Title: Happily Ever After Isn’t Easy
Author: Jake C. Wallace
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
At a Glance: I found that it was more of a slow-paced evolution as opposed to a roller-coaster of action. If that’s the kind of book you like to read, then you would definitely enjoy this book.
Reviewed By: Taz
Blurb: How do you start a new life when your old one won’t let go?
Freed from a marriage he entered because he feared coming out to his judgmental family, Gabe Reynolds feels his life is just starting—at forty-three. But what was supposed to be exciting and wonderful has been nothing but disappointing. The man he’s loved since they were teens broke his heart—again. Gabe has no clue how to meet men who are looking for more than one night, much less date them. Add to that his job as a mental health counselor, helping to keep his mentally ill ex-wife stable, and caring for children that belong to another man, and he has little time to look for Mr. Right.
Just as Gabe is giving up, Brandt Sawyer, with his hard body and gorgeous eyes, crashes into Gabe’s life. Brandt pushes all Gabe’s buttons—though he could do without the younger man’s know-it-all attitude. Gabe never thought he could be so torn between wanting to punch a man and wanting to kiss him. Yet, as he gets to know Brandt, Gabe sees past the military-programmed ex-soldier and catches a glimpse of what could be his happily ever after.
But with a troubled ex and young children involved, Gabe can’t just walk away from his past. Guilt is tearing him in every direction—maybe even away from the man he’s falling in love with.
Review: In reading the blurb for this book, my thought was that the book would have a sort of serious and even maudlin tone. On this point I was correct. Yet, the description of these two men had me curious, asking, “Just what will this author do to bring these two mens’ lives together?” After reading the book, I found myself very satisfied on that front.
The most compelling aspect of this book, for me, was the development of the two protagonists. Both Gabe and Brandt are deep. They both have history that has hampered them from living a full and happy life. Are their lives horrible? No. They are like any other two people who have allowed fear, honor, commitment, and a slew of other things to dictate the path of their lives. They have fallen into the trap of “where has all the time gone?” as years pass them by. Lost years they can never get back. But, no one ever said happiness was something that starts at birth and steadily flows toward you for the rest of your life. No, the message here seems to be that finding happiness is more about choosing to be happy. When doing that, some choices are hard…heartbreaking even. And for this element of the story, I was very pleased.
By far my favorite scenes were the ones where we got to see Gabe with the twin toddlers, Mikey and Maddy. He adores them, even though the kids are the product of his wife’s affair with another man. Yet Gabe’s love for these two bundles of energy is his most lovable quality and made me want him to find his happily ever after.
Brandt was someone I thought I’d hate when I first met him, and I found myself resistant to accepting him, at first, but that resistance was short-lived. Brandt, for all his macho ex-military bravado, is really a sweet and gentle man who lives with honesty and integrity. Sure, he’s a stubborn guy and can be a pain in the ass, but Gabe is a bit cerebral and over-thinks things. They kind of reminded me of bulls knocking horns together, each headstrong. Yet, they manage to understand each other and to navigate toward one another in a smooth way.
Many heavy issues were covered in the book, primarily the devastating effects of bipolar disorder. I don’t know whether the author has known of someone with the condition, but he certainly seems to know a lot about what it is like to live with (or to support someone living with) the disorder. In addition, he tackles the issues of abuse (physical and emotional) as well as coming out, family acceptance, and even death.
This was one of those book that grew on me slowly. At the beginning I was like, “Geez, this guy is beating himself up.” That continued for a while, and little moments of that insecurity and self-deprecation showed up right until the final stretch. There were certain platitudes about life that occurred throughout as well. Things like making one’s own happiness, or realizing that the right choice can often be the harder choice to make. In these moments, I kind of felt like the story took an aside, and we got a little speech in the form of Gabe’s internal thinking. I would have preferred those platitudes to have been woven into the action as part of the story as opposed to being presented as ideals through reflective thinking. It fell adjacent to the category of telling instead of showing, but never quite crossed the line. Ultimately, the story was at the center.
The sex was more emotional than physical, although there was one scene that was incredibly kinky and hot. But the sex, like everything else in the book, evolved in a natural way, paced in a manner that suggests balance with other aspects of the relationship, as well as maintaining focus on other aspects of their lives as well (work, family, and such).
So, in recommending the book, I found that it was more of a slow-paced evolution as opposed to a roller-coaster of action. If that’s the kind of book you like to read, then you would definitely enjoy this book.
You can buy Happily Ever After Isn’t Easy here: