by Wendy Qualls
Series: Heart of the South #2
Also in this series: Worth Waiting For, Worth Fighting For
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Reading Challenges: 2018 Romance Roundabout Challenge, January - March 2018 Quarterly Challenge, Title Hunt Quarterly Challenge: January - March 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Most gay men wouldn’t expect to see their dreams come true in a small town in the Deep South. But the road to true love can lead to the unlikeliest places . . .
Disowned by his conservative Peruvian parents, Lito Apaza headed for gay-friendly Atlanta. Resilient, charismatic, and successful, he’s built a life on his terms—with a new family of friends and the unconditional love of his dog, Spot. Then his job forces him to relocate to tiny Black Lake, Alabama. Here, being fabulous isn’t exactly the town motto. However, Lito can’t help who he is any more than he can curb his feelings for a certain sexy ex-soldier.
A former dog handler in Afghanistan, Dave Schmidt now runs a volunteer K9 search-and-rescue team. Until he met Lito, his nights were free. As their hook-ups grow hotter, Dave and Lito have to admit this could be something nearer to romance. It’s not what Lito expected. And Dave isn’t used to the scrutiny of being visibly gay. Yet everything they’ve been secretly searching for could be right here in Black Lake. If Dave and Lito want a future together, one of them will have to make the first move . . .
Trigger warnings: casual homophobia, casual racism
After Worth Waiting For, I was prepared to read this book, the second in the series, with a box of tissues. Thankfully, it was a lot less emotionally wrenching than the first, though it was still delightfully angsty.
“’It’s different here.’ Painfully so. The not-rightness was hard to explain, but Lito tried anyway. ‘I’m the only man at work. Also the only non-white person, the only non-straight one, and the only one who’s ever lived within reasonable shopping distance of an IKEA. Everyone’s been nothing but nice, but it keeps feeling like the old ‘bless his heart’ kind of Southern nice, you know? Like they’re not sure what to make of the strange gay decorator so they’re just faking it.'”
Lito is out of the closet but struggling to find his place in rural Black Lake, Alabama after a promotion that required him to move from Atlanta. He’s worked his way from night clerk to head of design at a family chain of hotels, and as part of his promotion, he’s refreshing the chain’s Alabama location with local flavor. Dave is, well, just plain adorable. He’s the kind of person who signs his texts as if they were from him and his dogs. He’s lived in Black Lake all his life – except for his military tours, and works for the town doing maintenance, as well as helping run the local volunteer search and rescue team. When they meet for the first time, they’re both initially attracted to each other, so Dave invites Lito a practice for the SAR team he’s a part of. It takes time for them to realize the other is interested, and decide to pursue a relationship.
“Figured for my first time seeing your house it’d probably be a bit much for me to just show up at the door and be like ‘Wow, like your place, I brought a bottle of wine and another of lube, what’s for dinner?’”
At first, their relationship seemed more of the “only other single gay guy in the entire town”-type, but as they spend more time with each other, the chemistry built up. Unlike the previous book, both Lito and Dave are out, though they’ve both had vastly different experiences as gay men in the south. Lito’s family kicked him out as a teen when they found out he was gay, and part of the impetus behind his initial move from Miami to Atlanta was to get away from those memories. Dave’s family is much more supportive, the sort of big boisterous happy closeness that Lito remembers with regret and wishes he could have from his family. Lito’s also got some of that stereotypical gay fabulousness – the first time he meets Dave at a pet store, he’s wearing a tight pink shirt and rainbow earring. Dave, on the other hand, as a built, white ex-Army guy, easily passes as straight, to the point where some of his acquaintances forget he’s gay. If you can’t guess, it’s these differences, and their inability to reconcile them, that cause a rift in their relationship.
I especially enjoyed the volunteer search and rescue part. I have a soft spot for romance books with dogs, so this was right up my alley. I loved reading about the various training aspects – for both the people and dogs! – and also got a kick out of the school talk that Dave and Lito gave at Dave’s nephew’s school.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series! If you’re interested in a sweet dog-filled romance, this book is for you!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2018 Romance Roundabout Challenge
- January - March 2018 Quarterly Challenge
- Title Hunt Quarterly Challenge: January - March 2018