Author: Sarah Hadley Brook
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Summary: Jacob Baumgardner is struggling to get his nonprofit shelter for gay teens off the ground because the building needs a lot of help before it can pass inspection. Raised by his grandparents for part of his life, Jacob feels that the shelter is his chance to honor them, but someone is making things difficult. An anonymous extortionist seems determined to ruin Jacob’s late grandfather’s good name and keep the shelter from opening.
Luka Smith is struggling to find his place in the world after a traumatic event in his teen years pushed him to run. When Jacob hires him to help with repairs at the shelter, Luka falls for his new boss hard. Luka wants nothing more than to help Jacob realize his dream.
As they work together to ensure The Promise of Hope Shelter gets off the ground, their feelings for each other only grow. But will a calculating blackmailer close the shelter before it even has a chance?
Review: I’m pretty sure I just read a Christmas story! It was a nice lift on a hot summer day. The story opens with Jacob feeling overwhelmed by his struggles with opening his shelter, the blackmail threats and teens that are already living there. Told in third person, events unfold from his POV. Luka appears, ready to take on repairs and the two are attracted to each other. What follows is a concatenation of events, including homophobic churchgoers, a hidden past and possible murder, a little illness and the blackmail scheme. The author does a very good job of making it easy to follow and tying up all the threads for a happy ending. Although the characterizations are rather thin for both MC’s, the narrative is filled out with likable secondary characters and potential future romance, including a couple of the teens.
The first few paragraphs felt uneven, Luka’s approach to Jacob very abrupt and the blackmail plot lacked logic on some levels. The steam level is low and I think the author tried too hard to force a sense of sexual tension with scenes of frustrated longing. The writing style wasn’t quite polished and dialogue didn’t always flow naturally. I also questioned details of setting up, running and funding a shelter, that didn’t feel entirely accurate. Answers about Luka’s past and the resolution of the blackmail were kind of easy and coincidental. However, I can best compare it to a Hallmark or Lifetime holiday movie, only not overly sweet and sappy. It’s a feel-good story, with a happy romance and the bad guys all get their comeuppance. Timing the resolution around Christmas makes it a good choice for those seasonal feels.