Grade : A-

Jay Hogan’s Foxed is a standalone contemporary romance featuring a couple of guys in their fifties – one a devoted father and grandfather, the other someone who never really thought a relationship and family was on the cards for him – who discover that maybe it’s time to re-think some of their embedded perceptions about themselves and, most importantly, about love. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read; a bit lower on the angst-o-meter than many of the author’s other books, but still full of her customary warmth and humour, and with the added bonus of some wonderfully observed commentary on ageing (the creaking joints and grey hairs are not airbrushed out!) that will resonate with many, and on the challenges incumbent on making room for a relationship later in life when one has become somewhat set in one’s ways.

Jed Marshall is a fifty-five-year-old divorced father and grandfather who runs a successful classic car restoration business and is – mostly – content with his life. He adores his granddaughter and loves spending time with her, but lately, he’s started feeling like he’s being taken just a little bit for granted, as though Jed the man with his own interests and hobbies is fading from view in favour of Jed the doting grandfather who can be relied on to babysit at the drop of a hat. Not that he begrudges any of the time he gets to spend with three-year-old Bridie, it’s just… an uncomfortable niggle.

Jed has known he’s attracted to both men and women since he was in his teens, confirming it with a clumsy make-out session with a boy at school when he was fifteen. But he’s never acted on his attraction to men; meeting the woman he would later marry – also at fifteen – dating her, getting married and having kids was enough for him and even after their divorce eight years earlier, Jed has continued to push aside the knowledge of his bisexuality, viewing it as something inconvenient and potentially troublesome. He’s gone this long without exploring that side of himself and doesn’t want to start now; he’s not looking for a relationship anyway, and quite honestly doesn’t want to have to bother with any unpleasantness that might result from coming out. Things are… fine, just as they are.

Until six months earlier, when he met Nash Collingwood, the new principal at the local high school where his daughter Abbie is a teacher. Nash is around Jed’s own age, he’s fit, handsome, charming and completely comfortable in his own skin – in short, he’s everything Jed has avoided thinking about for the past forty years, and everything he doesn’t want to start thinking about now.  When the book begins, Abbie is hosting the end-of-year/ pre-Christmas party for the school staff, and after engaging in some grandaughter-wrangling, Jed has taken himself off to a quieter corner of the garden for a bit of peace and quiet when Nash, also seeking a bit of down time, joins him. Nash is upfront about his interest in Jed, and Jed can’t help admiring Nash for having the guts to open that door. But no matter how attracted he is, Jed isn’t going to go through it. Old dog, new tricks and all that.

Like Jed, Nash is pretty content with the status quo; he’s never been interested in a relationship and has been happy to fill his life with good friends, sexual partners when he wants them – some who have stuck around longer than others – and a demanding job. But then he met Jed, and since then, has begun to think that maybe there’s something missing from his life. Sure, he’d love to get the gorgeous mechanic into bed, but is this fascination with Jed about more than the physical, or the result of a mid-life crisis?

Whenever I pick up a book by Jay Hogan, I know I’m in for a good read, and she’s on top form here. Foxed (great title, btw!) is funny and sexy and sweet, featuring two engaging, strongly characterised leads, a well-rounded secondary cast and a very honest look at the way families can be simultaneously wonderful and a pain in the arse.

Jed and Nash are likeable and very relatable – especially for those of us on the wrong side of forty! They have fantastic chemistry, and I loved the way the author describes their insecurities about their middle aged bodies and shows how their mutual attraction burns bright regardless of any imperfections. I especially liked reading about Jed ‘reclaiming’ his identity as a sexually active man and how Nash makes him feel attractive and sexy for the first time in years. Nash makes a very pertinent observation early in the book about the obsession with youth (or the appearance of it) on the dating scene:

Getting older isn’t the easiest in any dating landscape, but vanity and youth culture can be vicious in the gay scene… You can get older, but you can’t LOOK older…

because he’s bought in to those pressures in order to “stay in the game” with the younger guys, but it’s getting harder and harder:

You wanna try maintaining a set of abs past fifty. The diet sucks. The gym work is torture. And the washboard effect softens by the year no matter what you do, muscle forcibly annexed by fat in a hostile takeover. A year from now, someone will find me on the floor of my apartment, suffocated by a mushrooming BMI. It’ll be like the movie Day of the Triffids but with fat cells.

It’s funny, but brutally honest, and I really liked that Jed is able to make Nash feel comfortable in his more mature body and not feel guilty about letting some things go a little bit.

Alongside the wonderful romance, is a story about coming out and being true to yourself, the importance of letting the people you love see the whole you, and that you’re allowed to prioritise yourself and your own happiness. The conflict in the story comes mostly towards the end, when Nash has to deal with a tricky situation at school, and Jed is confronted with the sort of bigotry that kept him from coming out all those years ago. It’s unpleasant – especially as it’s close to home – and the author doesn’t wave a magic wand to make it all go away, instead showing that there is the possibility of change, even though it won’t happen overnight.

Foxed is a wonderful read – romantic, heartwarming, funny and sharply observed – from the pen of one of the best authors of contemporary romances around. It’s my first DIK of 2023 and I heartily recommend it.

Reviewed by Caz Owens

Grade: A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : January 12, 2023

Publication Date: 01/2023

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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