Published by Samhain Publishing Genres: Contemporary, Gay
Reviewed by Cassie
He can find a use for his lover’s hands...except when he needs help the most. Kellen is short on cash—at least until his first novel starts to sell—but he has plenty of friends. None of them, unfortunately, share his love of books. For that he turns to IM chats with Mike from his online book group. Though he manages to coax the shy, socially inept pathologist into a real-time meeting, Kellen has no intention of letting his new friend become more than a casual lover. Shaky finances and ailing mother aside, self-sufficiency is Kellen’s prime directive. Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order—short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk of his life, and he wonders if they’ll get more body parts together than just their faces. First meeting leads to first date—first everything for Mike—and soon Kellen’s faced with breaking his just-friends-with-benefits rule. Yet as his elderly mother wanders deeper into senility, Kellen wonders if it’s better to lean on Mike rather than fall. Warning: Contains an emotional love story between a too-proud-for-his-own-good writer with allergy to the L-word, and a painfully shy scientist who takes his sisters’ nagging to “get out there” literally. Oh, and an adorable stray cat.
Author Kellen loves chatting online about books, and no one is more interesting to chat with than his online buddy, Mike. He decides a face-to-face meeting would be a great idea. He even manages to talk shy Mike into it. Once he meets Mike, he finds the man surprisingly attractive, but with the financial and family problems he’s dealing with, he doesn’t want anything more than a casual relationship.
Mike is nerdy, painfully shy, and a virgin. He’s attracted to Kellen right away, enough that he risks a date, and later, more. He begins to fall for Kellen, but Kellen insists they’re really just friends.
When Kellen’s world begins to crash in on itself, his first instinct is to run. He wants to deal with everything himself. Will he figure out how much he needs Mike by his side before it’s too late?
Sole Support is a sweet, heartfelt romance featuring a player and a shy guy, but somehow neither of them fall too far into stereotypes. Kellen may be a player, but he’s honest about it. He has a lot on his plate, and he doesn’t want to deal with a relationship. His writing career isn’t taking off fast enough, his mother’s health is going downhill fast, and he grew up seeing the devastation his mother felt after his father died. Keeping things casual is his way of preventing himself from being hurt the way his mother was. Mike is the opposite of Kellen in many ways. He’s so shy that connecting to people is agonizingly difficult. He lives with his sister and brother-in-law. His only real outlet is online chats with people who share his taste in books. He can hardly believe Kellen is interested in him, and he’s always afraid of making mistakes.
Opposites attract, but when you throw in Mike’s shyness and Kellen’s lack of communication, things get rocky. Kellen’s insistence on handling everything on his own makes him push Mike away, no matter how much he would like to lean on him instead. While Mike tries to keep his own feelings from developing into love, he falls for Kellen anyway. With Kellen’s rules in place, however, there’s no future for them. Kellen has to decide if his rules about relationships, and his secrets, are more important than what he could have with Mike.
Fortunately, Kaje Harper manages to write the communication problems between Mike and Kellen in such a way that they don’t feel like the silly “big misunderstanding” type so common to romance. Kellen also could have come across as a real jerk, given the way he treats Mike, but somehow he was likeable. Kellen has real issues he has to figure out how to deal with, and I could really sympathize with his problems with his mother. Mike helps as best he can, but he’s got his own insecurity and inexperience to deal with—and on top of that, he doesn’t know most of what’s going on with Kellen at first. It was great to see Kellen begin to open up and understand he didn’t have to do everything alone, and to watch Mike blossom under Kellen’s care. I truly wanted both men to be happy. The fact that they were both older (thirties and forties) and flawed in their own ways physically was a nice touch after so many stories featuring impossibly handsome twenty-somethings. Ms. Harper’s fans will not be disappointed with Sole Support, and anyone new to her work will find a lot to love here as well, just as I did.