Olumide Olusegun-Keynes (Olu only to his closest people) is a depressive cynic who tends to run from his troubles. At the outset of this book, his major trouble is having recently been forcibly outed and blackmailed by an ex-lover. To get away from his friends and family and their concern, he flees to a small town farm, intending to help with the local elderflower harvest as a sort of “vacation.” Griffin Everett is the manager of said small town farm where the harvest is taking place. Griff is a loner and isolated from his town by default, not by choice, as the community considers him odd and stupid and gleefully remembers his family’s past scandals.
This read started slow for me - for a chapter or two I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into it - but it just blossoms beautifully once the two men are in close proximity and by the end I pretty much had tears streaming from my eyes. I’ve seen the plot described as enemies-to-lovers, but I’d characterize it more as a slow burn with initial fighting of lust. Both Griff and Olu have good people in their corner, but nonetheless feel completely alone in the world in a way that felt very real and familiar to me. Olu uses a slick, social exterior to protect himself, while Griff walls himself off behind his bulk and his silence, but ultimately their cores vibe very well together - making the romance believable and touching.
I especially loved that in this “small town romance” the small town was, uh, not ideal. There were a few nice people there, but there was also gossip and grudges and mean ostracizing and it was not a great place for either Olu or Griff in the end. Often in romance novels small towns are a place of healing, family, and welcome for MCs—painted as superior in every way to the soulless city. That is not necessarily a true experience for many queer people and I loved that this book lived in that experience.
Overall, a wonderful, tender read about two prickly, difficult men finding each other. I loved it and highly recommend!
Content notes for characters dealing with depression and anxiety (with some minor on-page panic attacks) and references to suicide.