Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Nightmares and panic attacks following a horrific tragedy leave Professor Elliot Lawrence a prisoner in his own home. After months of relying on his sister as his only connection to the outside world, Elliot is desperate for a sliver of independence. But leaving the safety of his home isn’t an option, not yet, and he reaches out in the most innocuous way he can think of: grocery delivery.
Colton Kelly, retired porn star and recent college grad, is struggling at two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. During one of his grocery deliveries, he meets Elliot. Although the attraction between them is instant, they must first traverse the long road of putting Elliot back together. When disaster strikes yet again, this time in Colt’s life, Elliot’s not sure he’s strong enough to be the man Colt needs him to be.
Elliot Lawrence has been confined to his home for nearly a year. Ever since one of his students walked to the front of his classroom and blew his own brains out with a gun, loud noises and crowds send him into a panic attack. His dean is giving him plenty of leave time, so his job as a professor is safe, but the PTSD is crippling. He even picked his psychiatrist based on the fact that he makes house calls.
When he decides to try to be a little independent of his sister’s assistance, he orders groceries online, thinking it will be a relief for her to give up the duty. He hasn’t even allowed another person into his home since he broke down after the student’s suicide, but when handsome and personable Colton Kelly shows up with his order, he decides to take a risk and allow the young man in.
Colt is Evan’s friend who traveled with him to Eugene at the end of the first story, Keeping Sweets. He’s finally finished his college degree but can’t find employment as a teacher. So he resorts to part-time jobs and finds his job meeting new people very enjoyable. When he meets the stunning professor, he’s shocked to find out he never leaves his house. As they talk and find out they have a lot in common, the two become friendly, and over time, a stronger relationship develops. Colt is patient and kind, always encouraging and never negative about Elliot’s progress, or lack thereof, and slowly, Elliot starts to leave the house—baby steps, but steps nevertheless.
When Colt finally meets Elliot’s shrink, he can well understand why Elliot hasn’t made any progress. And when he investigates the man, he finds much more than he bargained for. But just as he’s about to help Elliot take another major step, he gets a call from his brother, and what the eighteen-year-old tells him shocks him to the core.
Watching Elliot’s progress through this story was one of the highlights. And though it may have been a bit too simplistic, it made for the type of romance Colt deserved. He’s just such a wonderful character that, as a reader, I just wanted to see that he got the happy ending Bran and Evan got. Speaking of which, as this story opens, it’s been five years since the first one closed, and we find ourselves at the wedding reception where the happy couple, Bran and Evan, are dancing the night away. That was such a nice surprise!
The interactions between Colt and his brothers, Elliot’s major progress, and the surprise about his shrink all added to my enjoyment of this story. And even though I didn’t find it to be very realistic, I did find it to be very sweet and enjoyable. The narrator, Michael Pauley, did a great job with the narrative and with the various character vocalizations.
I liked this story much more than the first, so I’d recommend it to those who’d like a few hours of a pleasant MM romance with just enough angst and conflict to provide balance to the positives.