Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, M/M romance
Series: Garnet Run #2
Published by Carina Adores on February 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.
Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.
When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.
Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.
Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with?
The original phrase (in the original Scots) by the immortal Robbie Burns goes, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” But in contemporary English it’s usually paraphrased as “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. Or something along those lines.
The point is pretty clear, whatever the language.
There are two kinds of plans going astray in this second book in the Garnet Run series, after last year’s terrific series opener Better Than People. Even better, you don’t have to read the first to enjoy the second, although both books are lovely and well worth reading.
Rye Janssen comes to the tiny town of Garnet Run Wyoming with not much more than the ghost of a plan – a ghost that gets exorcised just about the minute he arrives in town.
Rye inherited a house in Garnet Run from the grandfather he never met. Rye has been couch-surfing in Seattle since his most recent eviction. He’s broke, unemployed and has no place left to turn when the news that he owns a whole house in what he thinks of as the middle of nowhere turns out to be true and not the scam he expected it to be.
With no ties left in Seattle except his cat Marmot (who will happily come with him), and no economic prospects whatsoever, he climbs into his barely functional car and sets out for the unknown. He’s thinking that a house has to be a better place to live than his current circumstances. His plan is to get to Garnet Run, move into the house and see what happens next.
As I said, a ghost of a plan that goes up in smoke when he sees the sagging, teetering house that is his legacy from his grandfather. But he has no place and nothing else, so Rye and Marmot haul in the sleeping bag they share and start making do – because that’s what they always do.
Charlie Matheson has done nothing but live his life according to a self-imposed plan since the day his parents were killed in a car accident, leaving the just barely 18-year-old Charlie with a decent house, a failing hardware store, and the custody of his then 13-year-old brother Jack. (Jack is the protagonist of Better Than People.)
20 years later, Charlie has completely refurbished the house, has turned the hardware store into a profitable business and managed to see Jack through to a successful adulthood, living his dream as a successful book illustrator and commercial artist.
But Charlie never got to live his own dreams. Actually, Charlie barely lets himself live. The only people who are part of his inner circle are his brother Jack and his Maine Coon cat Jane. Outside of them, he has acquaintances, he has colleagues, but no close friends and definitely no lovers.
Until Rye Janssen slinks into his hardware store looking for as few cheap parts as possible to keep that house from falling down around his ears. He’s already put his leg through the rotting floorboards.
Charlie loves projects and Rye desperately needs help that he’s both ashamed and afraid to accept. That shouldn’t be enough to start a relationship – even though their cats are all in on that front LONG before their humans are on board.
Can a man who has nothing but roots and one who is all wings have anything like a chance?
Escape Rating A-: A lot of this series, at least so far, is centered around not just the romance but about the romantic partners and their relationships with their marvelously well drawn companion animals. And I’ll confess that I loved this one just a bit more than the first book because most of the animals in that story were dogs, while the star animal attractions in this one are both cats – not that I didn’t like the dogs, too.
But cats. Definitely cats for the win.
There’s something else about this series that definitely needs a shout-out, and that’s the way that it shows and doesn’t just tell two important things. One of the protagonists in the first book is neuroatypical, and that’s not something we see nearly often enough in one of the main characters in a romance. Happy endings are for everyone – or at least they should be.
In this book, Charlie is possibly a bit on that scale, but mostly it feels like he’s a trauma survivor whose coping mechanisms are now getting in his way. What makes this story shine is its attitude of total sex positivity. This is a story that demonstrates, over and over and over again, until both Charlie and the reader get the message, that love and sex are whatever works for each person. There is no rule that says only certain acts are or are not sexual, and that only certain behaviors are or are not okay. As long as everyone involved freely consents, whatever does or does not float a particular person’s boat is just fine.
And if they choose not to put their boat out at all, that’s fine too.
There’s a saying “that love is all there is is all we know of love” and that’s at the heart of this book.
But it also tells a lovely story about someone who has never had a place to call his own discovering that he can put down roots and make a life in a place he can call home. And that someone who had to grow up much too scared and much too soon still can still find a person who can help him make new dreams and take new wings.
And that every town, no matter how small or remote, can use an absolutely kick-ass cat playground and shelter to help make a town into a community.