Reviewed by Kat
TITLE: Open Seating
SERIES: Open Seating Trilogy #1
AUTHOR: Mickie B. Ashling
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 204 pages
RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
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.
I had previously read and reviewed the Bay Area Professionals series by Mickie B. Ashling and loved them. I was eager to grab this new series by her when it came available and I was very pleased that I did.
“Open Seating” is the story of the historical romance and more recently gay romance of writer Seth Wilder. He is reeling from the very recent suicide of his husband of 20 years, Mark. Not only is his death tragic and hurtful but it is only two weeks before their anniversary cruise that they had been saving up for, for over five years! And Mark never purchased cancellation insurance so it is go or waste all that money. This was to be Seth’s dream trip, visiting all the places he has researched and written about. Seth mentions to Bryce McFarland, Mark’s gym work out partner, his predicament and he agrees to buy Mark’s ticket and accompany him on the 3-week cruise of the United Kingdom. The only problem is that neither man really knows the other. They are polar opposites stuck together in a one-bed suite. This book takes you through their individual journeys to recover from Mark’s shocking death and get to know and support each other.
Although this is Seth and Bryce’s story and the fact that you never actually “meet” Mark in this story, I believe that he is actually a strong component to this story. First of all, Seth and Bryce never would have crossed paths if not for Mark. More importantly, Mark’s “presence” is strongly felt throughout this book. I don’t mean like a supernatural presence, but how he affected both of these men and how that affect played a strong part in the book. In my opinion, Mark’s suicide was selfish. Not because he committed it, but because he had absolutely no faith in Seth. Mark coddled him and allowed Seth to shut himself away in a writer’s cocoon. I have no doubt that he loved his husband but I honestly believe he didn’t think Seth was very strong. That is what I loved about Bryce. He saw Seth’s potential and strengths and the encouraged them to blossom and grow. With Bryce’s encouragement we witnessed a growth in Seth that one might not expect in a 47-year old successful male. And Seth was the perfect person to allow Bryce to search his hidden issues and come to terms with them. Their growth together was refreshing and touching.
“Open Seating” was a sweet love story, complete with hot primal sex. It was a pleasure to read. I have to admit it was difficult to read how a suicide affects the people that remain here in a person’s life. Self-doubt will always arise and questions that can’t be answered will cause heartache. But one can hope that someone will be there to help pick you back up. I look forward to the next book in the series.