Author: Andrew Grey
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Buy Link: Love Means… Family
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Summary Review: A solid installment of the Love Means… series but I found the characters rather lacklustre and as such wasn’t as invested as I could have been in the romance.
Four months ago Robert Edward “Arie” Hawkins lost his sister and the rest of her family in a plane crash. Now his parents have decided it’s time for him to marry and carry on the family name. Arie knows it’s most likely the grief talking—especially from his mother, who’s taken to putting more than ice in her iced tea—so to escape Mississippi, Arie calls his best friend, Robbie, and arranges for a visit.
Life is always changing at the Michigan farm where Robbie lives. Owner Geoff Laughton and his partner, Eli, have started a therapeutic riding program and adopted a little boy, creating a family. It’s while feeding Jakey that Arie meets Officer Hunky.
Officer Hunky’s real name is Deputy Duane Keenan, and he has troubles of his own, but not enough to stop him from pursuing Arie. But Duane’s and Arie’s families are pulling them in opposite directions. Trying to build a connection to support their mutual attraction may prove to be more than difficult… it may be impossible.
Love Means… Family is the seventh book in the Love Means series, and whilst I’ve enjoyed all the books so far, this one is starting to stretch the series a bit. All the books have similar themes, which I suppose is one reason why people keep reading. They all focus on family and finding a place in the world where a gay man can be accepted and loved. This book contains that theme too, although to a lesser extent than some, possibly to its detriment.
The book focuses on Arie, the best friend of Robbie from Love Means…No Boundries. He’s recently lost his sister and her family to a freak accident which has left his family in shock and grief. In order to escape his mother’s alcoholism and his father’s demands that he needs to marry and produce an heir, Arie decides to visit Robbie at Geoff and Eli’s farm. Whilst there he meets ‘Officer Hunky’ also known as Duane. They quickly form an attachment but Arie has duties to his family in Mississippi and knows his relationship with Duane is only temporary.
Those who have liked the plots of the other stories in the series will like this one too. There’s a good mix of some emotional content and a sweet, if rather sudden, romance that develops between Duane and Arie. The time frame for the romance was a little short for me, especially when Duane is wanting Arie to give up his life in Mississippi on the strength of a relationship which has lasted less than three weeks. Actually this led to a bit of a niggle for me. There was lots of talk towards the end of the story about Arie moving to Michigan, making the sacrifice of his family and possibly his career for Duane, but at no point was the point raised that Duane could have moved to Mississippi more easily. He could have been a traffic cop anywhere and he had no family to leave behind.
The characters themselves were nice guys with nice personalities. Here lies my main problem with the story. They were so nice that I found both men rather dull. There was nothing to set them apart from each other. Even Arie’s violin playing, which could have been something which defined him more as a character is underplayed. However, I thought the grief he feels over his sister was realistic, and allowed for some good ‘healing scenes’. Duane has a boring job as a mostly traffic cop and a personality which leans towards protectiveness, but that didn’t stop him from being a little bland. It wasn’t that I disliked the characters, far from it, I just didn’t find them engaging and if I have to be honest, I struggled to keep reading because I just wasn’t interested in them as characters.
One part I did like though was that we get to see a little more of Eli and Geoff. Their nine month old son, Jakey, fairly steals the book from under the noses of Duane and Arie. I was pleased to see that we get both the good things and bad things about raising a young child, and if Jakey was a little too placid and well behaved for a small child, I could forgive that. After all, he had a whole housefull of doting adults in which to entertain him!
The sub-plot involving a series of shootings was another part which worked for me. I pretty much guessed what was going on fairly quickly but the parts of the book which showed Duane aiding in the investigation of the shootings were some of the better written parts, especially when he and other officers are searching an old crumbling house.
Overall, for me this was one of the less interesting books in the Love Means… series. It wasn’t bad, but not as enjoyable as some of the others. Fans, like me, will still want to read it but if you’ve not really read any of the other books then you’ll probably think you’re missing something if you take this as a standalone.