Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ARC Review: Bonfires by Amy Lane

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.
It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

Jewel's rating:

The MC's of Bonfires are both in their late 40's. I love that. I read a lot of M/M romance and while I enjoy the energy of youth, I find maturity to be entirely refreshing. We don't have the same types of angst and drama here as with many books with younger MC's. Instead, we have two men who know what they want and work to get it.

That isn't to say there is no angst or drama in Bonfires. There most certainly is. But there isn't a ton of melodrama and no ex-wife drama at all (thank you, Amy Lane!). Bonfires is about family - family of your blood and family you choose. It's also about second chances at love and life. It's about finding happiness when you least expect it. And, as a plus, Amy Lane left out the Four Horsemen, this time.

Bonfires tells the story of Aaron George, a deputy in a small town near Sacramento, and Larx, a former science teacher at the local high school and now it's reluctant principal. Two bisexual men who never expected to find love again, much less in a small conservative town. They each have kids from former relationships (Aaron is a widower and Larx is divorced) and while I expected some drama to come from that angle, there wasn't really much, I'm happy to report.

There are two sub-plots that run through the book -- a murder, that fits into Aaron's job, and a bully at the high school (mean girl) that is the focus of Larx. Woven into everything is the need for inclusiveness and school being a safe space. Larx and his vice principal and the other teachers we meet really seem to care about their kids.

I liked both subplots and how they wove together and how, ultimately, they were used to illustrate why bigotry has no place in our lives. The kids matter, and the often marginalized kids need to feel like they belong, too. Bonfires was told in an engaging way without ever feeling didactic or preachy.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this story. With younger MC's, I'd call the ending an HFN, since only a few months pass, but with these guys, I'm certain they are in it for the long haul. They're family, through and through.


ARC of Bonfires was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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