Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: The Rebuilding Year
SERIES: The Rebuilding Year #1
AUTHOR: Kaje Harper
NARRATOR: Gomez Pugh
LENGTH: 9hrs 44mins
RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2017
Losing nearly everything leaves room for the one thing they can’t live without.
A few excruciating minutes pinned in a burning building cost Ryan Ward his job as a firefighter, the easy camaraderie of his coworkers, his girlfriend, and damn near cost him his left leg. Giving up, though, isn’t an option. Compared to the alternative, choosing a new profession, going back to school, and renting a room from the college groundskeeper are simple.
Until he realizes he’s falling in love with his housemate, and things take a turn for the complicated.
John Barrett knows about loss. After moving twice to stay in touch with his kids, he could only watch as his ex-wife whisked them away to California. Offering Ryan a room seems better than rattling around the empty house, but as casual friendship moves to something more, and a firestorm of emotions ignites, the big old house feels like tight quarters.
It’s nothing they can’t learn to navigate, though. But when dead bodies start turning up on campus—and one of the guys is a suspect—their first taste of real love could go up in smoke.
Fall has finally graced us with its presence where I live, so that means I need to dig out my long-sleeved shirts, figure out where I put all my socks, and try (and fail) to resist all the lovely chocolate being horded in the house. There is also one other important ritual to help me celebrate the death of the horrible all-consuming sun, and the incoming cool weather and rainy days…
My annual rereading of The Rebuilding Year, by Kaje Harper.
There are many Christmas and holiday books out there, but to me, the book that best encapsulates all things Fall, is The Rebuilding Year. Though the book takes place over many months, from fall into winter and spring, there is something about it that always draws me in at the end of each September. It’s probably the pumpkin-guts fight, to be honest. Always wanted to have one of those. The reason why doesn’t matter so much to me, though. It is just the way it draws me in, like a warm cup of coffee on a rainy day, that keeps me coming back year after year. I quite adore the story of Ryan Ward and John Barrett, and I can only hope that you do as well.
This year, however, Kaje Harper has offered up an audio book version for long-time fans to savor and new-comers to discover. Narrated by the wonderful Gomez Pugh, this audio book is everything you loved about the original story but brought to life in such a way that you easily lose yourself in the story like it was the first time all over again.
Ryan Ward, a retired firefighter turned medical student, meets John Barrett after Ryan’s injured leg gives out on him while he is trying to climb the stairs into one of the campus buildings. John, head groundskeeper for the college, sees the the fall and helps Ryan and tends to his, thankfully minor, wounds.
And so starts the grand romance of John and Ryan. Not that they know it. Yet.
Both John and Ryan have gone thru life not realizing that they might possibly, in the right circumstances, fall for men. But as their friendship grows, and their lives start to mix in personal ways, they must contend with the knowledge that there are some things about themselves that can surprise them even after so many years.
I’ve been reading m/m for almost a decade now, and I have to say that this romance between John and Ryan is still probably one of my favorites. The book certainly has its flaws–the mystery, while having grown on me after all these years, has never stopped being a bit out of place–but when you are running out of fingers to count the times you have reread a book, I think it is time to admit that maybe what you considered flaws are not so much broken parts of the story, simply the bits that make the story unique enough to remember.
And remember it I do. There are so many parts of this story that stick with me. Especially that first kiss between John and Ryan. Probably my all-time favorite kiss in m/m ever. It was like a thousand times more epic in this audio version as well. Pugh was able to bring to life all that sweet longing and surprise and need in a way that eclipsed whatever had gone on in my head before. And the sex scenes in this book…I think I might have actually blushed while listening to them. I most certainly had to scramble to find my headphones on several occasions since there was no way I could listen to them out loud without dying of embarrassment at the chance my family might hear what I was listening to.
But my favorite parts were the ones where it was quiet and slow; where they simply existed with each other in day to day life. There is just so much love in those moments. Where it is not spoken, but it is felt so deeply even the reader could feel it. This is just one of those books where I am reminded why I fell in love with the genre to begin with.
I honestly can not recommend this book, especially this audio version, enough. And not just because if enough people buy the audio book there is better chance at Kaje Harper agreeing to continue the series in this format. Gomez Pugh brings these characters to life in a way that is truly enthralling, and it was a true pleasure to listen to every second of this book. If you are like me audio books are a rare investment, but I think this one should be at the top of list.
Great story, enthralling listen, amazing romance. Can I have some more, please?