Title: Dating in Retrospect (States of Love series)
Author: Lila Leigh Hunter
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: February 15, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 107
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Giving the commencement speech at his alma mater doesn’t fit Clay Keller’s meticulous schedule. As Chief Executive Officer of Travel Mogul—the largest travel connoisseur company on the West Coast—he has no time to get back in touch with his country roots. He left fifteen years ago without a second look, but a medical scare makes him change his mind about the speech and brings him face-to-face with his only regret.
Time always moves slower in Southeastern Iowa, and Aaron Grant loves it. He’s added solar farms to the Grant Lanes portfolio and has been teaching at the local university for a decade. The last thing he needs is to have his tenure application compromised by the return of his ex-boyfriend. If he had known who the commencement speaker would be, he would never have volunteered to be the administration liaison.
A proposal—to date for a year—will help them discover that time changes a person, even when everything else stays the same.
Fifteen years ago, Clay and Aaron dreamed of a life together, but Clay left for California and founded a hugely successful travel company, while Aaron remained in Iowa, getting a PhD and becoming a professor on the tenure trek while managing the family farm. Clay returns to Iowa to give the commencement speech and plans to win back Aaron.
I like the premise of the story, but honestly Clay comes across as an arrogant smarmy jerk. After Aaron makes the difficult decision to remain in Iowa to help his father with the farm, Clay stops calling or answering Aaron’s messages, changes his email address and phone number, instructs his family to not tell Aaron anything about him and never contacts Aaron again. Understandably, Aaron is not as willing as Clay to pick up where they left off all those years ago.
After Aaron’s request to keep their interactions professional in front of his colleagues, Clay persists (“Stop rubbing my back, Clay. I’m not a kitten for you to pet.”) and eventually tells off the professor on Aaron’s tenure committee (who makes a bigoted comment about Aaron) saying: “I’d be more than happy if he gets more than a piece of me before the night’s over. I think I should go and offer to blow him in the bathroom before my speech.” WTF? Add in Clay using his nickname “sunshine” for Aaron constantly (over 40 times in 107 pages), and I was almost ready to DNF this book.
Aaron agrees to give Clay a year to win him back and goes along with a series of monthly dates around the area. I liked the way the author uses Clay and Aaron’s dates to highlight Iowa, giving us glimpses of the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Madison County’s famous covered bridges and Riverside’s annual TrekFest. This fit well with the theme of Dreamspinner’s “States of Love” series.
Aaron and Clay eventually get their HEA but have to overcome immature actions on both men’s part plus rampant miscommunication. I really struggled with the rating for this book, because I truly admire anyone who crafts and publishes a novel and while I liked the plot premise and the way the story features Iowa landmarks, it was not enough to overcome Clay’s personality.