Friday, September 30, 2022

Tal Bauer - You & Me

We're a puzzle made of two pieces.
Landon Larsen is the envy of all the dads in Last Waters, Texas. He's cool, confident, and put together. He and his son—the high school's all-star quarterback—have the perfect father-son relationship. He’s such a Super Dad, it's almost sickening.
I'm not cool, or confident, and my relationship with my son couldn't be worse. He's barely speaking to me, and a year after my wife died, we're both clinging to the wreckage of our family.
Landon's son and mine are best friends and—of course—Landon is the football Team Dad. And though I know nothing about football, Landon convinces me to volunteer to be closer to my son. Volunteering might give him and me a chance to rebuild what's broken between us. Now I'm spending all my free time with the team—and with Landon—and the more we're together, the deeper our friendship grows. My son is opening up, too, little by little. I think I’m getting him back.
There's just one giant problem.
I'm head over heels for Landon.
I've never been attracted to men in my life… until him. Landon draws me in without even trying, and the harder I fight this, the deeper I fall.
Crushing on my son's best friend's father must be my biggest parenting failure ever, but I can't get enough of Landon. Falling for him puts each fragile moment I've rebuilt with my son at risk. What would he think if he knew I craved his best friend's dad? I'm playing with fire, but I can't turn off these feelings Landon has unlocked inside of me.
Of course, a guy like Landon could never fall for someone like me. It's pointless to even imagine we could be something together.
So why did I just kiss him?

Comment: This book was released this year but I haven't had it long in the pile, unlike so many others. I let myself be convinced by some positive reviews and now had the opportunity to just get to it.

In this story we meet melancholic Luke, a single father raising his teenager son but their relationship hasn't been the same since he was a boy, and even worse so since his mother Riley - and Luke's ex - died in a car accident. Luke feels something has to happen and the day he receives a letter addressed to Riley, way after her death, about being part of the volunteer group which assists the guy's football games, he goes there to explain and to, perhaps, watch his son's practice, something he hasn't done yet, as that was more Riley's thing. He meets Landon, another single father, who helps him that day and makes him want to be more of an active participant, since his is so friendly. However, the longer they are friends and the closer they become, even trusting their disappointments in life, the more Luke feels Landon isn't only a friend to him. He learns Landon is gay but he never thought himself that way.. is there any chance this is just his loneliness speaking? Or is he truly falling in love with Landon?

This is the first story by Tal Bauer I try. I've seen several of his books mentioned by other readers whose opinions I follow but somehow I've never felt tempted to try, until this book, which has been positively reviewed by the majority and the elements commented on seemed to be something I'd like to read about, namely that the fathers are both single and raising teenage sons. I felt curious on how the dynamics would be portrayed.

I would divide this story into two parts: the setting up and the burgeoning tension between the two protagonists until half way, more or less, and then the way they deal with their attraction and feelings after they admit they have them. I would say the second part is very high on the sweetness and I confess I feel it was over the top. Until they admit things, they are friends who become closer and closer and share a lot of their pasts - but not everything, as proven by some final truths revealed when the story is almost done - as well as the bond they have over the similarities between their sons, who are in the football team.

The first half of the story felt cute and I liked how slow burn the relationship was, they talked a lot, did things together and were solid friends before other types of feelings existed. Sometimes it simply feels nice to read about friends being able to be close to one another. Landon is gay and Luke knows about it from very early on, which is not an issue between them. I liked how the author portrayed Landon, he used to be part of a religious faith and being gay isn't acceptable so he left and took his son so he could have better odds in football. I liked how we got to know Landon well and he is often described as too good to be true, which sometimes it feels like exactly so, to be fair.

This story is only narrated by Luke, in the first person, so any ideas we have on him are because of how he describes things and through dialogue with others. I like him enough and apart from some issues, which obviously have to exist so the plot moves forward, nothing huge about him is out there, his personality pretty bland most of the time. He comments on his past love for arts and how he changed when he and his ex had a son, but I thought this would play a bigger role in the story, but it didn't.

Since Luke is narrator, as soon as the feelings between him and Landon increase and become something else, I just couldn't help but cringe a little at how sappy and cheesy some of Luke's thoughts were regarding his love and so on. He and Landon started behaving like teenagers which, I suppose I can accept considering the facts (Landon still had religious beliefs, Luke never had a gay relationship) but their personalities were too perfect together, too easy. Again, I bet this was the intention, to showcase how wonderful they could be, and so relatively easily accepted by everyone else, but.. I wish the initial tension had been maintained well into their admitted attraction.

I can say this is a very good romance, true, but sometimes I wish the characters had behaved a little less like this was a soap opera. I can't pinpoint exactly what I'd change but perhaps having dual narrators here could have helped. I liked how the kids seemed to so easily accept and defend them, despite the worries both dads had over this fact and of course I loved how the HEA was so solid, but from a certain point on, the dynamics were a bit too easy, too easygoing. Nevertheless, it was a nice introduction to the author's work, I think.
Grade: 7/10

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