September (Pride and Joy #1)

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links: DSP & Amazon

Type: Novel in a Series

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb:  David James is smart, successful, handsome… and alone. After the death of his lover, Kyle, from cancer, he buried himself in his law practice and the gym. At forty-eight, he is haunted by his memories and walled off from the world. When David injures himself working out, he’s assigned to Brandon Smith for physical therapy. The vibrant young therapist is attracted to David and realizes he needs a hand to get back into dating. What begins as a practice coffee date escalates to friendship, passion, and maybe something more, as they navigate a new relationship in Washington, DC, and the gay mecca of Provincetown.

But David remains trapped behind the barrier of fear and guilt. Will he remain loyal to Kyle’s memory if he moves on? Can he and Brandon manage a twenty-two-year age gap? Brandon thinks he understands David’s concerns, and for him, the answer to those questions is yes. He wants to be with David, and he believes he can overcome David’s barriers. But Brandon fails to account for the world’s reaction to a handsome young man attached to an older, wealthy lover. David’s memories, Brandon’s pride, and an unexpected tragedy might cost them something very special.

 

Review:   September is the debut novel from this author, and I’m happy to say it was one of those “can’t put it down” books. You know, one where the house could be collapsing around you while reading, yet you wouldn’t notice.

This story is about loss, recovery, discovery, differences, looking at one’s self through someone else’s eyes, and overcoming fear. It’s imbued with the absolute importance of communication throughout all of the aforementioned, and it centers on an understanding that life throws curve balls at us all – especially when it involves vulnerability and love. It’s not a dark story, but it is one with a lot of reality checks and hurdles. We are treated to a frank, warm narrative by a writer who is obviously familiar with living in DC and Provincetown. I’ve never been to the DC neighborhoods in this story, or to Provincetown, yet now I feel as though I have. As a reader, I felt as though I were absolutely present in this story – a confidant of sorts to both David and Brandon.

David has been throwing himself into his work as partner in a prestigious law-firm, and ramping up his exercise routines to vomit inducing levels of difficulty. He’s been doing this to fill the void of losing Kyle, his long-time partner, to cancer two years earlier. The results of the exercise have made an already attractive man a real head turner, but all the hours spent at work resulted in David turning into an emotional wall. While he had good friends, he was alone. The idea of dating again knotted his stomach- so…more workouts, more trying to forget.

Brandon’s a young Physical Therapist transplanted from Texas to DC. He’s got a dream of owning his own practice someday, but for now he’s scraping by. Brandon has made friends easily, loves sports, and is involved in some intramural leagues. He engages in the occasional hook up, but would like to find someone more meaningful. Someone to actually have a relationship with.

Brandon and David meet professionally – David has injured his arm and needs PT. While they both feel a zing of immediate attraction, they enjoy getting to know each other somewhat during subsequent appointments. An easy, genuine acquaintance grows, and Brandon convinces David to meet him for a pretend date. Sort of a practice- run for David to gauge if he’s ready to wade back into the dating fray.

What is bound to happen (despite David’s inner concerns) eventually does, as their relationship escalates to white-hot sex. David hasn’t had sex with anyone since Kyle took ill, so his emotions are bouncing all over, battling with his newly sparked libido. The chemistry between David and Brandon is blazing, yet both men feel a truly deeper emotional pull – it’s clearly not just sex right from their first time together. The sex scenes in this story were superlative in their power to transcend the physical. Not a word of them was extraneous or for titillation, each of these scenes was crucial at showing the character’s emotional state and relationship evolution.

I immediately took to both men. They were actual people I was getting to know, to become friends with. Getting the POV of both men was very crucial to this story – I soaked up the knowledge of what each man was thinking and feeling at every step of the story, and enjoyed the details of conversations they were having independently with others in their lives.

As the story progresses and the two men embark on an earnest dating relationship, David is dealing with feelings of betraying Kyle. He feels guilt about that, while he is also keenly aware of the 20 year age difference between him and Brandon. David was Kyle’s caretaker. He had to powerlessly watch him decline. Was it fair to subject Brandon to that same likely and uncomfortable role if they were to end up as a couple? David also feels a bit out of sorts around Brandon’s friends – will they think he’s taking advantage of the younger man? Is he? These were all valid concerns in David’s mind. Problem was – he kept them there.

At the same time, Brandon has friends that do assume David is his Sugar Daddy. He also has a friend or two that wouldn’t mind taking David’s place. The aforementioned issues, combined with the gaping income inequality between the two men, lead to some bumpy moments. But, they are managing to work their way through all of these obstacles while developing deeper feelings. Or maybe they’ve been fooling themselves. Not about their feelings for each other, but rather about their ability to be completely honest with themselves regarding their fears and concerns. Not confronting these fears, especially in David’s case, was a time bomb of sorts. A lack of absolute transparent honest communication between the two men was about to spell disaster.

Things come to a boiling point, spinning out of control faster than David can process what has happened. You’ll get no more plot specifics from me from this point! Up to this section of the book, there was several times I was alternately cheering each man for their progress, their choices – or wanting to give them a swift shake. As I’ve already mentioned, the sense of location is amazing, not only physically, but for the people. The behavior of some of the men in Provincetown had me squirming with its less than glamorous truths. Throughout the story the dialogue is superb. Brandon and David were real people having real conversations. These men were awkward, hurtful, honest, playful, sensual, supportive, exposed. The author did not write this story by himself – his characters paint it for us using their own vivid colors.

David and Brandon were so very real to me. The insecurities they harbored were genuine. They had valid concerns. They behaved selfishly and were blindingly stupid at times, yet they were absolutely heroic at others. There were shows of pride, stubbornness and absolute devastation. I commend the author for being brave enough to take Brandon and David to some pretty bleak places before having the sun find them again – and doing so in a wholly unexpected, jarring, all-or-nothing fashion. These men had me feeling empathy, joy, hope, frustration, heartache, triumph and love.

I look forward to reading anything else Robert Winter cares to write.

I believe there is going to be a sequel, maybe not with these two as main characters, but I hope to see them down the road, or on the beach, sometime soon.

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