Title: Too Soon For Love
Author: Kimberly Gardner
Publisher: Loose Id LLC
Amazon: Buy Link Kindle and Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Diverse (blindness)
Length: Novel (318 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A very good story about grieving, secrets and gaining back independence while on the path to new beginnings.
Michael Stricker is still reeling from his partner’s sudden and untimely death when he meets someone new, someone he could really care about. But first he needs time, time to get his life back in order and time to get over his lost love. But learning to live alone again is nearly impossible with his well-meaning relatives treating him like a poor helpless blind guy.
When Alan Stuart befriends Phillip DiMartino’s grieving partner, the last thing he expects is to discover hidden lies and infidelity. Guilty over his attraction to the still-grieving man, Alan resolves to stay silent. But the truth has a way of coming out, and soon a dead man’s secrets bring about more heartbreak than Alan could have imagined.
Although both men vow to keep their distance, staying away is easier said than done, even when it’s Too Soon For Love.
This is the first book by this author that I’ve read, and while I liked it well enough on my first reading, I enjoyed the second even more. With themes of independence, fidelity and trust, not only is it well-written, but it features a blind protag, not something we often see in this genre. For that alone, I jumped on this book the minute I saw it, and I’m glad I did.
Set outside of Philadelphia, the story opens with thirty-one-year-old blind m/m romance novelist Michael at the cemetery burying his longtime partner, Phillip, a man eighteen years his senior who died from a stroke. Phillip’s family means well, but they treat him like a helpless child and just as he’s on the verge of telling them where to go, Alan, the nurse’s aide that Phillip’s family hired after the stroke, intervenes. Michael is very glad Alan is there; after getting off to a bad start, they had become friendly in short time they spent time together between the stroke and Phillip’s death. Alan offers to give Michael a ride home and Michael jumps on it. Michael realizes that he now has the task of trying to regain the independence he has lost over the twelve years he was together with Phillip, who had taken care of just about everything in their lives. There are only a few things Michael can’t do himself: driving being one and reading his mail being the other, so Alan offers to give him a hand (or an eye, as it were). Although the two men are attracted to one another — even acting on that attraction once — and feeling guilty over the timing, Michael decides that he wants to remain friends as he just isn’t ready for a new relationship. Meanwhile, in the course of Alan helping Michael, he discovers that Phillip has been unfaithful, but he is reluctant to heap more heartache onto the grieving man’s already full plate by telling him. The truth about Phillip’s infidelity comes knocking on the door, however, and soon everyone involved is in even more pain.
Emotional and poignant, I was near tears several times in the first couple of chapters as Michael, who not only has lost the only man he has ever loved, has to face the realization that he has somehow lost his self-sufficiency and, if he can’t get past his writer’s block, maybe even his career. Add to that the pain of his partner’s betrayal and the guilt over being attracted to Alan, he had my total sympathy. While there are strong emotions that run throughout, they never felt overwhelming to me. There are some humorous moments, too, mostly provided by Oscar, the shoe-ruining puppy that Alan is trying to raise for friends of his.
The plot was believable and all of the characters were fully-fleshed and felt real to me, down to Phillip’s scumbag brother-in-law, his well-meaning but overbearing sisters, and the furry kids. I loved Michael, his strength and determination coming through clearly, and Alan had my sympathy as well as being attracted to a man who is emotionally unavailable. Sometimes timing just sucks.
In addition to the themes I mention above, the author also touches on points of families going against the wishes of the partner, same-sex marriage and the legalities of partner’s rights. We see this not only in Michael and Phillip’s situation, but also in a minor sub-plot involving another stroke victim and his partner, the only part of the story that I felt was an unnecessary inclusion.
Maybe more than anything, though, this book made me think — think about what it would be like to lose my sight and what would happen if I did. I kept thinking about the little things those of us with even partial sight take for granted — reading anything not available in electronic format (like business cards or hand-written letters) or on a computer screen that doesn’t have a reader, distinguishing between paper money, looking at pictures, gauging distances, watching sports, driving, seeing the expressions of those you are talking to. As a web developer, I am familiar with screen readers for the visually impaired, but I found myself looking up stuff like Braille watches, laptops and money punchers, talking clocks and timers, electronic color identifiers and guide dogs (I spent wwaaaayyyy too much time on the Guide Dogs for the Blind website and found out that their California campus is less than a half hour from here!). If nothing else, I will remember this book as I interact with blind people, as I invariably do occasionally.
A few warnings:
For those of you who aren’t into ménage, note that there is a scene integral to the story in chapter four. Also, if you’re a reader who doesn’t like their protags to be with anyone else during their journey to the HEA (and there is one here), then beware that both men have relations with others during the story, and there are graphic flashbacks of Michael with Phillip.
Highly recommended to those who are interested in reading a good romance with diverse characters, in this case, a blind protagonist.