Title: Eli’s Promise (The Bar Next Door)
Author: Lissa Matthews
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Buy Link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Short Novella
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: I did not find this book to be an interesting read because there was not enough character development and the dialogue was flat.
Time and distance have a way of sneaking up on feelings thought long buried.
The Bar Next Door, Book 2
Five years ago, Eli held the hand of his dying lover and made a promise he never intended to keep. Find someone new to love? Be happy? Fat chance. Eli’s happiness died that day. He’s doing well to put one foot in front of the other, much less risk his heart again.
The only thorn in his side is Asa, part-time waiter at The Bar Next Door, who can’t seem to take a hint.
After years of carrying more responsibility on his broad, cowboy shoulders than most people twice his age, Asa knows what he wants when he sees it. Eli. Shadows haunt the gorgeous older bartender, who also happens to be one of Asa’s bosses, but Asa doesn’t care about potential complications. He only wants to banish Eli’s ghosts—and bring Eli back to life.
Persistence, a little impatience, and Asa’s very wicked mouth go to work on Eli’s grumpy, prickly defenses. But Asa may have to block the door to love with his foot—or his heart—before Eli slams it in his face.
Warning: Beware of stubborn cowboys, sticky bar floors and hot sexy showers, eavesdropping cooks and well-meaning friends, Irish whiskey, and a young man who doesn’t understand the word no.
The Bay Next Door Series
I haven’t read book 1 in this series Malachi’s World, but Eli’s Promise is pretty much a standalone, except for Malachi almost taking up residence in the story as he and Eli are best friends and own the bar together . The plot is pretty thin. Man’s lover dies in an accident, he can’t get over the loss for years until a hot young bartender decides to put the moves on him. Poor Eli, he found out that resistance is futile as Asa is determined not to let him escape.
For years Eli had stayed away from getting involved with other men because he didn’t want to go through the same agony as when he lost his lover Thad. He felt that protecting his heart was the only way to maintain his sanity, as losing Thad in a motorcycle accident took a huge toll on him, but his attraction to Asa was not something that was easy to ignore as he worked at the bar.
The characters were in a constant state of advance and retreat – Asa advancing with Eli retreating, denying his attraction until he couldn’t do so any more and he had to make a decision about whether to continue living in the past or make new memories with the man who wouldn’t leave him alone. He had promised Thad on his deathbed that he would fall in love with someone else, and he felt guilty every time he turned Asa down. He was falling for him, but was afraid Asa could die just like Thad, and although Asa kept telling him that there were no guarantees in life he still wouldn’t take that final step until he realized that Asa could walk away while he was dithering.
This story was pretty predictable and the characters didn’t exactly rock my world, although cocky Asa made a pretty good showing by some of his actions to shake Eli up and get him out of his rut, but Eli seemed too staid for him even in the world of “opposites attract.” Eli was originally from the northeast and had moved to Texas a few years ago; he knew nothing about being a cowboy, while Asa worked on a ranch part-time The opposites attract trope is beaten to death, with the addition of the supposed age difference between Eli and Asa thrown in as the term “the younger man ” is overused and began to grate on me. It wasn’t that Eli was that old – he wasn’t even 30 while Asa was in his early twenties – but the author made him appear to be much older than Asa by having him act like a man of 40. I was also frustrated that Eli and Malachi constantly referred to Asa as “the boy.”
I really couldn’t get into Eli’s character. Here’s an example of the prose as Eli is wondering how to pursue Asa:
Did he just show up at Asa’s place? Did he meet him, after class somewhere? Did he go out to the ranch where Asa worked? Or should he wait until Asa came into work next time? Fear lashed at his insides. Not that he would be rejected – he knew he wouldn’t be – but it was the unknown and stepping outside of his comfort zone to do something he had never done before.
His internal dialogue and indecision went on throughout a lot of the book.
This author’s writing style is not exactly vibrant or fresh so it was easy for me to lose interest in the characters as the dialogue between Eli and Asa was stilted and corny in places.
Eli’s Promise is listed at 89 pages on Amazon but only 84% is the actual story as the rest is previews for other books. In addition, there is a lot of padding with backstory from Malachi’s World, so all told, this book is pretty short and maybe there was not enough word count to develop the characters properly.
If you like “opposites attract” stories Eli’s Pomise might be of interest to you.