Romance on Aisle Sixteen—opposites attract amid the hammers and screws of the home improvement store.
Gabe Mason became a father at seventeen, and his daughter, Ellie, is the most important thing in his life. But being the parent the courts demand means Gabe has given up most of his dreams—education, making furniture, a gay social life—to be a model dad with a steady, reliable job in a home improvement store. Life’s predictable until Jerry, a shy, eccentric guy in a hat and sunglasses, begs Gabe to oversee the renovation of his run-down mansion.
Gabe loves the house and the work, and Jerry’s pretty lovable too, but when Gabe discovers Jerry’s secret identity, he fears their passion could overturn both their lives forever.
Title: Home Improvement – A Love Story
Author: Tara Lain
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Favorite Tropes – What are Yours?
Welcome. I’m so happy to be here to introduce my new romance, HOME IMPROVEMENT – A LOVE STORY. This is a single dad, opposites attract, secret identity story. Funny how I use those words and we all have a solid idea what they mean in a book. In literature, we call them tropes. While the literal definition of the word trope has to do with figures of speech, in novels, especially genre fiction, tropes have come to mean the familiar themes that we find in stories– especially romances – that have thrilled us since the days of the Greeks, Shakespeare, and Moliere. These are themes like “secret baby”, arranged marriage, rich boy/poor girl (or boy!), friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, boy disguised as girl or vice versa, studly cowboy, dashing sheik, and on and on. Our love for these familiar plot devices unite and connect us through shared experience.
Tropes always remind me of the famous Star Trek The Next Generation episode called Darmok, one of the most praised shows of any scifi series. (Look it up.) The premise was that there was a planet that had been unable to join the community of nations because no one could understand their language. The reason? All the words and references were based on cultural norms and common experiences that other planetary societies didn’t share. That’s how we are with tropes. If we refer to a Romeo and Juliet story, virtually anyone vaguely familiar with the play knows just what we mean. Rich girl/poor boy suggest immediate conflicts that we all know, and friends-to-lovers means something to everyone who reads or watches any kind of popular culture.
What are your favorite tropes? I only have to glance at my books to know what mine are. Opposites attract has been way at the top of my list from my earliest novels. I love the immediate conflict that arises from two people who appear to be different in most every way like a blue collar guy and a fashion stylist, an NFL football center and a drag queen, or a guy who works in a home improvement store and someone rich and famous.
I also find I love single dad stories. It took me a while to get into this trope. Most of my early books don’t have kids in them. But once I dipped in a toe – I think it might have been in my short story, Trex or Treat, I was hooked. I’ve written lots of single dads since then, in Lord of a Thousand Steps, High Balls, Cowboys Don’t Come Out, and, of course, in HOME IMPROVEMENT – A LOVE STORY.
Shakespeare and I share a love of secret identities. Shakespeare constantly dressed his woman as boys and got them in all kinds of trouble. I tend to do the opposite, of course and dress my guys as girls, but I also like stories where the identity of one of the lovers is hidden for some reason. That’s true in my new book.
I hope you love reading HOME IMPROVEMENT – A LOVE STORY and that it captures some of your favorite tropes.
When he got to the end of the aisle, he looked casually to his left. Tight against a display of light fixtures, back turned to Gabe, stood the guy in the beanie. He had long legs in baggy jeans, an equally baggy sweatshirt that still stretched across really wide shoulders, all his hair covered by the cap, and still the total strangeness didn’t obscure the view of one world-class ass inside the jeans.
Gabe cleared his throat but didn’t get too close. “Can I help you find something, sir?”
“Wha—” He half turned, and Gabe saw he’d put on sunglasses after he’d withdrawn from peering around the corner.
“Can I help you, sir?” Gabe thought he should probably walk away, but the guy had become kind of a challenge.
The customer reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a drawer handle. He muttered, “Need handles this size.”
Gabe took it. “All right, sir. If you’ll come with me, we have the drawer pulls at the end of aisle sixteen.”
The guy nodded and turned but never raised his head enough to look Gabe in the eye. Still, his high cheekbones and full lips made his face striking, even when it was pointed at his shoes.
Gabe started walking, trusting from the soft scuffling of sneakers behind him that the man was following. Those footsteps slowed when they passed the woman with the kids as she gathered the last of her screws, but he sped up again after she dragged the children toward the checkout registers. In front of the rows of drawers containing handles and knobs, Gabe pointed to the samples attached to the front of each drawer. “See any you like?”
The guy’s head barely moved, so through the glasses, Gabe couldn’t see if he even looked. He shrugged.
“Do you like modern? Traditional?”
“Brushed nickel, maybe? Or are you a chrome guy?”
The slim nose wrinkled.
“So no chrome. Nickel, then.” Gabe walked to the drawers and held out the sample the guy had given him to check for size and spacing center to center. He picked a couple of modern pulls he liked and took them from the drawers, then held them out to the man.
