, focusing on single dads finding love. Things are off to a great start here and this book is sweet and warm and tender. Bowen and Lane are both lovely men who are in the aftermath of bad relationships with people who treated them horribly. In Lane’s case, while he initiates his divorce with Sana early in the story, he is still dealing with the fallout, as she is making his life hell and using their child to hurt him wherever she can. Poor Lane, his pain and exhaustion is just palpable as the story starts. He is so overwhelmed trying to hold everything together, while Sana is off on an endless vacation and ignoring the fact that she has a child. Lane is trying to be everything for Briar, who he adores, but he is struggling. Sana has spent their entire relationship doing all she can to tear him down and make him feel small. He has finally come to realize the abuse he has suffered and to take steps to end things. But Lane has emotional scars from it all, making him doubt himself and his worth.

The men start out as boss/employee, with a rapidly building and deepening friendship. This is a slow burn story, as they are nothing more than friends for quite a while. I think it works here, as Lane clearly needs some time emotionally to get himself sorted out. Even though Bowen’s situation wasn’t as horrible, he too has been hurt and is wary of getting involved again. But this friendship is so sweet and lovely between them and the bond they have with one another comes through so clearly. Soon, they are best friends and family of sorts, and only then do they begin to really consider more. It is just a really warm and lovely connection, with a nice dose of heat as they ultimately get together.

I don’t tend to gravitate to books that feature young kids prominently, but since I would follow E.M. Lindsey pretty much anywhere, I gave this a shot. I found myself charmed by Briar, as well as enjoying the scenes she shares with both Lane and Bowen. Briar is a little girl full of spirit, but it is also clear she is struggling with the uncertainty of an absentee mother and a father who is in over his head. Bowen coming into their lives not only helps alleviate some of the pressure from Lane, but he is also so warm and loving with Briar, giving her another source of support. There are a few scenes that give a bit of comic relief, even as the men struggle with this tiny kleptomaniac. I think the balance is well done here, giving us enough time with Briar to show how important she is to Lane and Bowen and how much she is a part of their lives, but also giving us plenty of time with the two men alone in their adult relationship.

As I said, this kicks off a series featuring single dads and we meet some of other side characters here. Lane’s neighbor, Adele, runs a single dads group that Lane joins, and they become friends. I assume we are getting a story for Adele at some point, and we learn who is up next at the end of the book. So far, I am really enjoying this cast of characters and looking forward to seeing what is to come. This story is a great start and a lot of fun. Lane and Bowen have a lot to work through, but the bond they have with one another just shines through.

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