A new town, a new neighbor, and a new chance to build a forever.
Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.
Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.
Oh, I just loved this book so much. It gave me the warm fuzzies and happy-feels.
Charlie and Simon are so relatable as characters, and I have to say, Kelly Jensen did a great job with their characterization. They were both very three-dimensional and unique. It was easy to tell when I was reading a scene in Charlie's POV or Simon's because they think so differently. Charlie tends to bounce from thought to thought, is full of energy, and the scenes in his POV tended to be quite funny. Simon is more staid and linear in his thinking, yet some of his scenes were also funny, but in a different way than Charlie's. The scene with the beholder just cracked me up!
Everything in this book is so real, from Charlie and Simon's backstory to their motivations for their actions, and it's written in such a fresh way. The supporting cast of friends and family are great, with the exception of Charlie's mother-in-law.
The one weak spot for me, and why I give this a rating of 4.5 stars instead of 5, is that I felt that, by the end, Charlie and Simon didn't know each other all that well. The potential for more, however, was right there.
Simply put, this was a sweet contemporary romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved both Charlie and Simon, although frankly, Charlie's the one who made this book shine. I look forward to books two and three!
“I wanted to thank you for the flower. I’m, ah, assuming it was you.”
Charlie’s smile widened a fraction. “You need some color in your house. And something bent.” His eyes widened briefly. “Curved, or not straight. Crap. This is why I shouldn’t talk. I’m really bad at this talking thing.”
One corner of Simon’s mouth curled upward. “Are you trying to tell me I’m not gay enough?”
Charlie moved to cover his face with his hands, nearly braining himself with the hammer. Bracing his forearm across his forehead instead, he breathed into a pause, quietly, steadily. Then he dropped his arm, and leveled a direct look at Simon. “I’m sorry I barged into your space, and messed it up with my clumsy come-on. I didn’t stop to ask if you were into guys, or take into account the fact you might have lost someone. Or might not even, you know, want to . . . whatever with me. I just got it into my head that I needed to know what it would be like to kiss you, to kiss any guy—not that you were the most handy one. It’s your eyes. They’re so damn blue, and I haven’t thought about anyone on a daily basis in so long, and I had to know.”
His face was red, and the quiet breathing had accelerated into a soft gasping, as though Charlie had just finished a run. Simon stepped in, closing the distance between them, and paused for long enough for Charlie to step back, dodge aside, or simply raise a hand. Say no. He stiffened a little, eyes widening, but otherwise remained still.
“Any guy?” Simon arched an eyebrow.
“You in particular.”
“Why the ice cream?”
Charlie’s eyelids fluttered, briefly. “Because there’s no way anyone can eat ice cream and feel sad.”
Oh God. Simon’s next breath shook slightly. “The puzzle?”
“Because you needed time to think, and something to do with your hands.”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
They were standing so close together that the straightening of Charlie’s shoulders was a twitch at the periphery of Simon’s vision. The thunkat their feet would be the hammer. Then Charlie was leaning in, a hand rising to curl behind Simon’s neck. He paused there, for the space of a single breath, before pressing his lips to Simon’s in a gentle kiss.
A whisper passed between them, a susurrus of words. Simon didn’t bother figuring them out; he tucked his free hand behind Charlie’s shoulder and pulled him closer, angled his head slightly, and deepened the sweet, tentative kiss.
Charlie’s lips were the sort a man might dream about. Full and plump and utterly distracting. Simon kissed both before tending the top and bottom in turn, exploring the mouth he’d fantasized about. The tip of Charlie’s tongue sent a tingling burn across his skin. He shivered. Goose bumps prickled his nape, his shoulders, his arms. The kiss deepened again, becoming less tentative, less question, more statement.
Simon stroked his hand down Charlie’s arm. The sharp, clean scent of Charlie’s sweat filled his senses. The taste of Charlie thrilled his tongue. Prickling skin gave way to keen-edged arousal. A southward rush of blood.
Head light, thoughts swimming, Simon pulled away. Just his lips. Charlie chased him, caught him in another kiss, and Simon got lost somewhere on the way to reason, answering the surer flick of Charlie’s tongue, the sweetly satisfied exhalation of breath.
Charlie bumped into him, nudging him backward. Simon broke out of the kiss again, stepping away to lessen the chance of losing himself a second time. Third time. The sun could have set and the stars come out. A year might have passed by. As he stood there, panting, gaze locked with one of deep and velvety brown, only the weight of the small pot in one hand served as a reminder of why he’d come next door.
Surely it hadn’t been for a kiss.
He’d have traveled much farther for this kiss.
About the author:
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
Win one signed paperback copy of Block and Strike by Kelly Jensen.