by M. Arbon
Series: Clover Hill Romance #2
Also in this series: Winning Move
Publication Date: September 20, 2022
Source: the author
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When next-door neighbours Carey and Edd’s slowly blossoming romance starts to fray, they’ll both need to use their skills at fixing things to save it.
Edd’s self-expression through pretty dresses and sparkly jewellery leads some people to misjudge him, and his soft spot for strays has bitten him on the keister in the past. But when his shy new neighbour Carey, who turns threadbare fabrics into works of art, seems to need help settling into their new town, Edd can't help but offer a hand.
Rebuilding their life after a crushing divorce, Carey buys a little house in queer-friendly Clover Hill. Their cute neighbour, Edd, keeps bringing them delicious baked goods, and soon even the sound of his knock on their door makes Carey happy. But Carey’s breakup made it obvious how unworthy they are of a relationship, and anyway, Edd's probably just being kind. Isn’t he?
Yet Carey begins to flourish in their new life as cheerful, patient Edd shows them around town. Edd finds in Carey a gentleness he's always craved, and a slow, sweet attraction takes root between the two of them.
Then news from Carey’s ex shatters their fragile confidence. How can they be a good partner to Edd when they failed so badly the last time? Edd is torn between giving Carey comfort and keeping the distance Carey says they need, even when it’s making them both miserable.
Can Carey and Edd work together to mend their relationship? Or can some things just not be fixed?
I very much enjoyed the first book in the Clover Hill series, so I was so excited to start the next one, especially when I saw it had a nonbinary crafty main character. While there’s not much overlap between the two books, it was still a joy to read a romance set in a very queer-friendly small town.
Edd spends his days baking and delivering his desserts to his various friends in Clover Hill, or hanging out with his artist friends. He’s not much of an artist himself – well, if you don’t count dressing stylishly – but he loves helping them with their various projects. A lifelong resident, he’s happy enough where he is and couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than artsy queer Clover Hill. Carey is new to Clover Hill and struggling to settle in next-door to Edd. After a bad divorce that left them questioning their life, the last thing they needs is to jump into a new relationship, even if the cinnamon-roll-delivering next door neighbor is super cute. But when exploring the possibilities between them becomes a real prospect, can they both see through their past hurts to the relationship they could have?
“Carey’s understanding of their own gender had come gradually, a paring away of unwanted possibilities. Edd was so carefree in the way he presented himself now, they imagined his insight as having come early, or maybe been bestowed upon a young Edd like a queen’s crown.”
This is very much an opposites-attract romance. Edd is outgoing and a fan of bright colors and accessories. No dress is complete without an armful of bangles or a headband. He’s very sure of himself and who he is, though he knows people may think of him in different ways since he’s a man who prefers dresses and sparkly things. Carey, on the other hand, is much more introverted, preferring to dress to fade into the background. The wreckage of Carey’s marriage has left them doubting themselves, convinced that they’re not a person who can be in a relationship without hurting the other person. As for Edd, it’s no secret that his “relationship catnip” – as his friend Ozzie puts is – is caretaking. He loves baking for those he cares for. And if his next door neighbor looks like he could do with a few good meals? Well.
Carey’s job is mending sentimental objects, like a beloved hand-knitted sweater or a family quilt, but in a very unique way. I’ve never heard of visible mending before but I absolutely loved the concept. Instead of attempting to return a damaged item to its original state, the repairs are meant to be seen. In some cases, it highlights the damage, that an item is well-worn and loved, and sometimes the mending serves to bring new meaning to an old piece. Carey insists that what they do isn’t art, but anyone who’s seen their work knows better.
“I don’t like to think that anything’s beyond hope.” Carey moved behind Edd to slide the jacket off his shoulders. “Just because something’s worn or damaged doesn’t mean we should get rid of it. I kind of like things that are imperfect.”
The way they reduce their labor of love and art to nothing special is just one symptom of how deep their hurt goes, and that insecurity affects their romance with Edd as well. That’s not to say that Edd doesn’t have his own issues to overcome. Edd doesn’t want to subject Carey to his moods when Carey’s obviously dealing with their own problems, and Carey is fearful of reading more into the relationship than is warranted. They both think of themselves as nothing special and both of them are fearful of being vulnerable, of showing their flaws to another person – something that dovetails quite well with Carey’s visible mending. Bleak moment aside, I loved how well they navigated the start of their relationship, how they both agreed to move slowly and were careful to check for consent and respect boundaries.
Overall, this was a sweet, low-heat romance and another lovely entry into the Clover Hill series. I’m looking forward to seeing what aspect of the town is explored next!