Author: M.J. O’Shea
Length: Novella (134 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (November 27th, 2013)
Heat Level: Explicitly HOT!
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥5 Hearts
Blurb: Rory was Ben’s oldest and best friend until senior year of high school, when they confessed they’d harbored feelings for each other all along. They enjoyed only a few months of happiness until Ben chose closeted popularity over true love… and he’s regretted it ever since.
Eight years later, Ben is out, proud, and teaching art at the same high school, he graduated from. When he learns the chemistry teacher is retiring, he’s excited to meet her replacement until he finds out the brand new teacher is none other than Rory Newton—the first love he’s never quite gotten over. Despite a painfully awkward start, it doesn’t take Ben long to realize he’ll do whatever it takes to win Rory back. But it’s starting to look like even his best might not be enough.
Review: Sigh. Sometimes you read a love story and all that is left to do is to sigh happily. The love story between Rory and Ben is beautifully told without dragging the reader through chapters of preamble and teenage angst. We are introduced to the foundation that is Rory and Ben and then we meet the adult counterparts, which is where the story really begins. Every notable couple in history has had to battle a myriad of trials in order for them to earn true love. Rory and Ben are no different, except the trials they must battle are themselves.
The story has a lovely yin and yang feel to it. It is Ben who ends their teenage love affair and when they meet again, it was Ben who must work to regain Rory’s affection. As such, this puts Rory as the alpha in the relationship and so when he shatters Ben’s illusions, it becomes Rory’s job to then be the hero and save their love. This establishes a balance between them and balances the scales so to speak. This is critical because for most of the story Ben serves as a whipping boy and while Ben is happy to be self-sacrificing and take whatever he can get from Rory, the reader has to admit that Rory is being a tad selfish and maybe a little self-absorbed. Yet through it all, the reader forgives Rory, acknowledging his pain and fear from his former broken relationship with Ben. But, Rory is still lovely and the reader still roots for he and Ben to find their HEA.
The secondary characters in the story are also well written and crafted and do an excellent job in providing the reader with insight into Rory since the story is narrated from Ben’s perspective. The key to a good romance is for the reader to really like the characters and to either be able to see themselves as one of them or for the writer to craft the tale in such a way that the reader feels that they are living the story with them. The reader in this story feels like one of the friends sitting on the sidelines and watching these two men who are desperately in love with each other make mistake after mistake instead of simply claiming the happiness the both so richly deserve. So when it finally happens the reader is thrilled and then what you get is a smile and well … a happy sigh.