Single Dads, Book #1
Heat Factor: Warm fuzzies
Character Chemistry: soothingly domestic
Plot: Gay single dad unexpectedly finds love
Overall: Low-stakes drama, sweet romance
Ash and Sean made me want to curl up on a sofa and snuggle.
Ash is a single dad with a newborn daughter. When I read the synopsis of this book, I thought his ex left him while they were expecting the baby, but apparently the ex left before they really got started, so Ash went into parenthood knowing that was what he wanted and not depending on another man to be doing it with him. He’s super into being Mia’s dad.
Sean is an ER doctor, and he bought the house next door to Ash with his two best friends, Leo (a cop) and Eric (a firefighter). (Oh la la!) Sean meets Ash under some inauspicious circumstances–specifically Eric getting wasted after a really bad fire and trying to get into the wrong house right after Ash got Mia to bed. If you’ve never had a baby, you might not understand how rage-inducing it can be when you want your child to be sleeping and some jerk wakes said baby.
The neighbors patch things up and become friends, but Sean is interested in being way more than friends, and he actively pursues Ash. For his part, Ash is in this very normal, though slightly hyperbolized, high anxiety new parent state. I can only imagine it’s worse if you don’t have a partner to talk you down from anxiety-induced “I’m going to ruin my child forever” meltdowns. But Ash’s new parent worries were nostalgic for me, and made him lovable and relatable. Sean supports Ash and helps him through his – erm, growth periods – while cooking and cleaning and basically being the perfect partner. They both start to enjoy the little things that represent domestic bliss – Mia’s bedtime routine, drinking coffee in the sunroom, a well-cooked dinner, family walks in the afternoon.
At the same time Ash is coming to terms with being a new father (and wanting to get it right because you have to do it right or I’m pretty sure it’s the end of the world), he’s coming to terms with his past. He has a lot of baggage. Way more than Sean has. Not only was his ex pretty terrible, but his mother rejected him because her church taught that being gay was a choice, and a bad one at that. It’s not unusual for this to be the situation of at least one protagonist in a m/m story. This storyline bothered me a little bit because Ash’s twin sister forced him to talk to his estranged mother for the sake of the baby. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’d be keeping my children away from manipulative or other toxic influences that they are too young to understand how to deal with. So the whole, “You need to patch things up with Mom because you’re a dad now and it’s your responsibility to do so” was pretty revolting and did not deal well with respecting Ash’s boundaries or feelings. That said, Scott did a pretty good job of demonstrating that Ash’s mother had made changes so it was reasonable that they were able to repair the relationship. But honestly, that almost made it worse for me because it validates the idea of people who think they know better than you interfering in your life, overriding your wishes, doing things that make you uncomfortable.
The book consists of a lot of these emotional blips that Ash has to work though. But it’s not a drama-driven book. Its plot mirrors a life journey more than follows a single clear conflict. It is nothing sweeping and over-the-top. It’s pure comfort food. And it is so satisfying.
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