Title: Trust Me
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Author: B. G. Thomas
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Genre: May/ December, contemporary, Western
Length: Extended Novella (39 k words)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: Neil has to come to terms with himself as a gay man before he can accept the love twenty-years-younger Cole offers him.
The Blurb: Widower Neil Baxter is surprised when his best friend Amy Radcliffe, a recent widow herself, asks him to join her family at a dude ranch. It’s the last thing Neil wants to do with his vacation. He is not an outdoors kind of guy, and he’s been afraid of horses since one threw him when he was a boy forced to attend summer church camp. But Amy is the one person who successfully helped him deal with his wife’s death, so he agrees to go for her sake.
When Neil arrives at Black Bear Guest Ranch he meets Cole, one of the ranch’s wranglers, a twenty-five-year-old, out-and-proud gay man. The chemistry between them is instant, and it’s upsetting and frustrating for Neil. He has avoided acting on his homosexuality for twenty years.
Soon, things between the men begin to sizzle. Will Neil continue to hide his true self, or will he finally learn to trust his feelings, as well as Cole, and step out and claim the life he has always wanted?
Neil Baxter had a hard time coping with the loss of his wife who died unexpectedly from an aneurysm two years ago. Now his wife’s sister Amy, a recent widow herself, talks Neil into coming to a holiday ranch with her, her children and Neil’s daughter.
Those holidays are going to be hard for Amy too, since Amy’s family used to spend their holidays on the Black Bear Ranch every year (they always brought Neil’s daughter along). Neil is underwhelmed; he’s not the outdoorsy type and he doesn’t even like horses. But since he doesn’t want to abandon Amy to deal with the memories of her deceased husband alone, he allows himself to be persuaded.
However, on the ranch, Neil meets Cole, an openly gay man who has an utterly disturbing effect on Neil’s perception of himself. When Cole starts flirting with Neil, even makes barely veiled advances, Neil is thrown into a turmoil of emotions. Because Neil feels attracted to Cole even though he must not be. Brainwashed by a homophobic upbringing, Neil has any homosexual leanings of his own buried so deep under layers and layers of guilt and shame that he can’t stand being reminded of the possibility, to a point where he blindly lashes out against Cole, embarrassing himself most of all in the process as everybody else is okay with Cole’s homosexuality.
Neil needs help coming to terms with himself, as in he needs a whack upon the head. Thankfully, he’s got Amy. Their crucial conversation, taking place under exceptional circumstances, marks the turning point for Neil. With Amy’s help, he can finally revive and purge himself of painful memories. What Cole’s unashamed openness started, Amy’s empathy and insight help along, and Neil finally finds himself capable of shaking the mental fetters that were as much self-inflicted as put on him by his upbringing. And now that he can accept himself as a gay man, he’s also finally ready to accept a new love in his life.
Neil is the first person POV narrator of this story, and I liked his straightforward voice a lot right from the beginning. However, he was hard to get to at first as his motives remained hidden for awhile, and his actions appeared irrational, deliberately hurtful to Cole and even outright harebrained. Cole, on the other hand, is almost too good to be true. He endures Neil’s offense with the sympathy of one who has his own painful past to deal with. The change Neil goes through, not lastly thanks to Cole’s patience, is beautiful to watch. He’s not one for doing things halfway; once he’s come to terms with himself and his feelings for Cole, he opens fully to the younger man. And in the end, Cole’s forbearance pays off – when Cole’s past comes haunting him, Neil, who has made up his mind in the meantime, stands up for him in a most endearing way.
This is a very romantic story, despite both main characters’ traumatic pasts. Of course it’s totally idealized, from the way Neil and Cole are each other’s perfect match to the incredible support they experience from others, be it Cole’s employers or Neil’s family. It’s nevertheless realistic enough that it could happen, if only in the best of all thinkable worlds, and that’s what romance is about, isn’t it? I found it uplifting, heartwarming and escapist in the best sense of the word. So if you’re in the mood for a sweet, positive comfort read, I’d recommend this book.