Author: Kaje Harper
Cover Artist: Angela Waters
Buy Link: The Rebuilding Year
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: An engaging take on the friends-to-lovers theme, this book backed a beautiful romance with an action-filled crime story plot.
The Blurb: Losing nearly everything leaves room for the one thing they can’t live without.
Until he realizes he’s falling in love with his housemate, and things take a turn for the complicated.
John Barrett knows about loss. After moving twice to stay in touch with his kids, he could only watch as his ex-wife whisked them away to California. Offering Ryan a room seems better than rattling around the empty house, but as casual friendship moves to something more, and a firestorm of emotions ignites, the big old house feels like tight quarters.
It’s nothing they can’t learn to navigate, though. But when dead bodies start turning up on campus—and one of the guys is a suspect—their first taste of real love could go up in smoke
After an unfriendly divorce, John ended up in a small university town in Wyoming, in a job he’s actually overeducated for, and with no social life to speak of, and a house that is too big for him most of the time, except when his children come to visit – which hasn’t happened for quite some time, due to, as John suspects, his ex-wives wheelings and dealings. The older medical student who’s walking with a cane is interesting to John, though at first mostly in the friendly, casual way John apprehends other students who stand out in one way or the other. He’s responsible for the grounds after all, he’s made it his business to know what’s going on on Campus grounds.
After running accidentally into one another a few times, Ryan and John eventually connect over the tragic death of a student; and when John learns that Ryan’s housing conditions are anything but satisfactory, it’s only natural that he offers to let him a room in his too-big house.
But living close together leads to the two men gradually developing a different kind of closeness. Which poses quite a problem for both of them, since both have always thought of themselves as straight. However, their sexual identity might not be as set as they thought. The question is, what are they going to make of the strange feelings they suddenly seem to have for each other? Furthermore, what will other people think of them, people who are important to them… like, their families ?
For once, the falling in love worked hand-in-glove with the falling in lust. There was no such thing like a sudden switch from straight to gay through a night of passionate sex, but a gradual getting-to-know-each-other that slowly, yet almost inevitably drew Ryan and John closer together. And it was something that gave both men a tough bit to chew on. I also liked it very much that they didn’t simply jump into bed with each other for a round of hot monkey sex perfectly equipped with condoms and lube. They hesitated, held back, doubted, and they fumbled their way through their first sexual encounter in an endearingly clumsy way which nevertheless didn’t take away from the eroticism. (just to make it clear, they’re both quick studies 😉 )
Except for his ex-wife, Cynthia, John never had any sexual relationships before Ryan. Perhaps it was this, aside from the fact that he was the older and generally more serene of the two, which made it easier for him to cope with his feelings for Ryan. Their different pace of handling their mutual attraction made for some interesting tension between them, sexual and otherwise. However, after a very realistic initial awkwardness, they worked this tension out between them like adult people. As they both had come to regard the possibilities between them highly, they talked things through and worked to make their relationship work.
And then, their bit-by -bit coming-out once they realized they were committed to each other. I found it very authentic how they, each on his own and both together, mulled over the how to tell what when to whom – and it was equally authentic that life sometimes took the decision right out of their hands and forced them just to play it by ear. Beautiful to watch, like a view from the outside on a process I as the reader was also privy to on the inside. I really liked this part of the plot, the character development John and Ryan went through, and some of the minor characters alongside them.