Donovan Carlisle helps countless people in Lavender Shores with his skills as a therapist. It seems, however, that his ability to enable others to live their happiest life only works outside of himself. Donovan truly loves his life, but isn’t able to find a relationship that satisfies his heart’s craving. Maybe the problem is that the only man he wants is off-limits.
Spencer Epstein came to Lavender Shores to find himself. Instead, he married one of the local town beauties. He’d thought his prayers had finally been answered. Then, he met his pregnant fiancée’s brother. It turned out those answered prayers were just cruel twists of fate.
A decade later, after a divorce and crumbling of all Spencer thought was set in stone, he sees his brother-in-law at a masquerade sex party. He takes full advantage of the anonymity and acts on the desires he’s held at bay all those years. The problem is, those silent and frenzied moments didn’t satiate anything. The fire and heat between the two men only grows as secrets are uncovered and they must determine if the cost of their passion is too high.
Donovan Carlisle, descendant of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, is the town therapist and knows everyone's secrets. Well, at least everyone who's come to his practice and unburdened themselves. He's had a few unsuccessful relationships and has for many years denied his attraction to his sister's husband, burying that deep inside, knowing that it can never be more.
Spencer Epstein is the ex-husband of Erica Epstein, Donovan's sister (there are families trees available on the author's website that explain all this, and Spencer actually took Erica's name upon marriage). Spencer is a high-powered, successful attorney. He's known he's gay but his religious preacher parents sent him to "pray-the-gay-away" therapy for years, and he still struggles with the guilt his formative years have instilled in him. He initially came to Lavender Shores to be himself, but then met Erica, and for some reason that isn't clear to me decided to marry her. Meeting Donovan at the engagement party and falling in love at first sight wasn't in his plans, but Spencer denied and buried the attraction and desire for an entire decade, during which he was faithful to his wife and produced two children.
The book starts at a masquerade party being held by one of Donovan's friends in San Fran, which Spencer also attends. Spencer recognizes Donovan immediately and grabs the chance to take what he's wanted for so long, thinking that Donovan will not know who he is, since the mask and costume hides his identity.
But Donovan does, right after the end of the impromptu blow-job.
It takes a little while but they come clean about a lot of things, and carefully start dating. Donovan has concerns that being with Spencer will be seen as a betrayal of the family, and the ugly voices inside Spencer from years of reparative therapy rear up at inopportune moments. They struggle, not with each other so much, because there is little internal angst in the relationship, but with how to best move their love into the open. There are kids involved, obviously, and some hard conversation need to be had.
I really like this series. Each book is very different from its predecessor, and we get unique couples with unique situations. In this book, considering that the two men have secretly lusted for each other for a decade, their relationship evolved rather quickly but still felt realistic under the circumstances. The ILYs come early, but not unexpectedly - again, it felt plausible, considering the circumstances. Their easy banter was fun, and I loved how eager Spencer was to explore all the things he's missed out on, once they jump feet first into the relationship. Their bedroom exploits were part fun and part super hawt, and I loved how easy this part was for them. The relationship overall had a more relaxed tone, which also felt realistic, considering they've known each other as brothers-in-law and family/friends for years.
I had a couple of niggles. While Erica isn't the only female in this series, her initial portrayal was one-dimensional and flat. She was basically (and has been from the start of the series, really) the designated villain in this book, rude to and full of contempt for pretty much anyone she deems beneath her, and her behavior, through Donovan's and Spencer's eyes both, was cruel and mean and unexplained. It was only later in the book that she became a real human, a real person, when she is honest with Spencer for what is possibly the first time in their entire relationship. We see her struggle with Spencer's new relationship, with the fact that her brother took her place, and that made her real. There was a moment when she let loose a horrible slur, which, I think, shook her up quite a bit once she realized what she said, and then she actually apologized.
My other niggle is that Donovan and Spencer sounded rather alike on occasion, so much so that it was a little difficult to tell who was talking at a given time. This wasn't something that happened throughout the book, but often enough that I noticed it. Their thought processes seemed very similar during those instances.
While this wasn't my favorite of the three books so far published, it's still a solid 4 star read for me, a book about second chances and being true to yourself and finally going after what you really wanted all along, and I would definitely recommend it.
Lamont's story is next. I can hardly wait!
** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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