Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Steven Conley loves the excitement of owning his own Hamburger Mary’s restaurant in Denver, Colorado, and his chosen family of coworkers makes life even better. Steven never regretted leaving the corporate grind behind until his father’s harsh deathbed words leaves him doubting himself.
Ryan Fuller abandoned a lucrative career to start his own party-planning business, but he keeps afloat by coordinating funerals for the local mortuary. When Ryan bumps into Steven—his best friend’s uncle and the man Ryan has secretly crushed on forever—the attraction explodes into a night of passionate abandon for both men.
Steven is blown away by the care and deep connection he feels for the hot young mortician—until Ryan admits who he really is. Reeling from the recent upheaval in his life, Steven must decide whether to give Ryan a chance. To find love, they must risk it all….
I should have loved this story. Age gap is one of my favorite tropes. But I didn’t connect with Steven, the older MC, and his character is pivotal to this novella about the owner of the Denver Hamburger Mary’s restaurant. I did, however, love Ryan, the twenty-seven-year-old who has worshipped Steven from afar since his teen years. The best friend of Steven’s nephew Topher, Ryan’s crush was obvious to everyone except Steven.
Twenty years older, Steven is clueless when he runs into Ryan at the funeral home where Steven’s father, whom he hated with a passion, is being laid to rest. Assuming Ryan is a mortician, Steven simply follows his gut when he sees Ryan in the parking lot later that night and he manages to convince the young man to have a quick hookup in the back of his pickup truck. Astounded at the strong connection he feels, Steven is unable to get the man off his mind so after the funeral, he again pursues Ryan and this time they end up in Steven’s apartment. Again feeling a connection, Steven is surprised to wake up wrapped in the young man’s arms but when Ryan finally confesses who he is, Steven is shocked that he’s been sleeping with someone nearly twenty years his junior and mortified that Ryan is none other than his nephew Topher’s best friend. He’d like to slink away from the situation, but he makes it so uncomfortable for Ryan that it’s Ryan who slips away.
This push-pull continues through most of the story, but Ryan remains positive and cheerfully optimistic in the face of Steven’s grumpy attitude toward their age gap. In reality, he also hasn’t told anyone about his father’s dying words—accusing him of wasting his life running this restaurant and hanging out with the type of people who frequent the place. So he spends a good portion of his time—and the story—questioning his choices and can’t seem to come to a conclusion until Vahin, the bartender (Vodka & Handcuffs) teams up with Ryan to give Steven a Christmas gift he’s sure to remember.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable novella. I love my local Hamburger Mary’s and felt right at home in all the scenes at the Denver site in this story. As I said, I really wanted to like Steven and I’m disappointed that I couldn’t really get connected with him like I usually do with the older characters. But Vahin, ManDonna, Pat, Ariel, Cody and the rest of the gang saved the day along with Ryan. And Ryan alone makes this story worth reading. I’m so glad his dreams came true!
If you like age gap, hurt-comfort, men over forty, humor, and MM romance—and especially if you love your burgers from Mary’s—be sure to pick this up.