Indra Vaughn – The House on Hancock Hill

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Author: Indra Vaughn
Reviewed by: Yvonne
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary
ISBN 13: 9781627984911

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Summary:
Pastry chef and bakery owner Jason Wood bakes a mean chocolate soufflé, yet his love life keeps falling flat. He’d blame his past if he wasn’t trying so hard to avoid it.

When his family’s farmhouse burns to the ground, he’s summoned to identify a body found in the ashes. Jason returns to Hancock, Michigan, and reunites with a childhood friend, small town vet Henry McCavanaugh. After fifteen years apart, their rekindled friendship soon develops into much more. But Jason’s baggage threatens their blossoming romance, and he leaves town unannounced to escape his feelings—and Henry’s feelings for him. He has learned the hard way if something seems too good to be true, it’s best to run for the hills. Jason stress-bakes more confections than he knows what to do with before wondering if he’s running in the wrong direction.
Review:   This gets off to a good start but neither the mystery nor the romance ever reach their full potential.

The story is divided into two parts and begins with Jason Wood traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he gets in a car accident. His rescuer turns out to be a childhood friend, Henry McCavanaugh. They rekindle their friendship and there’s sparks leading to the start of something more between the two. In the meantime, there’s a mystery involving Jason’s inheritance, a family farm that is burned to the ground with a dead body inside of it.

Against a moody, dark, frozen, wintery backdrop everything is set up for a great mystery romance. But the focus turns away from the mystery and mainly to what’s happening between Jason and Henry. As their re kindled friendship becomes something more, Jason is thrilled as well as nervous, as his fears of getting too close to anyone resurfaces. In the back of his mind he’s also aware he has to eventually return to his real life as a baker in another town.

It’s not surprising then when it all culminates with Jason abruptly running away from Henry without a word after a night of intimacy. But that this pattern of avoidance and miscommunication continues throughout the entire story was certainly disappointing.

Part one, and the best part of this book ends with Jason getting the big reveal about the fire at the family farm and with a big misunderstanding involving Jason, his ex and Henry.

Part two then begins and it soon becomes clear that there will be no quick resolution as Jason finds every excuse he can think of to actually never communicate with Henry ever again. Instead the book first focuses on Jason dealing with the information he’s learned about the farmhouse fire and the identity of the body. This leads him to travel revisiting childhood memories and to additional travels to try to clear his head.

This also involves Jason becoming superficially and sexually involved with a couple of other men. Since these relationships were basically meaningless it felt like it was a waste of space. Space perhaps that could have been taken up actually building up the other main character Henry. The only thing we truly learn about Henry is his feelings for Jason. Other than that, he doesn’t have any real identity in this book.

When Jason finally stops traveling and tries to settle down, he again finds multiple ways and reasons not to talk to Henry. Instead the misunderstandings between the two of them just start to pile up and to get really irritating. There’s got to be better ways to create tension in a story. Because there’s no contact between the two main characters there’s also no real romance as well. That’s certainly a big flaw if you’re trying to sell this as a romance novel.

We get a lot with Jason and his growth but truly I didn’t feel like this was about two adult men trying to have a relationship but about people doing their best to avoid one. The happy ending that occurs after months and months of not speaking just felt like a cheat. There’s definite potential with the writing here but there was too many deficiencies in the romantic storyline department.

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