Review: Lila Leigh Hunter – Dating in Retrospect (States of Love)

51xHLZCC0pLAuthor: Lila Leigh Hunter
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Summary:

Giving the commencement speech at his alma mater doesn’t fit Clay Keller’s meticulous schedule. As Chief Executive Officer of Travel Mogul—the largest travel connoisseur company on the West Coast—he has no time to get back in touch with his country roots. He left fifteen years ago without a second look, but a medical scare makes him change his mind about the speech and brings him face-to-face with his only regret.

Time always moves slower in Southeastern Iowa, and Aaron Grant loves it. He’s added solar farms to the Grant Lanes portfolio and has been teaching at the local university for a decade. The last thing he needs is to have his tenure application compromised by the return of his ex-boyfriend. If he had known who the commencement speaker would be, he would never have volunteered to be the administration liaison.

A proposal—to date for a year—will help them discover that time changes a person, even when everything else stays the same.

Review:

When successful West Coast businessman Clay Keller arrives to give the commencement address at his alma mater in Iowa, the first person he sees is the love of his life, Professor Aaron Grant. Little does Aaron know but Clay is here not just to speak at graduation but to win him back after fifteen years of silence between them.

Clay once thought he was doing the right thing when he graduated from college full of dreams for their future but decided to break off his college romance with his lover because Aaron had family commitments and couldn’t leave his Iowa farm. He broke off all communication when it became evident that Aaron couldn’t follow him across the country due to his father’s health issues. He became a success in the travel industry, arranging very special destination packages for those who needed quality time with their families when their time was at a premium. But he’s recently had a health scare and now realizes that he should never have left Aaron behind, so he sets out to win him back.

This story takes place over the course of a year—a year that Aaron agrees to give Clay a chance to win his trust back and to give a long-distance relationship a try. But Clay never tells him about his health scare or the ongoing tests to assure that he stays healthy, and readers can imagine how well that goes over when the truth comes out!

To be honest, I found it a little hard to grasp that Aaron—now not only holding a PhD and being a professor but also the manager of his solar-energy farm, a highly successful operation he’s created from his dad’s original farmland—could possibly capitulate so easily when Clay appeared after fifteen years. Granted, Aaron showed some minimal resistance, but fairly quickly agreed to. And then as the year went by, Aaron seemed to be a very simple character who simply went along with all Clay’s plans. What I’m trying to articulate, and doing a bad job of it, is that Aaron was not a very complex character, and I didn’t feel close to him or develop any sort of bond that would make me want to root for him.

Clay was the opposite—self-assured, and at times even a bit too self-confident as he went about winning Aaron’s love and trust. But the foolishness of not sharing what was going on in his life was just a bit much. It’s nice to show off all the great destinations he can take Aaron to, but I never felt the bond between them develop—the time they should have spent together getting to know each other again, the shared coffee moments, reading a book before the fire, all the little things we’d get with cohabitation. For example, when Clay surprised Aaron by coming to spend a week at the farm, we saw what happened the first morning, but the rest of the time was off page and suddenly we were in a new month and a new chapter. More cuddle time, more working together time, more togetherness would have been greatly appreciated. Clay’s character development didn’t grab me any more than Aaron’s did, and because of Clay’s behaviors, I really didn’t root for him to get his man.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a nice story, and the concept was appealing, but I never felt close to the MCs. It just didn’t quite work for me, personally. I would recommend it to others who love MM romance, though, because it was interesting and different. And if you happen to love a story with a man in a suit or a man working the land, or if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, this one will be very appealing.

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