Title: A Better Man
Series: The Men of Halfway House, Book 1
Author: Jaime Reese
Genre:Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: Review copy provided by author
Published: January 16, 2014 by Romandeavor
Matthew Doner is starting over. After a five-year prison term that alters every aspect of his life, he receives a bequest from his aunt with the stipulation that he use the money to make things right. Breaking free of the long-standing role he’s played and inspired by the few who support him, he decides to create a safe place where people like him can find purpose and start a new life.
Julian Capeletti likes challenges. He is confident, brash, stubborn, and just what Matt needs. Desperate for work after a downturn of luck, he accepts the job to renovate Matt’s crumbling building.
Over the course of a year, romance simmers between them as they restore the house. But there’s a bigger renovation that must take place in their hearts. To become better men, they need to learn to trust each other even with secrets and painful memories they fear may rip them apart.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Excellent romance with a relationship progression that felt organic to the wonderful characters.
The Set Up: Matt has a plan to open a half-way house for ex-cons like him who need a place to rebuild their lives. He’s got the house but needs someone to do the renovations. Julian is a general contractor down on his luck who knows he can fix Matt’s house but can’t resist teasing Matt in the process. Matt and Julian have a year to fix up the house and during that time passion simmers between the men but their secrets may prevent them from gaining the intimacy they both desire and need.
What I Liked: I loved Matt and Julian and their unique personalities. Matt is slightly off-kilter after spending five years in prison and building a new life for himself. He’s got a fragility that Julian immediately sees but also a strength and determination not only to fix his half-way house but to rebuild his life. Julian’s vulnerability is more hidden than Matt’s but it’s just as powerful. I loved watching Matt and Julian slowly open up to each other, from little things like sharing meals to big events like sharing their pasts. The emotional intimacy between Matt and Julian is the focus for their relationship progression which is much more difficult to do than simple erotica in my opinion. This isn’t to say they don’t share sexual intimacy because they absolutely do, but it’s in the context of their emotional relationship which worked perfectly for me.
What I Also Liked: This novel doesn’t have a big external mystery or suspense but focuses on relationships and I adored this. Foremost is Matt and Julian’s relationship but nearly as much is Matt’s with his different family members and even Julian’s with his family’s ghosts. I like these relationship explorations because they’re messy, complicated and imperfect. Yes, this is a romance so the ending is rather neat but getting there kept my attention and made me long to return to the book when I was interrupted.
What I Didn’t Like: I suspect some readers may have issue with how verbal the men’s emotional declarations are. I didn’t because the relationship was more complicated than simple I-Love-You’s. In fact, I’d argue that the I-Love-You’s were the easy part of Matt and Julian’s relationship but building a life together the important and difficult part.
IMO: MM romance fans should read this book because of the great leads, strong relationship progression and captivating storytelling. I will await book two in this series and have high expectations!