Title: The Little Things
Author: Jay Northcote
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 28, 2016
Page Count: 214
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
There are lots of things that brighten Joel’s life. His three-year-old daughter, Evie, is one. His close relationship with her mother, his best friend from university, is another. Joel’s boyfriend, Dan, adds spice to his child-free nights, and Joel is pretty happy with how things are.
Then one cold and rainy night, everything changes. Joel’s life is turned upside down when he becomes a full-time dad to Evie, and his previously carefree relationship with Dan cracks under the strain.
Meeting Liam, who acts as if getting hurt isn’t a foregone conclusion, shakes Joel to the core. Their attraction is mutual, and Liam makes no secret of how serious he is about Joel. But Joel is wary. He tells himself he’s keeping Liam at a distance for Evie’s sake, when really he’s protecting his own heart. Taking a chance on this new relationship with Liam may seem a small step—a little thing—but is it one Joel can take after losing so much already?
What a sweet book. As said in other reviews, this is not primarily a romance. It’s the story of Joel, a 23 year-old father to an adorable 3 year-old girl, who is trying to juggle the different roles in his life: full-time dad, teacher, gay man. The story is told from Joel’s POV which is fitting, as he is the main protagonist here. The story is not about finding true love with another person. Rather, it’s about healing from grief and trying to be happy.
I have to say, if you’re not a fan of stories that unfold at a really slow pace, you will quickly tire of this. As implied form the blurb, Joel was not always a full-time parent. He shared custody of his daughter, Evie, with his best friend, Claire. Claire was the one who helped Joel come to terms with his homosexuality and supported him to embrace it. Just to showcase how slowly the story progresses, Joel does not become a full-time dad to Evie until 19% in. He is also in a non-exclusive (not by his choice), part-time relationship with 19 year-old Dan. I can understand why the author invested so much page time to what could be classified as “before” the true story began. I don’t think I would have empathised with Joel’s heart-ache if I hadn’t read so many details about his life. I also think it was important to see why Dan -lovely as he may have been- was not the right person to be with Joel at the time. All of this culminated to me feeling Joel’s pain even more, ”after”.
I think a big reason I enjoyed this book so much, even if its focus was not fully on Joel’s romantic life, was that I love books with kids. It just does it for me. I loved reading pages and pages of minutiae about Joel’s routine with Evie, from cooking, to going to the park, to tucking her in at night, to dealing with more difficult issues. I think the same picture would have been painted with a lot fewer of these scenes, but it personally did not bother me.
Liam, a 30 year-old nurse, fills the role of the romantic interest at about 60% into the book. Liam is an amazing character. He’s patient with Joel, he’s awesome with Evie, and he’s an overall very level-headed person who’s willing to work with the situation. Liam is also very attractive and the sex scenes do not disappoint. At some point, Joel pushes Liam away due to Joel’s insecurities and fears. It’s just one of the ways this story remains true to the theme of growing up and deciding to take risks with one’s heart, even when one has been hurt a lot. And of course, it paid off because when Joel and Liam get their HEA, it’s very romantic and well-worth the wait.
I loved that the book had a good sense of realism. I loved that the main character had a lot of real-life issues to deal with on a daily basis, issues that might not be sexy and might prove to be a hindrance to forming a relationship, like a 3 year-old throwing a tantrum or having to arrange childcare to go on a date for 2 hours. The story was also very emotional, both in terms of general hurt/comfort angst but romantically as well. It touched me and even though the book felt long, I had a very pleasant reading experience.
This book will not be for everyone for all the reasons mentioned above. But if you enjoy family-oriented, slower stories, it’s one of the better ones.