The Bench by Jess K. Hardy

The Bench by Jess K. Hardy
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Public defender James has been in self-imposed dating jail since his divorce, but Noah, the gorgeous dad he met at the playground, has him considering parole. Their kids are best friends, they have a lot in common, and they’re both single. It’s almost too perfect, except for one tiny detail: Noah is straight.

City planner Noah’s terrible year started when his wife left him for their twenty-year-old neighbor. Ever since he met James though, things have been looking up. James is smart and kind and now Noah—whose only romantic experience with men was a brain-scrambling spin-the-bottle kiss in high-school—is utterly confused because he can’t stop thinking about him.

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James and Noah have similarly-aged children which they share custody of with their respective ex’s. Their friendship formed over time at their local park bench while they each watched their kids play. James has a crush on Noah, but since Noah is the first friend James has made since he came out of his depression after his break-up with his husband he’s loathe to rock the boat, particularly since Noah is straight. Each man holds the friendship dear, but what happens as things slowly start to change between them?

I adored this modern and realistic short story. Both Noah and James were vibrant and layered characters who were more than just two single men with kids on the prowl. I loved how they complimented each other – Noah so calm while James could be so fearful and nervous about his child’s safety, or how James is so self-assured and knows himself inside out, but Noah is still trying to learn about himself and find his niche. The two men were far from polar opposites, they had plenty of similar characteristics, but they just seemed to mesh and work so well together as a team – to cover each other in so many respects.

I also really enjoyed how the pace of the story and romance was slow enough to be believable but fast enough to not drag. James and Noah had been meeting at the park for a number of months – so much of that “getting to know you” initial phase was completed and didn’t need to bog down the story. But each man was only really starting to come to grips with the depth and strength of their feelings for the other so I felt the story was really balance and just the right sort of pace for me.

This story was equal parts humorous, sexy and uplifting – I adored watching Noah try to grapple with his sexual identity, I loved watching James learn to trust and conquer his fear and grow strong in himself and best of all I was totally in love with the solid, romantic and sexual relationship Noah and James began to forge together through their friendship, support and shared experiences raising their children and trying to piece their lives together.

I found this to be a delightful story and one I will totally relish reading many times again in the future.

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