Seth Wilder lost his partner of twenty years to suicide two weeks before a long-anticipated cruise. Cancellation insurance was never purchased, and Seth can’t get a refund. Bryce McFarland, his late partner’s gym buddy, appreciates his predicament, and when asked, agrees to accompany him on the trip. This way, Seth recoups the money and doesn’t have to cancel his plans. The gesture is unexpected but accepted gratefully.
The two men have nothing in common. Seth is a reclusive romance writer, and Bryce is a hard-core Grindr user with major commitment issues. Out of necessity and despite the seemingly insurmountable differences in personality, they develop a tentative rapport. As they begin their journey through the UK, Bryce helps Seth come to terms with his partner’s sudden death while Seth, in turn, discovers the root cause of Bryce’s phobia.
Shipboard romances rarely work. Sensible men resist, sexual tension notwithstanding. But a full moon and late summer breezes lend themselves to the impossible situation, barriers are crossed, and a love affair is kindled.
'Open Seating' is only the second book that I've ever read by this author and while it was by no means an amazing read for me. It was much better than my first attempt which was 'Horizons', I could be wrong but I'd venture to say that was early days for the author as well.
I've been pondering how to ease into this but I don't really think I can so I'm just going to cut to the chase on this one and get to the heart of my problem. Picture this, if you will...
'You've been in a relationship, effectively married to someone for 20 years and suddenly one day they're gone...they've committed suicide and in two weeks you're suppose to go on your dream vacation together. A romantic cruise with stops in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, but now they're gone...You've been planning this for months, possibly longer and of course you didn't get any kind of cancellation insurance. Whatever will you do? You're going to be out thousands of dollars if you don't go or even if you go by yourself.'
This is the situation that Seth finds himself in and I have to admit the practical part of me applauds him for not giving in to his grief and just saying 'to hell with it' and not going or going by himself and spending all his time in his stateroom again wallowing in grief and self pity, he's certainly entitled to either of these scenarios. But there's no real point in this, it won't undo anything or bring Mark back and he knows that it wouldn't be what Mark truly wanted and he loved Mark. So I say kudos to Seth and good on him that he found someone willing to go with him and reimburse him for Mark's share of the trip. The fact that this other person was Bryce, his partner's best friend even struck me as good because hey, he knows Mark and who better to understand Seth's grief than someone else who was a part of Mark's life. So far, so good, right?
Now, I have to admit I don't know if I could have done this given the same situation but I also don't know that I wouldn't have. For me it would have been my way of saying good-bye, of gaining perspective on what had happened, rethinking my life because when you lose your partner the person you had planned on growing old with that's a real game changer and I also know that wallowing in grief and self pity never solved anything. But each person moves on in their own time and way. I get that, I truly do.
What I don't get is how I'm suppose to believe that after 20 years with a person he professes to love and the emotional baggage that goes with losing that person the way he lost Mark did Seth manage to fall in love with someone and not just anyone but his dead partner's best friend in less than 2 months. Seriously? I'm sorry, I need to call b*!!$h*t!! on this one. I can't see it. It just boggles my brain. When I did the math on this one it yanked me out of this story hard and fast and essentially I spent the rest of the book trying to convince myself that this could happen because not only does he fall in love with someone else before he's even resolved his feelings about what Mark did and trust me there were feelings to be resolved, he falls in love with Marks 'best friend' who he initially thinks is basically a Grindr, trolling, skank that he's suddenly not even sure he can stand to be around but oopsie, to late decided to go on a cruise with him.
I have to admit my initial feelings on Bryce really weren't much better than Seth's. I was definitely less that impressed. Luckily as the story progressed Bryce showed a different side to himself and he actually grew on me, in spite of his totally erroneous ideas about people over the age of 50 and what they usually talk about...did I mention that Bryce and Seth are both 47 years old? Yeah, that was impressive. As well as Seth's issues Bryce has a few of his own. He suffers from the dreaded disease...commitmentphobia.
Ultimately what really wrecked this story for me was the timeline. Seriously...less than 2 months to get over the loss of a 20 year partner who committed suicide and to fall in love with his best friend. I just couldn't buy into that add to it a commitment phobic Grindr addict suddenly going from 'this guys to old for me to 'I love you, babe' seriously one more babe and I was ready to start looking for Sonny and Cher up on the lido deck.
Unfortunately for me this once came down to the fact that the story didn't have to be realistic but I needed it to be believable and believing that Seth could work through all his issues and Bryce could resolve his commitment issues and that these two men could go from barely tolerating each other to being in love and committing to each other exclusively in less than two months was just more than I could believe.
What kept this ship from totally sinking was that I did end up liking Bryce. The author gave me a character that had far more than what was on the surface initially. Add to that the fact that Seth and Bryce definitely had a couple of pretty sexy moments and I could honestly see the potential for a relationship between these two. As well there were some interesting secondary characters put into place. In particular the elderly couple that Seth and Bryce met at dinner their first night on the cruise. Jeannie and Andrew. Their interactions with Bryce and Seth were a really nice touch and I liked the conversations that occurred between them and the other members of their dining group.
An ARC of this book was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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