Desert Isle Keeper
Life, Some Assembly Required
Sequels are risky. If book 1 ends in a HEA (or at least HFN), do we really want to see more of these characters and their conflicts? Because a book has to have conflict of some sort to be good. And, in a sequel, now the author is messing with the HEA. I’m a big fan of relationship-centric stories, but even I can be turned off by too much more of the two characters.
Kaje Harper finds the right balance in Life, Some Assembly Required. I was willing to risk it after loving The Rebuilding Year and wanting more of the sweet that is John and Ryan. Book 2 picks up in the the last scene of The Rebuilding Year, so I don’t recommend it as a stand alone. In it, Ryan is telling his dad about John. He’s injured from the fire at the end of book 1, and he’s terrified of his father’s reaction.
Where book 1 is primarily the discovery journey for these two men, book 2 deals more with their external conflicts and challenges. They have to learn how to be in a relationship and what that means with a teenager in the house, ex-wife in the wings, and disappointed family members hovering about. Ryan, in particular, is new to the ways of a relationship, parenting, and work/life balance. He’s at a critical point in medical school and planning his career path. As much as he loves John, their small college town doesn’t offer many opportunities for medicine. He’s also dealing with the pressures of telling his family about a brand new relationship with a man. Any new relationship where a son or brother is making huge life changes for a partner is likely to cause concern. Add in the suddenly gay factor, and Ryan is drowning in familial concern and discomfort.
John is doing everything in his power to be the supportive partner, father, ex-husband…rock to all. He’s steady and wonderful, just as he was in the first book. He’s also struggling with his needs and finding the balance with Ryan’s needs. John’s love and commitment to Ryan means prioritizing Ryan’s career. John has built a home for his children, and he’s chosen a new career and life for himself. Competing family priorities and jobs are only a couple of the kinks making this relationship a challenge.
Both men are still working out their sexual identities. While John finds labels unnecessary, Ryan is plagued by confusion. He realizes it’s difficult to explain his first relationship with a man to his friends and family when he doesn’t clearly understand it himself.
What I love most about this book (and the first in the series) is the dynamic between Ryan and John. There’s no communication problems or unnecessary drama. If they feel things, they speak about it. No one leaps to conclusions or allows misunderstandings to go unexplained. At no point did I genuinely worry for their relationship. The book is about what happens after “I love you forever” and moves on to “living together day-to-day”. As I’m a big fan of this part of a couple’s story, I enjoyed this book even more than the first. I got to read about the nitty-gritty of making it work, and I saw the strength in their love. That’s beautiful and all about the characters. Exactly my bag.