Trusting Love by Mari Evans

From Dreamspinner:22745446

Laurie Stallon isn’t like other high schoolers. After suffering years of abuse at his father’s hands, he now lives in a foster care facility and finds solace volunteering at the local animal shelter. Laurie’s had to grow up fast, and even though his eighteenth birthday is still weeks away, he’s more adult than most adults he knows. When he meets Dr. Sam Davies, the new shelter veterinarian, the attraction is instant. They become friends at work, but Laurie knows Sam will never go for someone like him. No matter how Laurie tries to prove his maturity to Sam, Sam continues to reject him as too young.

Needing a distraction, Laurie goes out dancing for his birthday and finds his life in danger yet again. When Sam is called to the hospital, he realizes Laurie needs someone to care for him. Sam takes him home, and they slowly build a relationship. But more than their age difference works against them. Facing the disapproval of friends and the scars from Laurie’s past, they’ll need to put all their trust in love for a chance at a future together.

Kimi’s thoughts:

This book was one of those that you had to look deeper into the thoughts and actions of the characters or miss a lot of the subtext. On the surface, Laurie is at turns annoying, whiny, and a bit of brat. Sam is 27 to Laurie’s 18, and boy, does he feel it when this idea of Laurie surfaces. he gets annoyed, angry, and confuses his role as lover and protector with that of…ooops…an almost parental figure.  These are just that though, surface impressions quickly absorbed if you simply read the text and move on. Taking the time to mull over the scenes, I actually got a different picture.

Laurie is living in a shelter of sorts. He’s not had great personal experience with parental figures and once free of his own, has more or less stood on his own two feet. He works, pays his bills, buys his own clothes, does all the things that he thinks marks a responsible adult. He’s also caring, loving his friends and the animal he helps care for with an open sincerity. What he doesn’t have is a true understanding of how life actually works. He thinks he does, and his overprotective personal cheerleader friends aren’t much help in that regard as they are also young and wearing somewhat rose tinted glasses.

Laurie is unprepared for what he finds when he does take those first steps out into the real world of adults. The dangers one can face clubbing, the give and take of a healthy adult relationship, and even facing the truth of how one’s friends unintentionally obstruct your life are all lessons he ends up learning in short order. Up until meeting Sam and becoming involved with him, he’d managed to cover his insecurities and naivety with his quick wits and a show of snark. That is a shield that can only cover so much though, and Sam can see right through it. Sadly, Laurie’s own ego and his friends’ sense of overprotectiveness can’t either and they feed into each other.

I really felt for Sam when Laurie’s friends do their mental dance of vindication and sweep Laurie back to themselves and feed Laurie’s anger with their whispers. Sam and Laurie deserved better than that; Sam is no predator and Laurie deserves better than to be coddled as a victim and hoarded as the friend they don’t want to share. Ultimately, Sam has to face the precise nature of the mental trigger he tripped in Laurie to cause the reaction that started their big fight. Laurie has to face the fact that only he himself knows what he wants and needs and that his friends are not in his and Sam’s relationship and in fact are making well intentioned paving stones for his personal road to relationship hell. He has to face the fact that being an adult is not just about reaching a magic number of years or going through the motions of paying bills and what not, but about width and breadth of life experience in the wider world. It’s about not hiding and owning up to personal mistakes and seeing things from the other side. It’s about truly understanding trust and giving it.

It makes for a sweet romance filled with snark that’s also a tell of two men coming of age. Laurie, who takes his unsheltered first steps out into the real world and Sam who steps into the world of long term romantic relationships.  It’s not a perfect read, but this is the author’s debut novel and it is quite an enjoyable one, even if I did at times want to give Laurie and his friends a good shake. The fact that it got me that engaged in the story is a win as is the HEA.

Rating: 4