He looked at the pulls intently, cocked his head, and then ripped off the glasses somewhat impatiently, as if someone had made him wear them.
Gabe sucked in a soft breath. The guy’s eyes were two different colors, one a deep blue and the other light green. Startling and very distinctive. Maybe it affected his eyesight or sensitivity to light and that’s why he was wearing sunglasses in ImproveMart?
The guy reached out a long-fingered hand and tapped the handle that was Gabe’s favorite—a simple wide U-shape of brushed nickel. Gabe nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good one. How many do you need?”
“Uh, eight.” His voice was soft to the point of nonexistence.
Gabe pulled the drawer out farther and began counting out the plastic packages that contained the handle and necessary screws, piling them on the shelf beside him. “Need anything else?”
The guy had put his glasses back on by the time Gabe turned to him. Darn. Those eyes are something. The man nodded his head and pointed to some simple, ball-shaped drawer pulls. “Ten.”
“Oh, I hope I have enough.” Gabe pulled open the drawer and started counting.
The dude stepped closer to watch the counting, which turned out to be a bad idea for Gabe’s autonomic responses. What is that smell? Like some mix of orange and spice. Whatever it was, Gabe’s lower regions came out for a sniff. He shifted his feet and pressed his elbows against his work vest to be sure it covered his crotch. Down boy.
He forced a smile as he scraped the last package from the drawer. “There you go. We just made ten.” Gabe looked around. The guy had no cart. Not even a carry basket. What exactly was he planning on hauling stuff in?
The man seemed to realize it at the same time as Gabe. He grabbed his lip between his teeth, looked down, took hold of the hem of his giant sweatshirt, and held the bottom out like a bag.
Gabe chuckled. “Excellent save.” The problem with the dude’s invention was it raised the shirt from his narrow hips—and what might, just might, have been a half-mast condition thrusting out the front of his jeans. Don’t need to know that—if it’s true. Hell, just what he needed. To get turned on by weird customers.
Gabe’s life consists of two things… working at the homewares store and providing the best life he can for his teenage daughter. He puts everything else on the back burner, partly because he wants her to have the best life, but also because his ex-wife, depending on the man she’s with at the moment, is just itching to take him back to court to get custody of their daughter, even though she’s almost 17 and able to make those decisions for herself…..
I first want to say that I adored this story, but the whole storyline with the ex and all the trouble she makes, is ridiculous when at the end, she just kind of gets over it when the whole story she’s been this evil, bigoted, hate-spewing woman that causes both Ellie and Gabe nothing but stress and misery. Gabe even goes so far and spends his life alone, not dating….ever, just because she’d make trouble! Then all the sudden she calls, they go running and all is forgiven??? Uhm, no.
So, Gabe is excellent at his job and he’s probably the most experienced man there, so when a clueless and shy guy comes in for help, Gabe is sent to help him out. That’s when he meets Jerry.
I adored Jerry… Painfully shy and socially awkward, I knew there was something about him that he was hiding. It’s obvious from the beginning and though it was easy to figure out, I can’t believe Gabe didn’t before he did.
I loved how slow their relationship formed and progressed. It was sweet and realistic, watching them tip toe around each other and hope that the other was feeling the same way… you could tell they had feelings for each other but neither of them would come out and say it. It was a little bit annoying that Gabe kept jumping to conclusions and ran away when things got even a little bit tricky, but they always worked it out.
I also didn’t understand Jerry’s brother…. He seemed shady and bad news, and I thought for sure that Jerry would have it out with him, but he just kind of disappeared as well. Causing trouble one second and then gone the next. I’d have liked for Jerry to have told him off and not let him have all the say in his life anymore. I’d have liked the satisfaction… but meh, I’m petty.
It was tricky, being a celebrity and trying to be a normal person with a private life, as Jerry tried to do, and it proved a bit tricky to be the little piece of normal for the celebrity that so very much needed that, but they got there in the end.
Overall though, I loved how Gabe and Jerry was with each other, and I loved each one’s relationship with Gabe’s daughter Ellie. She’s sweet and helpful and she just wanted them both to be happy. Other than the ex-wife and Jerry’s brother… I really enjoyed it!
4 pieces of eye candy
Tara Lain believes in happy ever afters – and magic. Same thing. In fact, she says, she doesn’t believe, she knows. Tara shares this passion in her best-selling stories that star her unique, charismatic heroes — the beautiful boys of romance — and adventurous heroines. Quarterbacks and cops, werewolves and witches, blue collar or billionaires, Tara’s characters, readers say, love deeply, resolve seemingly insurmountable differences, and ultimately live their lives authentically. After many years living in southern California, Tara, her soulmate honey and her soulmate dog decided they wanted less cars and more trees, prompting a move to Ashland, Oregon where Tara’s creating new stories and loving living in a small town with big culture. Likely a Gryffindor but possessed of Parseltongue, Tara loves animals of all kinds, diversity, open minds, coconut crunch ice cream from Zoeys, and her readers. She also loves to hear from you.
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