A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A sweet, gentle romance about discovering what is important in life and being true to yourself.
Dan Anderson has a lot on his plate. He’s just out of a lackluster ten-year marriage. He’s moved home to help his mother fix up the family house to sell. He’s made new friends with the neighbors, Brendan and Jaden. He’s got a challenging job in the IT department at the area hospital.
He also has the possibility of new love in his life in the form of the handsome Ethan, who is helping Dan remodel the kitchen. Then work throws a major wrench in Dan’s path, and life and love will get a lot more complex as he struggles to reconcile his new relationship with the reality of workplace harassment.
Unexpected Guest is a sequel of sorts to this author’s Patient Eyes (reviewed here by Kassa), and features secondary characters Brendan and Jaden, the protags from that book. I didn’t realize there was a book before this one, so I went back and read it after I finished up Unexpected Guest. I can say that you do not need to read Patient Eyes to enjoy this one, and though there is quite a bit referenced about the situation those boys were in during that book, I didn’t feel lost, just that perhaps I was missing something I perhaps should know.
The story opens with thirty-two-year-old, recently-divorced Dan, who is living at his mother’s house getting it ready for sale, seeing a bunch of college-aged kids moving in next door. Upset that the new neighbors seem to be loud, obnoxious students, he is determined to talk with them the next day. His face is red, however, to find out that although they may seem to be the right age, they are not students, but not before humorously putting his foot in it. Once the air is cleared, they become friendly and he is introduced to Ethan, the landscape designer who did Jaden and Brendan’s backyard. Deciding to tackle remodeling the kitchen next, Ethan offers to give Dan a hand with the design. That turns into offering to be at the house for contractor appointments while Dan is at work and other aspects of the job. In no time, an easy friendship develops over the rennovation, dinners and relaxing, and soon Ethan is essentially living at Dan’s. Dan finds himself attracted to Ethan, but this is not really a surprise; Dan and his best friend while growing up did some exploration together in their teens, which turned disastrous when they were found out and led to Dan trying to live the straight life. Dan, however, isn’t sure Ethan is gay and vice versa until one day Dan makes a move. Now he is trying to reconcile his past, decide whether or not to come out, make a new start with Ethan, finish fixing up the house, get through a huge project at his job, and deal with a sexual harassment situation while on a business trip.
Unexpected Guest is a well-written, very sweet, gentle, almost conflict-free romance told mostly from the third-person POV of Dan, with narration thrown in here and there from Jaden. Though not without a few niggles, I enjoyed it overall, was engaged from the beginning and liked pretty much all of the characters, even the secondary cast (well, the ones we were supposed to like, anyway).
Poor Dan. A good part of the story is about his struggle with appearances, his concern about what other people think and his coming out — all related to the trauma and fallout of his teenage relationship with Sean, his best friend. Who knows how he would have turned out if the thing with Sean hadn’t happened as it did? For us to get the backstory, there are quite a few flashbacks. I love a book where the characters grow and we have that here with Dan coming to terms with not just his relationship with Ethan, but with everything that goes with it. He discovers what is important and that being true to himself is part of that.
I bought the chemistry between the protags and thought the beginning part of the book worked well in that respect. I really liked the slow build to their romantic relationship, and I liked watching them interact: alone, with “the boys” next door, and even with Dan’s mother. I thought, however, that there were a touch too many smexxin scenes and I found myself skimming over several of them. Related to this, note that as part of Jaden’s narration, we get to be in the bedroom with him and Brendan at times as well.
Just as I had issues with the over-used stalker plot device in Patient Eyes, I was okay with the Colin situation here. I thought it was handled well without being overdone, though I admit that I felt it was resolved a bit too easily.
One last note: if you read Patient Eyes and were confused/disappointed/angry about the ending — as I was — we do get some satisfaction here with a furtherance, of sorts, of Brendan and Jaden’s tale. Here we get a glimpse two years in the future from the end of that previous book, and fans should not miss out.
Recommended to those looking for a gentle, sweet romance with characters that grow. Fans of the author and those who read Patient Eyes should definitely pick it up.