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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Love Means…Freedom by Andrew Grey

Love Means…Freedom by Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (203 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Spurned by his father and driven from his home, Stone Hillyard is struggling to find shelter in the Michigan winter when he lucks upon the horse farm run by Geoff Laughton and his partner Eli. They take him in, warm him up, and give him a job working with their No Boundaries therapy riding program.

A drunk driver left Preston Harding unable to walk, and after months of hard work, his therapist recommends Geoff and Eli’s program. But Preston’s anger and arrogance nearly get him kicked out until Stone intercedes on his behalf, despite Preston’s insults. It’s a small act of kindness that helps open Preston’s eyes.

Stone and Preston will support each other as they face their families’ disapproval and fight old secrets. They’ll learn—sometimes the hard way—just how love can mean freedom for them both.

What would you do if you found a young man freezing on your doorstep? The answer for Geoff and Eli is simple: you take him in. Kindness and warmth envelope Laughton Farms and the owners remain firm in their belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.

This is a sweet romance that, while the tender love scenes are slow-roasted hot, could stand on its own without the sex, as a good romance should. Grey’s Farm series centers on acceptance – acceptance of self, of one’s beloved, and the unconditional acceptance of Geoff and Eli’s little family. Lost souls are drawn to them and they, in turn, provide the shelter necessary for self-discovery to begin.

Stone has experienced the worst possible consequences of coming out. Thrown out by his father, abused and used in his travels, his self-worth has suffered a near fatal blow. Every swift movement might be a potential punch in the face. Every question could be the prelude to him being tossed out on his ear again. Preston, while living a more privileged life financially, is in no better condition to accept himself as worthy of someone’s love. His father may not have thrown him out into the snow, but the elder Mr. Harding is no more accepting than Stone’s abusive, alcoholic father is. Hiding behind a façade of bitter arrogance, Preston keeps the world at bay. If he sneers at the world, no one will see how weak and lonely he feels.

The growth of their relationship, in little fits and starts, proceeds at a believable pace and is handled in such a tender, careful way that there are more than a few lump-in-the-throat moments. The writing could use a bit of tightening here and there, peppered with an abundance of ‘noticed’ and ‘watched’ and other words that could have been replaced with stronger choices. There are a few spots where characters are mislabeled, which pulled me out of the story as I tried to figure out what was happening. (e.g. “Preston lifted them off the bed, wrapping them around Preston’s waist.” – which would be interesting but perhaps not physically possible for most people.) But for the most part, the story flows along at a good clip with dialogue that feels natural and descriptions that are often quite lovely.

Mr. Grey has, once again, brought to life compelling characters with whom readers can identify and about whom we can care deeply. This is one of those books best read snuggled up in a cozy, favorite chair while the wind howls outside. The cold of the outside world will slip away and leave the reader with a warm, pleased glow.

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