Four months ago Robert Edward “Arie” Hawkins lost his sister and the rest of her family in a plane crash. Now his parents have decided it’s time for him to marry and carry on the family name. Arie knows it’s most likely the grief talking—especially from his mother, who’s taken to putting more than ice in her iced tea—so to escape Mississippi, Arie calls his best friend, Robbie, and arranges for a visit.
Life is always changing at the Michigan farm where Robbie lives. Owner Geoff Laughton and his partner, Eli, have started a therapeutic riding program and adopted a little boy, creating a family. It’s while feeding Jakey that Arie meets Officer Hunky.
Officer Hunky’s real name is Deputy Duane Keenan, and he has troubles of his own, but not enough to stop him from pursuing Arie. But Duane’s and Arie’s families are pulling them in opposite directions. Trying to build a connection to support their mutual attraction may prove to be more than difficult… it may be impossible.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I’m a total sucker for a good romance that tugs non-stop at my heartstrings. A grieving brother who is struggling with his depressed parents and escapes into Office Hunky’s waiting arms? YES PLEASE!
Arie is trying to deal with the loss of his sister and her family in the only way he knows how, but his parents are moping and depressed and putting pressure on him that is driving him crazy. A trip to visit his best friend at a Michigan farm is his idea of a relaxing vacation.
Duane enjoys being a small town Sheriff. After meeting Arie he wants to pursue a relationship, despite the fact that Arie wont be around forever. The two immediately hit it off and things get hot and heavy and series quickly. But with Arie’s parents in an emotional tornado and Duane’s mom with a crushing secret of her own, will these two be able to come together and support each other?
I was looking forward to trying a new m/m author and thought the story was better than others I’ve read in the genre. I liked that both Duane and Arie were completely confident in who they were, especially in the face of bigotry and grief. For Arie to stand up to his parents when they requested he get married and have children was heartbreaking for so many reasons. I wanted to alternate between hugging and punching his parents and then comfort and encourage Arie to strike out on his own. Once he got to Michigan, I was glad to see him come more out of his shell, see him live more for himself instead of drowning his sorrows in music and sleep.
I also really enjoyed the dynamics between Arie and Duane and their families. With Duane finally getting the chance to become closer to his mother and forge a relationship was well done. The way that Arie stepped up and really helped Duane accept his mother’s revelation and presence in his life. Then for Duane to turn around and provide the same comfort to Arie with his parents was so wonderful to read.
I also liked the group of guys at the farm. They provided a great support system and cast of secondary characters. It did seem a little odd to me that SO many couples in such a small town would all be gay, but that’s just the way some stories go. I would have liked to see a little more diversity amongst their friends, but understood why there wasn’t.
All in all my first Gray read was a promising one. I loved the characters and really enjoyed their development throughout the story, especially when interacting with their friends and family. The mini-suspense plot didn’t come across to me as anything special and would have liked to see that page time devoted to more time developing the relationship between Arie and Duane. I thought that the story could have been a bit longer with more time to see these two fall in love since it seemed to happen somewhat quickly.
I give Love Means… Family a C