Reviewed by Tori (Vicki)
AUTHOR: Amy Lane
NARRATOR: Nick J. Russo
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 9 hours 34 minutes
RELEASE DATE: June 9th. 2017
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.
Amy Lane has delivered another outstanding story. This time we get two older men, both with kids at home and at college, both with established careers, both are single. Both moved to the town of Colton California, to make a fresh start for their families. Aaron moved after his wife died, leaving him with three kids. Aaron is a Sheriff’s Deputy, and has known he was bisexual but never acted on it. Larx moved to Colton with his two girls after a nasty divorce and a nasty parting of ways from his former teaching job. He starts as a teacher at the local high school, but gets roped into becoming the principal. They know each other from interactions around their kids, but haven’t really spent much time together. Aaron becomes aware of his attraction when he sees Larx running on the side of a busy road, and invites Larx to run with him in the mornings on a back road instead of the busy road. This gets the two men together, and gets the romance going!
This is a moderately angsty story about two men trying to find the time to fall in love, amidst the drama of a small town. Two of the students in a class taught by Larx make the decision to dramatically come out at a school bonfire, to counter some bullying from a spoiled rich girl. This doesn’t go well, and leads to the drama of the story. There are asshole parents at the school that don’t approve of the openly gay kids, and a battle rages at the school board meeting, as Larx fights for his kids. Aaron is involved on a personal level as he is involved with Larx, but also on a professional level since he was at the bonfire when a bad thing happened. He was also the deputy to find a body floating in the lake, and works on finding answers to what is happening in the formerly peaceful town.
While all of this is going on, the two are sneaking time together to fall in love. It’s a challenge as both are busy with families, jobs, and the drama surrounding the two boys. But they manage quite nicely! I loved the sex scenes between them as they discover their sexuality awakening at a more mature age shall we saw… And I loved the bonding of the two families, as the two men get closer together.
One of the many things I loved about this book, is that even with all of the dark things that happen in this story are countered by hope. Even with the activity involving the local law enforcement, Aaron’s boss has his back, and has no issues with Aaron’s sexuality. Larx deals with issues at the school, but not from kids. The kids are the hope of a new generation that is more accepting. One of Aaron’s girls has an issue with her father’s sexuality, but the other kids, both Aaron’s and Larx’s show nothing but love and hope. There may be issues with the school board, but the teachers are all onboard with Larx. Both men have pain in their pasts, but find love and hope with each other, when maybe they thought they wouldn’t.
I loved Bonfires when I read it in March, and I loved listening to it and experiencing it all over again this week. I highly recommend this book, either reading it or listening to it. You can’t go wrong with one of Amy Lane’s contemporary dramas!
Sigh…. the perfect combination. Just like peanut butter was meant for jelly, chocolate was meant for mint, Nick J. Russo was meant to narrate Amy Lane’s books. Nick’s voices are distinct enough to make it easy to tell who is speaking, and he displays the perfect amount of emotion. He speaks clearly, even when wound up during the emotional or action scenes. His voices for female characters work very well, which is sometimes an issue with male narrators. Nick doesn’t sound cheesy when reading the female dialogue. Then there are the moans and groans… I love listening to him read the naughty parts, his v0ice is so smooth. Yum!
I have a handful of favorite narrators, and Nick is just about at the top of the list! If you haven’t listened to any of his narration, I suggest that you do! Especially when combined with the writing of Amy Lane.