Monday, April 13, 2020

ARC Review: The Family We Make by Dan Wingreen

Spencer Kent gave up on love a long time ago. As a twenty-eight-year-old single father with a fourteen-year-old son, Connor, he knows his appeal to the average gay man is limited, and when you factor in his low self-esteem and tendencies towards rudeness and sarcasm, it might as well be nonexistent. But that’s okay. A man is the last thing Spencer needs or wants. 

Tim Ellis’s life is falling apart around him. After four years of hard work at college, he finds himself blacklisted from the career of his dreams by the professor he refused to sleep with and abandoned by the boyfriend he thought he was going to marry. Even though he was lucky enough to land a job at a bakery, he still feels like a failure. 

Tim and Spencer’s first meeting is filled with turbulent misunderstanding, but Tim makes a connection with Connor through a Big Brother/Big Sister program, and both men put aside their mutual dislike for his sake. By letting go, they may help each other find their way into a life they never could have imagined. 

Warning: References to attempted sexual coercion by a male professor towards a male college student, references to a female high school teacher having sexual relations with unnamed underage male students.

Todd's rating:

I absolutely ADORED this "family of your own making" story from start to finish and can't recommend it strongly enough. It was exactly the story that I'd hoped for after being pulled in by the blurb.

At 28, short and kind of bitchy Spencer had already been a dad for half of his life. His 14 y.o. son, Connor, was the sole focus of his personal life, while making his freshman English Literature students miserable was the main joy of his professional life.

But when Connor started getting bullied at school and Spencer realized that his son had zero friends, on the advice of his best friend, Spencer decided to enroll Connor in a Big Brothers program in hopes of helping him not feel quite so alone.

At 22, tall and confident Tim had finished his undergraduate degree in Psychology, but thanks to being blackballed from Masters programs by a professor's sexual harassment, he'd put his dreams of grad school on hold, falling back to being a baker until he was able to regroup and move forward.

Then when Tim decided to volunteer at a local youth center, the last thing that he expected was for the Little Brother that he was assigned to have such an abrasive dad who straight-up accused him of [NOPE, not telling] -- before they'd so much as had a real conversation.

So saying that Spencer and Tim got off on the wrong foot would be a huge understatement, with both men hoping to never, ever, ever cross paths again.

But as Tim and Connor's friendship drew them closer and closer, Tim extended an olive branch to Spencer, which was reluctantly taken, pulling Tim more deeply into the lives of both Spencer and his son, leading to Spencer and Tim's own friendship starting to take root.
“I’m being a huge asshole. Again. I’m sorry.”

“Is it…because of me?”

Spencer turned his head enough so one eye was visible. “Am I an asshole because of you? No. I’m an asshole because I’m an asshole.”
I loved how complex all three of the main characters were. Spencer's walls of snark were hiding deep insecurities, while Connor's shy loneliness was severely holding him back, and Tim's fa├žade of happy confidence was masking his own fears of his future.

But together, all three of them just worked, almost effortlessly. They clicked, when things should have been much more difficult than they actually were, which I loved reading.
He buried his face in Tim’s shirt and cried.

He cried for himself because Tim understood, but mostly he cried for Connor. Connor, who was joy and light and life and frustration and fear and anger and sarcasm and laughter and a million other indefinable things so many people never bothered to learn. He cried because so many people would rather he never existed because they couldn’t see him as anything other than a moral point to make where Tim just saw Connor.

He cried because, sometimes, there’s nothing else a person can do.
Aside from the feels, this story also contained tons and tons of spot-on dry humor, snark, and banter, so the more serious moments never seemed to get too heavy.

Like when Spencer and Connor were having their own personal World War 3 over Connor refusing to tell his dad the identities of his bullies, for example.
“Can we go now?” Connor called. A quick glance showed he still had his back turned, but his arms were still crossed, and his hip was cocked, and he was actually tapping his foot.

That’s so cute…

“Sickening, isn’t it? Like looking at four sleepy puppies kind of adorable.”
Also, when Spencer and Tim finally started dating (and having sex), the same odd-ball humor was still firmly in place, so I constantly found myself smiling and laughing.
He smacked Tim’s ass again, just because he could, then grinned. “Fuck yeah.”

I’m in charge now, bitch.

He grimaced. Apparently, there was a definite upper limit to how dommy Spencer could be without feeling icky and uncomfortable.
The only thing that I would note is that there was one "woman's right to choose" part, which while not entirely young 14 y.o. Spencer's fault, the opinion that he voiced here in the book will likely result in a few rants from a reader or two. But I got it. How could a loving father feel any other way about the son who he'd adored for fourteen years?

In spite of that one controversial part, I do suspect that there will be a lot of readers who enjoy the story as much as I did.

And for those worried that the story might be too kid-centric, I found Connor to be an integral character, while not being completely omni-present.

I'd rate this story at 4.5 stars, rounding up to a full 5 stars.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

Get the book:

Thanks for visiting our blog and I hope you enjoyed my review!

Buy links are provided as a courtesy and do not constitute an endorsement of or affiliation with this book, author or bookseller listed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for reading this post. We hope you liked it. Please share your thoughts - we always enjoy hearing from readers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...