Title: A Test of Love (The Solitary Knights of Pelham Bay #2)
Author: Claire Thompson
Publisher: Romance Unbound
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: short story (32 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
It started as a joke. Several guys burned by love decided to create a club they dubbed the Solitary Knights. A safe haven for the romantically disinclined, the guys meet once a month to drink a beer and renew their vow to avoid love at all costs. Yet beneath the laughter and bravado, each man hides a broken heart.
One night, Drew Kensington, owner and bartender of the Pelham Bay Pub, issues a challenge, ?Why don‘t you find that one guy—the one that got away, the one you‘ve never quite let fade from your dreams? Track him down. Reconnect. Then come back here and tell us what you found out.”
From Book 1: Finding Chandler*… Eric and Ryan left the pub at the same time. Eric pulled up the collar of his coat as they headed into the freezing November rain. “So you were in love once a long time ago, huh? You don?t seem old enough to even have a “long time ago?, Eric teased.
Ryan shook his head. “I’m old enough—thirty-four next week. This was back in college—junior year. My biology professor, of all people. Maybe it wasn’t even love—who knows. Maybe I was just so flush with finally allowing myself to be openly gay, and finding a gay man I could look up to.” He waved his hand, as if swatting away a fly. “Anyway. Ancient history. I haven’t thought about him in years.”
When Ryan Kennedy arrived home that evening after meeting with the other members of the group he kept thinking of fourteen years ago when he had a youthful crush on his biology professor, and how it all ended before it even began. At the time he felt spurned because he was sure that Professor Tom Shafer knew he was in love with him, but he never took advantage of Ryan’s numerous openings that he would welcome Tom’s attentions. Now he wondered what had happpened to Tom and if he was with someone, after all 14 years was a long time.
To his surprise he received in the mail that evening an invitation from his Alma Mater to attend a fund raising at which Tom would be the guest speaker (what a coincidence). Obviously he went because he was curious and wanted to see Tom and find out about his love life.
The old feelings were still there for Ryan when he saw Tom again after so many years. When the lecture was over he and Tom reintroduced themselves and caught up briefly on each other’s lives now that Ryan was 34 and Tom was 49. Ryan was still hurt that Tom had never pursued him even though he was aware of Ryan’s feelings but Tom had two very valid reasons – the first one was that he was in a relationship with a very jealous partner at the time and second, as an associate professor not yet tenured he would have been incredibly stupid to have an affair with a student as that would have been the surest way to join the unemployment line.
Since they were both now single and the attraction was definitely there, it would seem that the path to true love would be strewn with rose petals, but there were two major problems. Tom was still recovering from an old love and Ryan had a stalker, an abusive ex boyfriend against whom the courts had issued a restraining order forbidding him from being within a certain distance of Ryan’s home and workplace. Their first night together was more exciting than Ryan expected and it was clear that Tom felt the same way, but before they had a chance to decide what was next, the threats started when the tires on Ryan’s pride and joy, his Porsche, were slashed. The threats escalated and the tension placed considerable stress on the newly minted couple as they tried to cope without blaming each other. Eventually things reached boiling point when Tom’s life was put in danger and Ryan had to race against time to save him.
This story had a lot more content and excitement than Finding Chandler the first book in the series. At times I thought A Test of Love would burst at the seams because there was so much going on in such a short book. At only 38 pages the pace was at breakneck speed during the last half of the book so that the plot could be wrapped up with no loose ends, leaving enough pages for our heroes to have their happy ever after. The danger and final chase were exciting, but for me the best part of the book were the characters. Both Tom and Ryan were three dimensional and their love affair worked despite all of the conflicts, stresses and strains placed on it; the fact that they had a past helped make their feelings believable. If I had a wish for this book it would be that there was more ‘alone’ time for Ryan and Tom so that they could get to know each other better, rather than the focus on the threats against their lives. However I enjoyed A Test of Love very much and would definitely recommend it.
I think this will turn into a wonderful series and I can’t wait to read book 3, Switching Gears.