Author: William Neale
Cover Artist: Winterheart Designs
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/316 PDF pages/88K words
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Unabashedly romantic!
Dumped by his closeted lover only to fall for a man who’s already taken, Spencer Hawkins finishes up his fellowship to discover he doesn’t have a job. For anyone on the outside looking in, it seemed Spencer was failing miserably at life in general, until one phone call changes everything. The prospect of pulling up stakes and relocating to a new city provides the one thing he needs most—Hope.
Hunter Harrison’s partner has left, abandoning not only him but their adopted son whose heart defect has left them in limbo awaiting a heart transplant that may not come in time. It took meeting Spencer for Hunter and his son to find something new to hold onto—Hope.
Building a love that can last a lifetime will take strength and the one thing they found in each other—Hope.
This is William Neale’s last book and I think it’s his best, because he imbued Hope with so much heart. You only need to read the blurb to realize that this story will tug at your emotions and heartstrings. There are many obstacles that the characters have to overcome and in one situation it seemed almost insurmountable, but it all came together in the end in a wonderful HEA. This author’s books are romantic and you fall in love with his characters, some of whom are larger than life, but you realize that whether or not they are rich or high profile, their difficulties and issues are similar to those of everyday people because life throws them the same curve balls when they’re not looking.
If you have been following the Home series, this is book 4, and like the others, it’s about family and there are many returning characters. Hope opens with Spenser who had been knocked around by love and life, on his own again. He was out of a job and Carson, his boyfriend of 3 years, had dumped him when he was offered an NFL contract despite everything Spenser had done to make his career possible, at the expense of his own pro football career. When Spenser was at his lowest ebb he received a job offer from Winton Academy in Cleveland that would change his life.
After moving to Cleveland for his new job Spenser lived temporarily with Lucas Reed and Rogan James from Home reviewed by Aunt Lynn, and it was wonderful to see them again. Home was William Neale’s first published book and he made a few rookie mistakes but I liked the characters so I was happy to link up with them again. One of the great things about this series is that all of the books can be read as standalones as the author provided enough backstory to bring the reader up to speed, but if you have read the other books you get to meet your favourite characters again.
Shy and modest, Spenser had many self esteem issues because of the way Carson treated him and he also felt out of place in the affluent society that was part of Lucas’s and Rogan’s world. When he met Hunter and his 11 year old son who was suffering from a terminal heart condition he fell for both of them, but Hunt was wary of men. His previous lover had left because he could not deal with a sick child, so he didn’t feel he had anything to offer someone like Spenser, but Spenser wasn’t taking “no” for an answer and waged his own battle for Hunter’s heart, for the caring man inside as well as the one on the outside.
There were a few loose ends in this story that seem to be intended for the next book in the series which will never be written. Thomas Kilbane, one of the secondary characters in Hope who I disliked at first, kept getting more complex as the story progressed, so much so that at times I almost hoped even though I liked Hunter, that he would be the one Spenser chose because his character was surprisingly vulnerable. Thomas had a tough history – a mother who abandoned him at the worst time in his life and a vicious, abusive scumbag for a father. He eventually ended up in several foster homes from 13 on until he was 18 when he aged out of the system. As an adult he had built a life for himself that many would envy but he was very unhappy and didn’t let anyone get close to him other than his friend Lucas, until he fell in love with Spenser. Although it was too late for him and Spenser they became good friends, and it was through Spenser and Ethan that Thom found his heart and redemption.
The other romance was like a fairy tale. Rogan’s 17 year old son Rogie and his best friend Ryan fell in love and although it’s difficult to imagine two such young adults having a HEA, I wanted to believe in their future together because they were so sincere about their feelings for each other. I don’t know, maybe sometimes first love does last forever.
By the strangest coincidence, in Hope William wrote about the superb hospital facilities in Cleveland for heart patients, yet his own death shortly after he finished this book was by a heart attack. Also, the main thrust of the story aside from the romance, was finding a heart for 11 year old Ethan in time. Did he have some kind of presentiment?
One of the best elements in the book was all the history about Cleveland, Ohio that showed the city’s personality and beauty and how much the author loved it. Maybe next time, instead of driving through I’ll stop for a visit. 🙂 Here’s a short passage:
It was one of those perfect early winter days that Cleveland photographers wait for when a cold front has moved through: when there’s not a cloud in the sky or a puff of smog visible and Lake Erie is as brilliantly turquoise as the Caribbean.
This is the third and last book I will review by William Neale. As I said earlier, this author writes from the heart which is why I loved the books I reviewed. His stories are unabashedly sweet and romantic and are character driven, and Hope is a real “feel good” story which I know I’ll re-read many times.
You will feel the characters’ emotions and perhaps shed a tear because they are so complicated and well drawn; maybe the author knew that this was going to be his last book because Hope is definitely his best work. As I say goodbye to William Neale’s characters in the Home series I’ll never know if Thom found love, or see Rogie and Ryan grow together, or watch Ethan grow up, or see Spenser and Hunter make a life together, but I think the author will be pleased that so many readers will get to enjoy his characters one more time. Is this book perfect? Of course not, but it’s a perfect romance and Bill’s work is done!