Author: Kaje Harper
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
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.
We decided to take a little different tactic with our team review of The Rebuilding Year. TRY is a comfort read for both Lirtle and myself. It was Beverley’s first time through the book. We thought rather than giving you 3 separate “Reviews” we would hold a bit of a book club discussion for you. Please note, this is an actual chat transcript. Please give us some leeway for typos and incorrect words/grammar.
Brandilyn (BC):So we can do this in a disjointed manner. Let’s start with a simple question. What was your favorite and least favorite thing about TRY
Lirtle (LG): Hey!!
Favorite thing… there are several. Most of all is the way the relationship is portrayed, their fits and starts. It feels very realistic.
BC: I agree. It takes them some time to get on the same page. But when they do, I love that they go for it. They don’t spend 1/2 the book talking themselves out of it
LG: Least favorite… hmmmmm, for as important an ingredient it was, I’ve always felt the extended family wasn’t involved in the story enough. Though that is a small quibble. I like that we get perspectives from the kids, siblings, etc.
Yes, that’s so true. They don’t ignore the signs for very long.
BC: On that front, I wanted to daughter involved a little more. I think the son’s transition was a little too easy.
LG: Favorite scene?
BC: But I am not a huge fan of men with kids stories, so the fact that they were on the perifery for most of it helped
ohh… good question….
LG: Same here, if kids are involved, make them useful to the story and not caricatures.
The daughter is fantastic.
One of my favorites, in any book really, is the pumpkin carving kitchen scene.
BC: god I can’t pick a favorite scene
LG: Does that give too much away? Lol
BC: oh, that is a fun one
LG: Also, I want to vote their first kiss as one of the best first kisses ever.
BC: no, I don’t think so. I think it is very indicitive of their personalities, though. It is a great scene. My favorite, is probably the entire Fire scene. You get to see John and Ryan working together as a unit. You get to see Ryan finally break through his mental barriers from his injury and you get to see Ryan and John both being the caregivers
BC: oh the first kiss. Yes. agreed
LG: 4/15, 7:10pm
LG: I like that these are two mature guys, living their lives. No explosions, no secret super agents, just a carver/landscaper and an older med student/former firefighter.
Yes, definitely true re: the fire scene. Intense. Almost a real beginning for them.
BC: Yes. It is a very organic story. there is a bit of a mystery, which was a little out there. But it was so far in the background it really could be ignored. It was there mainly to show what kind of man Ryan and John each are.
I need to know what happens next!
and I need to know what happens with the son
LG: Yessssssssss!! I keep having to stop myself from asking questions like: are both kids living with them? Who is working where? What about Ryan’s family? But that’s all for the next book. Lol
LG: The one thing I do remember I wanted to say, and always feel this when I read this story….
BC: How many times have you read it now?
LG: The whole “gay for you” theme is something I’ve never been able to buy into…
BC: this was my second read through.
LG: at least three?
TRY is definitely a comfort read for me.
BC: I think the GFY thing has to be handled right for me to buy it.
LG: So the whole GFY thing, I think this story shows how rigid that kind of thing is.
I mean, if you find someone hot or fall in love with them, even if it’s the first time for any particular gender, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly straight or gay, you’re just sexual and in love … or in “want” LOL
BC: I think this story shows that sexuality is not a binary equation.
LG: you said it much more succinctly than I LOL
BC: LOL, it is my engineer mind
LG: Sexuality is such a fluid thing and this story portrays it so well, and almost simply, it just “is”.
hahahahahaaa this is true.
BC: TRY is very much a story of two people who find each other and fall in love. It isn’t a matter of gender.
LG: I think this is why TRY is an important read.
A great starter for anyone new to the genre, and certainly a must-read for anyone else.
BC: agreed. it is one I recommend a lot for newbies to the M/M world.
And Kaje Harper’s writing is crisp and clean, very accessible.
She knows families and love and regular life, the challenges, and she writes about it all so well.
