Beautiful Gilbert Bryant designs jewelry for the rich and famous, and he made his escape from his gossipy little hometown of Lavender Shores. However, with so many friends and family, he keeps getting pulled back. When he attends his best friend’s engagement party, Gilbert can’t help but sample one of the new men in town. It’s just some innocent—or not so innocent—fun. Nothing that will even cross his mind once he gets back to his everyday life.
Walden Thompson dreamed about living in Lavender Shores since he visited as a child. He finally gets his chance, and he embraces the opportunity to start over, to become someone new. He leaves both hurts and dangerous habits in the past, where they belong. When Gilbert crosses his path, Walden gives in to his baser instincts. He can indulge in the carnal pleasures this once and still be okay.
Their few hours together haunt Gilbert, the two-hundred-mile buffer from home no longer shutting out the past or the sexy man he left behind. Walden is just beginning to recover from the smoldering encounter with Gilbert when they are thrust together once more. This time, neither of them can walk away, no matter how hard they try. But when their pasts crash into each other as surely as the magnetism that pulls them together, walking away may be the only option.
Overall: Very emotional hurt/comfort story that gives you all the feels. Even more so thanks to the wonderful narration, which really adds an extra layer of intensity to an already deeply moving romance story. Blissfully satisfying HEA.
Local manwhore meets & corrupts innocent new teacher. That’s how Gilbert, and the local busybodies, first perceive what happens between him and the cute teacher with the adorable red glasses. But of course, there’s so much more to this story…
I loved that Walden saw through Gilbert’s carefree, love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude to the wounded bird hiding beneath all that. The Gilbert we meet in the first chapter, desperate to keep his vulnerable heart safe, seems miles removed from the man that falls in love with Walden. Gilbert really is the perfect human embodiment of Walden’s secret garden, a hidden, closed-off wilderness just waiting for a loving hand to help him blossom once more. I absolutely loved that analogy.
I also adored all the references to beloved children’s classics like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, Disney even. It made me like Walden even more. He can no more stop himself from falling in love with his Gilbert, then Anne with an e could keep herself from loving hers.
There’s no bickering, however, between Gilbert and Walden, like there is between the happy couple in the Anne of Green Gables series. Walden and Gilbert are careful with the other’s emotions from pretty early on, and whatever hurt they feel is more due to their own painful histories and an understandable hesitance to risk heartbreak again.
They are so great together, providing the comfort and acceptance that each man so desperately needs, even when they are trying to hold back. So scared of being hurt again.
Walden has suffered a horrible betrayal, and still carries a lot of shame with him for how he dealt with his pain in the aftermath. Him opening up to Gilbert about his past made for a deeply touching scene. My heart ached for him.
We know from early on that Gilbert has been in therapy for years, so we know something awful is hiding in his past to leave such scars. But oh… when that revelation finally comes… I wanted to punch something. I hated that he took on all the responsibility for “his” wrongdoing , when in fact it was he who’d been wronged, not to mention betrayed by a person who should have looked out for him.
I felt relieved and almost giddy when they finally felt free to truly choose each other, and to choose happiness together. Not a moment too soon and very much deserved.
What an amazing couple, sigh. Talk about a book-hangover.
Kirt Graves did an outstanding job at narrating this story, making me feel as if I stepped right into the lovely world of Lavender Shores. He has a wonderfully pleasant voice and I loved how he brought alive the characters. I think he did absolutely amazing in giving a voice to Walden and Gilbert.
Luckily no over-acting, but bringing just the right amount of emotion and tension to each scene.
Number of stars out of 5: 5
Reviewer Name: Karen M.