After the death of his wife, Tanner Rowe takes a step toward making her dream come true and buys the house with the dilapidated barn she’d been inexplicably drawn to in the picturesque Upper Peninsula. But after a year, he still can’t get past his grief long enough to make the repairs he’d promised.
Recently out of prison, Cole Lachlan has little to his name. Homeless, broke, and without many options as a felon, Cole heads to Red Bluff with hopes of a second chance. There, he meets Tanner, whose loneliness mirrors his own and soon, Cole is trading room and board for rebuilding the burned-out barn on Tanner’s property that hasn’t been touched in seventy years.
Turns out, the barn holds a lot more secrets than either of them could have imagined. After unearthing a hidden journal from 1948, Cole and Tanner spend their evenings poring through the pages and reading about a young man pining after his best friend. As they delve deeper into this forbidden affair from the past, the more Cole and Tanner’s own relationship shifts—from acquaintance to friend…to undeniable attraction.
But as they begin to deal with the newness of falling in love amid Cole’s past and Tanner’s loss, they also become more determined to unravel the mystery of the young lovers who’ve captured their hearts, the rumors about the fire, and what really happened that fateful night.
RELEASE DATE: 09.21.18
Cover Design: JAY AHEER/ Simply Defined Art
Cover Image: Strangeland Photography
Tanner’s eyes snapped open. He didn’t know what had woken him so suddenly, but the moment he did, he realized he’d fallen asleep with Cole on the couch, that Cole’s head was on his shoulder.
It was a little weird…and a little not weird…or maybe he was looking for it to be weird or not? As he sat there a moment, focusing on the heat of Cole against him, the feel of his head on his shoulder, it felt good. Christ, Cole felt good to him.
It wasn’t the first time that seeing Cole, touching his skin, studying his hands or his back, felt right. That truth hit him in the gut, so the moment Cole groaned in his sleep and turned his head, Tanner slipped out from under the blanket.
For a moment he considered trying to lay Cole down. Did his knee hurt? Was the position uncomfortable? But he didn’t know how to do it or if he should do it, and he suddenly really fucking needed to get out of the house.
Tanner shoved his feet into his shoes. Thankfully, he was wearing jeans and a tee he’d put on before going to look for Cole last night. His keys were on the kitchen counter, so he swooped them up and quietly sneaked out of the house.
Last night had been…something. How he could breathe easier after the loss of Emma, how much Cole’s friendship meant to him, Tom and Charlie, and falling asleep on the couch. It was…a lot, and he wished like hell he had his fishing supplies so he could go fishing.
So what could he do?
Guilt made his stomach tumble because he knew Cole would wake up and wonder where he was, might even think he’d done something wrong, which he hadn’t. Tanner just didn’t know how to do…whatever he was doing. It was like he was learning how to live again.
He drove around for a little while, taking in the small town he and Emma had loved. What would she think about his friendship with Cole? He knew Emma, and she would be glad Tanner had him, that he’d allowed himself to have someone.
The more he drove, the more he began to feel slightly foolish for leaving the way he had. Who cared if they fell asleep on the couch together? Who cared if having Cole around eased some of the weight in his chest?
So instead of driving around town for no reason, Tanner turned and headed for the general store. He’d get some bacon and eggs, then go home and make breakfast for them.
This book was really two stories in one. Tanner and Cole now and Charlie and Tom then. One completely broke my heart, but the other gave me hope.
Tanner buys and moves into his wife’s dream house. Except that his wife died a year ago. Since then, Tanner is just a shell of a man. His wife knew he would be like that and begged him not to. The depiction of Tanner in his grief for his wife was just so real. He didn’t hate the world. He didn’t proclaim how the world was unfair. He didn’t say he would never love again. Instead, he was more just existing. Living day by day, missing his wife. Wanting to live up to her expectations of him. He seemed to mostly just feel nothing. And if you’ve ever had depression, you know the feeling of nothing.
Cole is fresh out of prison and trying to just make it in life. But getting a job is difficult when you check the felon box on an application. A chance meeting and a bit of kindness bring Cole and Tanner together.
I’m going to say my biggest critique is that Cole’s crime and subsequent punishment were kind of weak. A little more of a solid crime for 4 years in prison wouldn’t have been hard to do and still stick to the story line.
Yes, that is my biggest critique. Because I really loved this book.
I loved that both men stick to themselves even though they both crave intimacy. I love that there wasn’t even flirting for almost half of the book. There are a few mentions of Cole admiring Tanner, but quickly putting it away as inappropriate. And I loved that they not only read the journal together, but did it slowly.
Both of these characters could have been the the that really annoy me. Tanner could have put up the proverbial walls that Cole would have to knock down, but he didn’t. Cole could have been a total jerk with a chip on his shoulder, but he wasn’t. So instead of getting slogged down with 2 characters with “issues”, we watch 2 characters gravitate to each other and learn to love again.
I was warned by someone who beta read this book that I would cry. I got like 75% in and no tears. False sense of security there. Holy sobbing mess.
I’m fairly certain this is my favorite collaboration of theirs. So far.
4.5 pieces of eye candy
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a hopeless romantic, a lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together.
She loves reading, flawed characters, and hanging out with her husband and children, who she adores. She and her family live in Southern California, soaking up the sunshine while also missing seasons. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful she gets to wake up and do what she loves.
Life is good. Riley also writes young adult and new adult under the name Nyrae Dawn.
Once upon a time, I lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. I spent my days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at my favorite hangouts.
Now I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I’ve been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn’t until I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that I realized I could turn the fairytales inside my head into the reality of writing fiction.
I write Adult, New Adult, and M/M Contemporary Romance. I’m addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. I believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.