Author ~ N.R. Walker
Published ~ 21st April 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Learning to be in a committed relationship has been easy for Spencer. In fact, too easy. Andrew has fit into his life seamlessly. Spencer’s let go of his insecurities and hang-ups, and he and Andrew are enjoying where things are headed.
For the first time in years, Spencer’s life is unbelievably perfect.
Andrew overthinks everything. So when Spencer gets a phone call from Australia, he’s certain Spencer will push him away.
But instead of driving them apart, maybe it will solidify what they already have. Maybe Spencer will depend on Andrew more than ever. Maybe the Spencer Cohen story will come full circle, and maybe, just maybe, Spencer will have the happily ever after he never thought possible.
Gentle and Profoundly Moving
One of the things I like best about N. R. Walker is this talented Australian writer’s tendency to surprise the reader. Whether it’s a four-book series about the red dirt of Northern Australia, the open-ended vampire series that pretty much redefined the genre, or her most recent, the story of a man who earns his living posing as his clients’ boyfriend, each one is a radical departure from the previous. Only Ms. Walker’s imagination is common to all. Well, her imagination and her uncanny ability to express the love between men, a love that’s innocent, caring, born of friendship and long-enduring. In fact, in the best parts of her books, nothing much happens – at least nothing overt or dramatic. She is a genius at presenting a profound and evocative love, treating lust as an act of companionship and commitment, declaring affection and passion with a glance or a sigh.
So why, even when little is happening, are the books so moving? Because they are so authentic. Whether the character is a young rancher on a spread so large it takes a helicopter to traverse it, a born-again vampire gifted with unimaginable powers, or a young man who fakes being someone’s boyfriend in order to help them repair or move on from a broken relationship, no matter how outrageous or over-the-top the character is, their emotions, affections, needs and growth are as real as they can be. The characters just resonate, humming with the electricity of the love that informs and drives every thought and action. This is Ms. Walker’s true gift, her ability to transcend the limits of the written word and the mundane challenges of everyday life to elevate her characters to a plane on which they thrive and grow before the reader’s eyes, in which they become each other’s home, hearth, strength and peace. And she does it without telling, but rather by showing it through a fleeting smile, the toss of a head, and those unspoken communications that only lovers share.
This is the third (and probably final) book in the “Spencer Cohen” series. This installment focuses on Spencer, his new boyfriend, Andrew, and the family they’re building - even if they’re not aware that’s what they’re doing. The irony is sublime – Spencer was hired to help the gorgeous Andrew get his boyfriend back, and ends up becoming his replacement. It’s Kismet, of course. The two were meant to be together and they probably, ultimately, had no choice in the matter. The first two books in the “Spencer Cohen” series were about the young men meeting and falling in love. This one is about family. Andrew’s family is absolutely wonderful - wealthy, famous, accepting, caring, even advocates for homeless and abused gay kids. Spencer is not so lucky. We know little about his family in Australia except that they cast him out when he came out to them and, in a terrible act of cruelty, sent his baby brother to L. A. to serve Spencer with a cease-and-desist order, ordering him to stay away from any and all members of his former family, and disowning him from any property, inheritance or even civil discourse.
One of the reasons Spencer had created a career in which he worked on other people’s relationships, was to keep his distance from any kind of real (and hence potentially painful) emotional involvements of his own. His parents had taught him a particularly harsh lesson. But despite his best attempts to avoid entanglements, he has grown close to the denizens of the tattoo parlor he lives above and the insane “stylist-to-the-stars” he occasionally assists. And then, of course, there’s Andrew. Andrew stormed Spencer’s gates with no weapons other than his sincerity, his kindness, his body (surprisingly hot for a nerd who works in cartoon animation), and their shared passion for music. By the time we get to book III, Spencer’s a goner, totally head-over-heels but unable to say the “L” word, though he expresses it a hundred times a day in a touch, a look or a smile.
A terrible tragedy down home lures the couple to Spencer’s native Australia, where we learn the details of Spencer’s horrendous family and the pain his parents inflicted on their children. The author avoids any facile resolution of the family drama, but seeing Spencer and whence he came explains and illustrates why Spencer had become so skeptical of love – until Andrew showed him that love could be a source of joy and peace, rather than fear and pain.
This is N. R. Walker at her best, painting her characters in the rich colors of fulfillment and commitment, moving the reader along with the characters as they subtly grow through pain to happiness. And this is also, apparently, the last book in the “Spencer” series. It’s very rare for a series to continue on after an epilogue – there’s something very final about an epilogue. Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these characters make appearances in other forms. The secondary characters are just too rich, too nuanced, too real, to walk away from with their stories untold.
If you’re looking for an evocative book about love and family, a beautifully-written series whose books read like the chapters of a single seamless story that will move you, heart and soul, “Spencer Cohen” is it. It is the essence of N. R. Walker distilled down to just the love and passion. It is not to be missed.