ARC Review: Kaje Harper – Life, Some Assembly Required

lifeAuthor: Kaje Harper
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: M/M Contemporary
ISBN: 9781619230743

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Finding love in the ashes was easy. Building a life together? Don’t make Fate laugh.

After spending the first part of his life chasing pretty girls, love has finally come to Ryan in the form of John, a tall, lanky, red-headed landscape architect with wide shoulders and a five-o’clock shadow.

For the first time in his life, love feels easy. Hell, he even ran into a burning building for John and his son, and he’d do it again if he had to. But telling his father and brothers “I’m gay. I’ve met a man”? That’s a bumpy ride he’s not looking forward to.

For John, loving Ryan is as natural as breathing. Now if only the rest of his life would fall into place. Dealing with his teen son is complicated enough, but with his ex-wife causing trouble and his daughter wanting to move in, John’s house—and his relationship with Ryan—threaten to split at the seams.

Would one month without a new surprise knocking him upside the heart be asking too much? If the sound of Fate’s laughter is any indication, the answer must be yes…

Product Warnings
Contains two formerly straight guys learning to navigate the gay-guy waters, sometimes without a paddle. Plus six kinds of family ensuring nothing comes easy.

The long-awaited sequel to “The Rebuilding Year”, this book was everything I could have hoped for, and more! I welcomed another chance to visit John and Ryan, two formerly “straight” men who now live together and continue to build their relationship as they deal with life on life’s terms.

John, tall, muscular, red-haired, and a sensible, sweet, and caring man fell in love with Ryan nearly a year ago, and that love has continued to grow. Ryan, a former firefighter injured in the line of duty, is a medical student at the university where John is the head landscaper. Ryan is tall and slender with a great deal of upper body muscle and strength but with a weak leg that is badly scarred from his escape from near death.

This story picks up where the first story left off—shortly after Ryan has saved John’s teenage son, Marc, from a fire on campus. All three are suffering nightmares in the aftereffect of the near disaster and struggling to get back to their normal routines. But nothing is simple, and John’s daughter Torey, who is about to turn thirteen, begs him to let her live with him and Ryan, stating that things aren’t good between her mother and her new husband, and she’d much rather be with John. Just when he thinks he has that situation handled, Torey and John’s pregnant ex-wife, Cynthia, show up on his doorstep, and the road to a smooth relationship turns bumpy very quickly.

On his side of the stressful family situations, Ryan finally tells his father that he and John are a couple. They have a less than fulfilling visit home when his brother Brent makes his homophobia clear, and his father isn’t supportive of his relationship with John. Later, they find out that Brent is getting married and wants Ryan to attend the wedding—without John. That’s not going to happen, and thankfully, Brent’s fiancé is more sensible and insists that John attend. Her only request is that they keep the information about their sexuality quiet because her parents are strictly conservative. Oh, and coincidentally, the wedding is planned for the same weekend that Cynthia’s baby is due. Since John is her labor coach (much to Ryan’s chagrin), it adds more family situational burdens to their shoulders.

What I loved most about this story, besides the characters themselves, is the way the situations were handled. The way the men just took life a day at a time helped to strengthen their own relationship in the midst of chaos. These are ordinary guys who have an extraordinary love for each other, but who live otherwise conventional lives and continually draw together to reinforce their relationship, rather than be torn apart by the push and pull of family dynamics.

As the blurb states for John, loving Ryan is as natural as breathing. And for Ryan, loving John makes him complete.

It is such a pleasure to read Kaje Harper’s writing. Her writing style is engaging, her characters are three-dimensional, and the situations are realistic. The fact that this couple worked together to overcome family prejudices and pressure from both John’s ex-wife and Ryan’s brother, while maintaining their strong bond and growing closer together, made this book an absolute pleasure to read.

I wish these guys were my neighbors. I have to admit I felt a bit like a voyeur when they were in bed with each other. The sex scenes between them felt intimate and loving, and the author did not place any sex scenes in the story that weren’t integral to the plot. To clarify, I do not wish to be a neighbor for “peeping Tom” reasons, but I’d love to get to know them and lend an ear or a helping hand when they need a friend.

I read so many books that I often don’t recall character names or story plots a day after I finish, never mind years later, however, I read the original story three years ago, and these guys were quite easy to recall. With this sequel, I’m unlikely to ever forget them, and to me that makes a book outstanding. I highly recommend this story which can be read as a standalone but would be better appreciated as a sequel. For all lovers of M/M romance who want to see strength of character, loving men who work at building their relationship, support their families, and look happily toward a long life together; this is the series for you.


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  1. Thanks for the review. I have this pre-ordered. I love Kaje’s writing. As a matter of fact her Life Lessons was the first MM series I read.

  2. Hearts on Fire

    That’s awesome! Hope you love it. Oddly, the first MM I read was Kate Douglas’ Wolf Tales, which is mf, ff, mm, mfm, etc etc. Before that I was so innocent, had no idea what I was missing

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