Relative Best by Pat Henshaw

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Relative Best by Pat Henshaw
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Sometimes love sneaks up when you’re least looking for it….

Zeke Bandy, owner of Bandy’s Finest Hotel in Old Town Stone Acres, California, is too busy for love. Not only does he oversee the operations of the historic hotel and uphold his family’s tradition of offering refuge to strays and runaways, Zeke also sings and plays down-home music two nights a week at the Stonewall Saloon and for occasional celebrations. Then Zeke meets Victor Longbow, the man of his dreams.

Vic isn’t looking for love either. In fact, because of his upbringing in a strict, white foster family, Vic’s not sure he believes in love. He’s in Stone Acres to open a branch office of a national brokerage firm. He’s also hoping to find a vintage photo of what might be his Native American ancestor.

After their paths cross, they become friends, then more. Connected by their experiences as orphans raised by flawed fathers, Zeke and Vic realize that some men must find love, hone it, and create families for themselves.

Zeke is finding that life is good but exhausting. Managing and owning the historic hotel in a small town and moonlighting two nights a week playing the fiddle and banjo he’s trying hard to find time for his love life in amongst all his other commitments. Vic and his brother have come to town – both of them best men in a friend’s upcoming wedding, but Vic is interested in staying. Zeke and Vic are instantly attracted to each other, but life is never that simple.

This is a fun short story that I really enjoyed. Zeke is seemingly perpetually burned out, working hard, incredibly long hours at his hotel and fiddling/playing the banjo both at the local pub and at the wedding of his friends. And this is when there aren’t lost waifs to help or enraged, gun-wielding maniacs to deal with. The blossoming relationship with Vic is the only solace in Zeke’s incredibly full life and it’s this relationship that I feel really sells the story.

I really enjoyed how the plot of the story was based pretty much around Zeke’s managing the hotel and Zeke and Vic getting to know each other. With quite a large cast of interesting, vibrant secondary characters I feel it really gives the feel of a small town where everyone knows everyone and there’s no such thing as secrets or privacy. I was a little surprised at how little explicit sex there was. Indeed aside from a number of very passionate kisses, and a lot of smoldering chemistry the sex was actually behind closed doors. So while Zeke and Vic were in a M/M relationship, it wasn’t strictly – to my mind – an erotic romance as the actual consummation occurred off screen and wasn’t detailed in the story. Readers wanting that erotic, graphic detail mightn’t be satisfied with that aspect of this story, but I found the chemistry, sexual tension and steamy kisses were still quite satisfying for a steamy romance story.

I found this to be a fun, steamy and well paced story and one I think a number of readers can enjoy.

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