BC: yes. Always is. One reason I come back to her stories again and again
Christine is enjoying Nor Iron Bars a Cage
LG: That was one of my first reads by Harper. And a freebie!
BC: I read that one a while ago. I love her Life Lessons series, even if I have trouble finishing it. I also really enjoyed her Wolf shifter series.
LG: Life Lessons is…. can I say epic? It feels epic LOL
BC: She has a lot of freebies.
it really is epic
hell, she got me to read and enjoy a historical! you know how rare that is
LG: The characters are robust, complete.
Life Lessons… I can still replay scenes in my head LOL
BC: even if she does break my weak little heart when Mac is injured
LG: Such a great series.
LG: One of the best characters is the son. Love him.
BC: the son is pretty cool. But that aunt. I don’t think I have ever hated a character as much!
LG: That’s the same in TRY, too, John’s son is such a great character.
Typically teenaged, but not treated like he’s some stupid kid, he’s valued, by the characters and in the story.
Yes, the Aunt can take a HIKE. Don’t like her at all. Mac was very patient with her… mostly LOL
BC: yes. The kids feel real for their ages.
as a mom, I so often read kids and just have shake my head. They are s typically over and underaged.
Or they are just a prop who is pawned off on a babysitter ever chance they get.
That’s something else Harper does well, she can write any age, and type of character, it feels like.
I mean, Mac and Tony couldn’t be more opposite in LL but she makes it work for them LOL
gah! now I need to re-read
i haven’t read LL in years
I need some mac and tony in my life right now, I think
LG: The opposite is true for John and Ryan, I feel they’re a good match, peas in a pod.
LG: hahahahaa yes! Mac and Tony are DEFINITELY a good remedy.
I think I finished the series when the last book was released, maybe 2013? I miss them LOL
BC: I finished it right after the 4th book was released as well.
LG: But I think that’s why TRY is a comfort read for me, too, every time read it, I know I’m going to feel better having done just that. Guaranteed.
BC: but can I say what a good job Harper does with disabled Mac.
LG: Awww but you can see them again, right now! They’re waiting for youuuuuuuuuuuu LOL
Yes, she portrayed that realistically, too.
BC: LOL. they are, they really really are
LG: No easy cures, definitely a struggle, the impact it had on their lives, their family.
BC: agreed. there were no pretty bows at the end, but they made it through and moved forward as a family.
LG: In TRY she again sort of does the opposite with Ryan’s injury related wounds being a part of his life, something he’s already overcoming.
BC: even if my heart still hurts for Tony and MAc to this day
LG: Me thinks Kaje Harper would be blushing like mad if she saw this convo LOL. Or “when” I guess.
BC: yes. We dont’ see the injury with Ryan. Only the move forward part. We see him struggling, but still living
he is actually persuing his dream
and John is there to help him when he needs it, but let him be his own man when he doesn’t
LG: yes! they each have their own “things” in life, other than each other. well rounded, one might say LOL
Think of any of those questions you had?
BC: not a one… and at least 2 were really good! oh well
LG: Oh and I want to buy one of John’s device charger station thingies he carved LOL
BC: that would be awesome swag!
eyes Kaje in case she reads this far down in the convo LOL
LG: I think I’m gona go read gasp I know
and you should go spend time with Mac and Tony, B.
BC: shocker! I have a couple of posts to ready for tomorrow then I, too will be reading
Beverley (BJ): Hello it’s the UK contingent I’ve read your comments here and I think I ought to bow out as I didn’t NOT like it (sorry double negative) but I didn’t like it as much as you two obviously. lol
BC: We need other opinions, sweets
BJ: But your convo was so sweet and the author would be so happy I don’t want to bring it down
BC: It’s okay. You don’t have to love it. Tell us why you didn’t love it
BJ: I liked that the characters were more ordinary although they were still head turning gorgeous…It seems very hard for authors to really let go of the ‘gorgeous’ tag where romantic leads are concerned.
