Second Chance in New Port Stephen is a big, warm-hearted holiday romance that does a great job with serious issues while keeping the romance bright, sensual, and filled with love and life.
Comic Eli Ward is a native of New Port Stephen, Florida, but he’s starting to feel like his hometown – littered with MAGA signs in the front yards - doesn’t love him back. Recently sober, this is the first time he’s been back home since completing his transition while working the comedy circuit and living in California. He was recently fired off of the writing team of a series due to a scandal, but thankfully his loving – if imperfect - family are there to catch him when he falls.
Eli isn’t looking for romance, but romance finds him in the form of Nick Wu, his high school sweetheart. Nick is now a divorced dad of a young daughter, Zoe, and also cares for his elderly father, Tian-Yi. Nick balances the boring math of everyday life against his own yearning. It’s been a long time since he’s lived for himself, and Eli’s return might allow that. Can they manage true love without losing sight of what’s important?
Second Chance In New Port Stephen is wholeheartedly honest about what it’s like to be a transmasculine person living in Florida in 2023. Yet for all of that truthfulness, if you pick it up, you’re going to find a wonderful second-chance romance, a fun holiday romp, and an exploration of divorce, sobriety and prejudice that never gets bogged down. It’s realistic, rather than saccharine, but still fun and light-hearted.
Nick and Eli have to work to figure out how they work, and unfortunately that involves a Big Mis, which drags the grade down from a solid A. It’s a reasonable Big Mis, but a Big Mis nonetheless. Nick has to come to accept his nascent bisexuality, and Eli to open his heart. The romance here is really sweet with some healthy spice and both of our characters are mega-likable. And Eli is hands down one of the best transmasc characters I’ve ever had the privilege of reading about.
There’s some great co-parenting to be seen between Nick and his ex-wife, and Zoe is adorable without being overly sweet; no easy jealousy plots are to be had here. I loved the way Alexander paints the inner workings of this small Floridian town; the little details are wonderfully done.
This is a romantic little book with a big heart that’s well worth giving a look. Second Chance in New Port Stephen is a wonderful way begin your reading this festive season.
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