A guest review by Jenre
The fourth book in the Love Means… series sees an unlikely love happen between rich boy Preston and abandoned ex-pig farmer Stone but bland characterisation makes this the weakest story out of the four so far.
Spurned by his father and driven from his home, Stone Hillyard is struggling to find shelter in the Michigan winter when he lucks upon the horse farm run by Geoff Laughton and his partner Eli. They take him in, warm him up, and give him a job working with their No Boundaries therapy riding program.
A drunk driver left Preston Harding unable to walk, and after months of hard work, his therapist recommends Geoff and Eli’s program. But Preston’s anger and arrogance nearly get him kicked out until Stone intercedes on his behalf, despite Preston’s insults. It’s a small act of kindness that helps open Preston’s eyes.
Stone and Preston will support each other as they face their families’ disapproval and fight old secrets. They’ll learn—sometimes the hard way—just how love can mean freedom for them both.
I’ve been looking forward to this, the newest release in the Love Means… series for some time now. I’ve read and enjoyed all the others in the series so far and I couldn’t wait to become immersed in the world of Geoff and Eli’s farm. Starting to read this book was like slipping into comfortable shoes as I soon got drawn into the tale of Preston and Stone. However, I never really connected with their romance in the way that I did in previous books because despite their problems and differences they remained quite bland as characters.
The story begins with a half frozen young man, Stone, who has been thrown out of his hitched ride into the snow in the middle of nowhere. By happy chance he sees a light in the distance and all but collapses when his knocking brings Geoff to the door. Geoff and Eli take pity on Stone, who has been thrown out of his home for being gay, and take him on as a stable hand. Whilst helping with a riding therapy patient Stone meets Preston who has been injured in a car accident and is now fighting his way towards being fit again. Although Preston is attractive, he’s also arrogant and the pair clash from the start. It takes a swallowing of pride for Preston to realise that Stone may be just what he needs.
The story had a very promising initial set up, especially in relation to the character of Preston. He’s rich and spoiled and the total opposite of Stone who has been treated pretty poorly all his life by a uncaring father. Preston also has troubles with his father who is in denial about Preston’s sexuality. The story follows Preston as he realises, through his relationship with Stone, that his life isn’t that bad in comparison. This would have been an interesting concept, had not the change in Preston happened so quickly. We barely see him as the arrogant idiot who feels sorry for himself and thinks the world owes him a favour before he is transformed into someone who suddenly cares about the feelings of others. I thought it a shame that the change happened so soon, because personally I would have found it far more appealing to see Stone and Preston clash a little more before they fall in love.
Stone is essentially a ‘nice guy’. He’s taken a number of knocks in life and worries about being rejected, never wholly sure that the wonderful opportunity he’s been given at Geoff’s farm will last. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Stone, felt sorry for the bad things that had happened to him through no fault of his own and thought him a little wise beyond his years. The scene where he stands up to his father was done well, and marked a turning point in his self-confidence. If I have any complaints it’s that, towards the end of the story, Stone initiates a misunderstanding between the heroes, leading to a separation. This is never my most favourite plot device and in the case of this book it felt unnatural and forced. It didn’t sit well with what had been quite a gradual build up of feelings between the heroes.
One aspect that was handled very well was Preston’s disability. Not just in the way that he feels frustrated about being stuck in a wheelchair, but also the way that other’s treat him as a result. Preston’s determination to walk and his gradual recovery through hard work and sheer force of will was sympathetically shown. I also liked that Preston understands that he has to suffer through the indignity of being carried or the difficulties of performing the simplest of tasks like getting washed and dressed, and thought this was written as a realistic part of Preston’s life without defining him as a person.
Those of you, like me, who have fallen in love with the Love Means… series are bound to snap this one up (if you haven’t already). If you’re new to the series then you can still read this book, although the other couples from the previous books do flit in and out of Stone and Preston’s story, but for the best experience I would recommend that you start with Love Means… No Shame. As for this book, I can recommend it to those looking for a sweet romance with some angst, but not so much that the story is heavy going. I’m not sure whether this is the final Love Means… book, I’m hoping not.