I found it a little bland and the mystery felt tacked on to me. I do agree the first kiss was very well done and I liked the Pumpkin carving. There was something too neat about what really was a difficult situation, personally and mystery wise. I also do not like the trope where because the man falls for another man the ex wife is suddenly a dragon married to a nazi.
BJ: My other niggle was that although the guys are setting up a non traditional relationship they fall into traditional roles and the step father sneers about Ryan being the wife…and Ryan agrees he probably is. Now that is a problematic observation for me a) because it assumes that there are set roles for wives in this case cooking and being in the kitchen AND that there is a ‘wife’ in a gay relationship….although not so much the same issue crops up in Sole Support.
BJ: I am not a total fan of GFY trope because it is rarely well done. Either the women and their lives are totally rubbished or it’s glossed over as though it’s always been suspected. The other problem is that they are not GFY they are sexually attracted to men and women meaning they are BI or Pansexual. The sex is always so much better there is a lot of why was it never like this before….the idea of rubbishing previous relationships because they are having a same sex relationship now does not sit well with me. It doesn’t allow for gender fluidity it just says that they haven’t found the right ‘man’ yet.
BC: but the “it has never been like this before” is a device used in all romance to make it clear that this partner is the one. Gay, straight, bi, pan, whatever. So that in an of itself doesn’t necessarily bother. I do agree that GFY is often not done well, but I think the Kaje did do it well in this instance.
BC: Maybe it is because I originally read it so early in the M/M education and I wasn’t yet jaded by the bitch ex-wife trope. I think she makes it clear that John is a loyal person first. He didn’t go an get it on with guys behind his wife’s back. He put everything he could into his marriage, but it broke down for OTHER reasons (the whole gold-digging whore thing).
BC: (or women for that matter). The Marriage just didn’t work. I don’t think THEY label themselves as GFY or anything. They label themselves as now in a relationship with the love of their lives, which happens to be another man.
I don’t think the label mattered at all to either man in TRY
LG: I agree re: the label not mattering to either of them.
They both had questions about a lot of things, wondering how the heck this happens, etc., but neither of them really dwelled on then label. Could that be called a bit of a fantasy, perfect world depiction? maybe. but there are worse things.
having read this now several times, the first being 2013 and now this most recent, my view on the “ex-wife” trope remains the same: I don’t think this is a typical depiction of the trope.
John and his ex fell in love very young and even he admits that the bloom fell off the rose at some point. and I wouldn’t blame her for being upset (to say the least) about her son leaving like that lol and all of the other goings on.
it seemed to me that, as both she and John grew older, they grew apart, and she, maybe more than him, fell completely out of love.
She does speak rather plainly about John’s ability as a father. It’s more her new husband who is the bugaboo, and then they fed off of each other.
I’m with you, BJ, the whole trope of GFY just rings false to me, always has. I tend to stay away when I see that mentioned in a review for a story, unless the story as a whole is deemed excellent, and the new experiences are handled well.
LG: oh and the thing about Ryan “identifying” as the wife, I took that in a joking matter considering the context lol, but maybe that was just my interpretation. besides, if that’s the world you’ve grown up in, the brain ruled by cultural experiences reaches for what it knows first: defined roles in relationships involving one woman and one man and how that relates to one’s current and new situation, i.e. Ryan’s. That wasn’t too surprising to me. Also, if someone does identify with that? more power to ya! being a woman pretty much rocks, and Ryan can define his role however he pleases.
LG: that, ladies n gents, is an example of talking about a character as if they are a real person lol
BJ: Love you LG
BJ: I think you and Brandi put your views and feelings concerning this book very eloquently….I don’t want to diss a book you both really like…it isn’t the same as putting an argument in a review…and it’s difficult to have an argument with such time difference…
love you too Boss lol
I see her sequel is coming out.
I guess I just didn’t feel very passionate about this book.
BC: So, there you have it. 3 different views of the same book. It goes to show you that not every book will work for every reader. Have you read The Rebuilding Year? Have you not? Is it on your TBR? Are you intrigued? Put off? Are you ready for book two, Life, Some Assembly Required? We would love to hear you opinion in the comments.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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