The Science of Attraction
Grade : B+

This third book in the author’s Mackenzie Country series – set in and around a couple of remote sheep stations in the stunning Southern Alps of New Zealand - is an emotional love story about self-discovery and stepping up to fulfil expectations and make the life you want.

The focus in this book shifts from the folks at Miller Station to those at the neighbouring Lane Station. Its owner, Paddy Lane, is a curmudgeonly old git, an autocratic bigot whose rampant and often expressed homophobia was the reason his younger son, Zach, hid the fact that he was gay until around a year earlier, and is what has kept his older son, Julian (Jules), firmly in the bisexual closet.

At the end of the previous book (The Mechanics of Lust), Zach, Jules, and Zach’s boyfriend, Luke, risked their lives to rescue Paddy when he had a major stroke after stubbornly heading out on a treacherous track alone. The old man is lucky to be alive and has recently returned home after five months in hospital and at a rehabilitation facility, months during which Jules took over the running of the station and implemented a number of changes that are making a big difference to the lives of everyone who works there. For years, Paddy has ruled the place with a rod of iron, his intractable demeanour and insistence that he’s always right not making for the happiest working environment, but now Jules has stepped in, that ever-present cloud of oppression has lifted, and his sound business sense and genuine, deep-rooted love for the land and the work have earned him a lot of respect and fostered a real sense of camaraderie among the workers. Now Paddy is home he expects things to go back to the way they were, but Jules is having none of it. Paddy isn’t physically or mentally fit enough to be able to do all the things he used to, and Jules is determined to prevent the business from backsliding as a result of his father’s questionable decisions and abrasive, uncompromising manner.

Jules had hoped that he and Zach would run Lane Station together one day, but with Zach living happily on Miller Station and in the process of setting up his own dog-training business, Jules has stepped up, and the past five months have been both challenging and invigorating. This is what he’s meant to do with his life and everything is going exactly as it’s supposed to - until the day Liam Skelton shows up and every thought Jules has had about himself and about the direction his life is taking flies right out the window.

Jules has known he’s bisexual since he was a teenager, and as he’s always been far more attracted to women than men, he hasn’t seen the point in rocking the boat. But there’s something about Liam – with his striking good-looks and air of confidence – that absolutely does it for Jules and makes him start to wonder what it would be like to be with someone he can be fully himself with.

Liam, an occupational therapist, has been employed to help Paddy to improve his speech and mobility, and will be staying on the station for the duration of his seven-week contract. Needless to say, the old man isn’t happy at having his “gay arse in charge of his rehab.” The first few days are awkward, to say the least, until Liam confronts Paddy’s prejudice head on and makes it clear that he’s a professional and expects to be treated as one. The uneasy truce that develops between them surprises everybody on the station; Paddy is never going to wave a rainbow flag, but he does at least start to show Liam the respect he deserves.

The principal storyline revolves around Jules working through his complicated feelings about his sexuality and figuring out how to balance his desire for Liam with his desire to continue to run Lane Station. Paddy threw Zach out when he told them he was gay, and Jules has been reluctant to be the cause of any further family fractures, so at first, he tries hard to fight his intense attraction to Liam. He’s the first and only man who has ever produced this kind of reaction in Jules, and as he’s only going to be around for a few weeks, getting involved with him would be only be asking for trouble. But Jules has never felt so powerfully attracted to anyone, ever... and he knows he’s fighting a losing battle.

The Science of Attraction is very much Jules’ story in the sense that his character is more strongly defined than Liam’s and he experiences the most character growth. I liked Liam - he’s very obviously good at his job and he’s generous, down-to-earth and wonderfully supportive – but I don’t feel as though I got to know him as well as I did Jules.

The romance here is as sexy and well-developed as I’ve come to expect in a Jay Hogan book. Her characters often fall in lust (and into bed) fairly quickly, but she always takes that as a starting point and takes time to build a deep and meaningful emotional connection between them as the story progresses. The chemistry between Jules and Liam is electric from the get-go and I enjoyed their love story, but it’s a bit ‘sex-heavy’; the author really knows how to write a sizzling sex scene, but there are a lot of them here and I have to admit that after the first few, they started to feel like padding. And while I really appreciated the thoughtful way Jules’ situation unfolds, the storyline sometimes feels stretched a little thin for the page count.

And for all the family drama, this is a fairly low-angst read. There is mention early on that Liam isn’t a relationship kind of guy, but we’re not given a reason for that other than that he likes his own space, and whatever concerns he might have had in the past don’t appear to be a problem for him when it comes to Jules. So the main conflict in the story arises from Paddy’s homophobia, leading to Jules’ fears that being with the man he loves may lead to his losing his home and the future he’s worked so hard for – and the only other real obstacle is that Jules and Liam need to work out how they can make a life together given Liam isn’t local and his job generally requires him to travel.

Once again, Jay Hogan transports readers to the gorgeous scenery of the Mackenzie Basin and into the daily lives of the workers on the remote sheep stations there. The descriptions of the landscape are vivid and evocative, and the intricacies of the day-to-day lives of the close-knit team of workers are superbly written. There’s an expertly drawn secondary cast here, some of whom we’ve met before - including Spencer, the local vet (whose book is up next) – and some who are new - like Liam’s nephew Connor – and they all add considerably to the overall sense of community and sincere friendship the author has created.

The Science of Attraction is a steamy, heartfelt romance filled with Jay Hogan's trademark warmth, insight and down-to-earth humour. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first two books in the series, but it’s an excellent addition nonetheless.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 23, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

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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