Author ~ Brandon Witt
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 18 January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.
Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.
With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.
This is a slow build romance that confronts its serious subject matter head on, without veering into unnecessary dramatics or contrived plots. Kevin and Casper are strangers, dropping the stability of their careers to pursue their complementary dreams within days of meeting. Kevin has dreamed of owning a bridal gown shop since he was a child and pastry chef Casper has been saving to open his own bakery. As if giving everything up to follow your dreams, including having your family invest in that dream isn’t enough pressure, Kevin struggles with severe anxiety and an eating disorder that is compounded by a medical condition. Kevin’s unrelenting drive to succeed is both an advantage and a cross to bear, but he manages to find some calm and balance in Casper’s easy going nature.
As they work together they fall into an easy friendship. Casper sees things in Kevin that nobody else has ever noticed. While Casper isn’t what Kevin considers to be his type, they get along well together and Kevin soon finds an attraction starting to simmer. Casper radiates calm and believes in fate. Where Kevin worries about endless possible problems, Casper finds a way to talk him down and work through realistic ways to confront them if they happen. Casper’s attraction to Kevin is immediate and strong. With so much on the line, he is not looking to mix business with pleasure (besides he believes he is nowhere in Kevin’s league especially after he sees Kevin with his ex-husband), but it’s an uphill battle for him the more the two get to know each other.
Kevin’s struggles are portrayed without unnecessary dramatics. We’re along for the ride as he silently struggles with rising anxiety and trying to control his eating disorder. The stress mounts as Kevin and Casper jump in with both feet to get their dream store up and running and Kevin brings his ex-husband Scott back into his life. Scott is the gorgeous man he believed he could never live up to or be good enough for and the man who cheated on him and divorced him. Scott is single again and seems to truly regret the way he treated Kevin, but Kevin falls back into his old beliefs as the two rekindle their relationship.
The alternating points of view work well in telling the story. Casper’s quiet calm is a good counterpoint to Kevin’s constant worry. There is no on-page sex in the book, but the two men have chemistry and their quiet, intimate moments were quite satisfying. Casper’s ability to really see Kevin and his attempts to convince him that he loves him not for the beauty on the outside, but for the full package – struggles and all – was gorgeous. The secondary characters, mostly Kevin’s family, were well developed. Kevin’s relationship with Casper almost mirrors that of his two moms. With as close as Kevin is to them (he is practically a clone of Renata), I did find it a bit strange that neither of them had previously suggested therapy (he was under the care of a general doctor) or pushed a bit harder on his health, especially Renata who always had something to say about his appearance.
This was my first Brandon Witt read, but it won’t be my last. The story felt real and I found myself very invested in the relationship. I could tell the story was a labor of love for the author even before reading the notes at the end of the book (the character of Kevin is inspired by the author’s best friend, who is also the striking man on the cover of the book) and I think he did a great job tackling the serious issues Kevin faces without providing an easy, love conquers all out and without preaching or playing it for overly dramatic effect.