Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.
Comment: I've gotten interested in this book after seeing some positive comments and because I did enjoy another book by this author and was hopeful the same kind of impression would be given to me by this one.
In this contemporary story, we meet Charlie King, a widower who is raising his daughter. He and her mother were parents very young, 17, and this changed their lives although Charlie has no regrets regarding his daughter. However, now that some years have passed he is thinking about other possibilities, things he left behind while he was in love with his wife and they were happy. In comes Simon Lynley, an architect who moves to the house next door, someone Charlie immediately feels attracted to, even though he doesn't know how to deal with these new feelings. Simon is wary although he finds Charlie funny, because he left a very long relationship and only wants a new beginning, career wise. But will the lives of these two become entwined whether they wish it or not?
In general, this was a very good romance story. I think the idea is appealing: two strangers meet, they come from different backgrounds and experiences but attraction and common ground make them ideal partners. Many romance novels have weaker bases and I was hopeful this meant the romantic situations would be plenty, since they had to get to know one another.
The plot is quite simple, the focus is mostly on Charlie's awareness of how much he dedicated his life to his wife and daughter and his usual escape is his writing, which is moderately successful. As Simon moves next door, he feels he is ready to think about other feelings of his, considering he can't seem to stop thinking about him or what he feels when he is near. He is also weird when speaking to him, and this makes us realize he isn't certain on how to approach these feelings.
The focus on Simon is oriented towards his professional life. He moved for personal reasons but mainly because he wanted a new path professionally, something different to do, more towards his preference. He finds that in this new town he moved to, and he seems to be happy again, he's older and more mature and ready to let go of his past disappointments, although that becomes difficult when his ex shows up part of a deal. I'm just glad this didn't go into "what ifs" and Simon was actually certain of his decisions, even if at times he feels a little too stiff.
I liked the way we got to know things about them in alternate chapters, one would be focused on Charlie, the next on Simon and apart from some - in my opinion - silly decisions which I felt were more to induce conflict than realistic need, their relationship was mostly developed in a cute manner. Not the best I've read about, but cute nonetheless. I just think there were scenes or situations which were a bit too cute and the balance was hard to be obvious, making part of the novel feel a bit too juvenile, which is weird, considering the age of the protagonists.
I think a bit more seriousness in some aspects - namely Charlie's personality and the romance - would have helped this to be a bit more consistent to me. Charlie is a wonderful guy, no doubt, and I don't mind he is thinking about his bisexuality now; it actually makes sense if he was so focused on his married life and daughter. But I also would have liked to see him fall in love in a more romantic way, I feel he was almost too close to being like a clueless teenager and some of his thoughts were too silly.
Of course, this colored how his interactions with Simon and others were. Something I liked, though, is how he reacts when his daughter faces a complicated situation. I feel he probably reacted in a realistic way, even though this means he disappoints Simon at some point but, somehow, this is a reciprocated event and I just think the romantic side of things wasn't, after all, as romantic as it could be which is a pity because this had a very strong base, as I've said.