I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Ya know, I had my suspicions about Asher, all the way from the first book and through the second one. At GRL 2014 in Chicago, I had an opportunity to sit down with B.G. for lunch and ask him the questions that had been burning on my mind. Like, what's the deal with Asher? Why is he such a jerk? Such a slut? Why is he drinking so much?
During that conversation, when B.G. (whom I know as Ben now, and whom I adore and love dearly) asked me about my thoughts on the character, I proceeded to tell him my suspicions.
I suspected that something traumatic had happened to Asher in his youth, something very, very painful, something that he numbs with the copious amounts of alcohol, something he's trying to suppress - by drinking whenever the memories threaten to rise up.
I also suspected that he felt unloved and unlovable, and keeps people away by being an ass, by not allowing himself to form any kind of real connection, even with his three best friends, because if he lets someone get too close, they can hurt him.
And then, a few months later, Ben sent me his first draft of Autumn Changes and asked for my input.
What you see on April 24, 2015 (or sooner, if you got an early copy) is a fantastic story about two men, both with pain in their past, both unsure of themselves, seeming to be polar opposites, but both seeing something in the other they cannot deny.
Asher falls. Hard.
And so does Peni. Despite trying not to, despite his misgivings about Asher's problem with(out) alcohol, he falls just the same.
Peni, early on, delivers an ultimatum of sorts, you see. Don't drink for 30 days, he says to Asher, and I'll go on a date with you.
We also get to see Sloan and Max (still in love), Scott and Cedar (also still totally in love), and Wyatt, that lovable bear, who reminds me so much of Ben himself.
And Howard. Ugh, Howard, Wyatt's boyfriend/husband, who's not only a jerk but also a cheater and an asshole. I can hardly wait for Wyatt's book, which will round out the series, and I sincerely hope that Wyatt will not only find the person meant for him, the person who will love him the way he is, appreciate him for who he is, but also that Wyatt will get a chance to give Howard what's coming to him - a swift kick in the rear end - and get this revenge on that piece of sh*t he wasted 10 years on.
What I loved about this book is that Ben threw himself into research, not only where Peni's heritage is concerned, but also where it concerns Judaism, and Asher's hang-ups. I was fascinated by the Samoan stories, by learning about their culture, and my eyes grew big and round when we hear from a rabbi about something that Asher has struggled with for some time.
He gives us multi-dimensional characters, and showcases their differences and how much they are alike in other ways. We see Peni struggle with being gay, and his Mormon upbringing, much like we see Asher struggle with his own issues, that are similar but not. We see Peni's mother being so accepting, and happy that her son is happy, no matter whom he loves, and we see the Samoan heritage brought to life, with the rituals and their belief system.
We see the scales fall from Asher's eyes, when he stops using alcohol to numb his pain, we seem him grow and change, and we see Peni become the man he wants to be, see him honor his father's roots, and grow from someone unsure of himself into someone who knows who he is.
We see a side of Asher that wasn't as obvious in the first two books, though I saw more than Ben may have wanted me to see. Asher has the ability to be kind and thoughtful. He loves his friends, even when he keeps them at arm's length, and once the alcohol no longer clouds his vision, he is able to not only see clearly, but also allow others to see him better.
The writing is gorgeous. Ben has a unique style, almost breathless to some extent, exuberant, and drawing images with his words.
I especially love how characters from other books make an appearance, like Guy from the theater where Asher is cast to perform in a play (you'll remember Guy from Anything Could Happen), how Ben created a world where we can find beloved characters again and again.
Spring is a time of renewal, and as such Spring Affair showcased that season. Summer is a time of sunshine, of loving, of freedom, and Summer Lover had all those elements. Autumn is the season of Harvest, of getting the rewards for your hard work all summer long. It's about reaping what you've sown, about harvesting the fruits of your labor. Both Asher and Peni put in some work on themselves to change into someone the other needs.
I love how Ben uses the meanings of the seasons in his books. Much like Sloan needed Spring to bloom, and Scott needed Summer to become free of his misconceptions, Asher had to labor hard to get his harvest, to become who he was meant to be.
I volunteer! I volunteer as pre-reader for Winter Heart. I can hardly wait!
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **