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Publisher's Summary

After 10 years away from home, bad boy caterer Gideon Marks has a lot to prove. Getting the holiday catering job at his childhood synagogue is the first step in demonstrating to everyone he didn't turn out to be the failure they predicted. What he doesn't count on is Rabbi Jonah Fine, his high school nemesis and secret crush, stirring up old feelings Gideon thought long gone and secrets he's buried deep for years. An unexpectedly passionate encounter shocks Gideon, but he pushes Jonah away, convinced he isn't good enough to be in a relationship and would never be accepted by Jonah's father. But Jonah hangs tough - he won't allow Gideon to hide or run away from life again. And when it comes to love, Gideon learns the most important lessons aren't always taught in school.

©2016 Felice Stevens (P)2017 Felice Stevens

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  • Evie22
  • San Antonio, TX
  • 01-29-18

Not worth it, even as part of the Romance Package

I heard recently that Derrick McClain would be narrating one of Rhys Ford's upcoming books, so I searched him out specifically to get a feel for his style. (I'm a huge fan of Greg Tremblay/Boudreaux and love it when he & Rhys collaborate, but I can understand why it's unrealistic & not preferable to have him ALWAYS perform her books) When I saw 'Learning to Love' as part of the Romance Package, I figured it was a good opportunity to check Derrick out. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Granted, I didn't finish the book, but for good reason. The story & the characters were just ridiculous and the narration was annoying.

Gideon has come back home after 10 years to prove his worth and that he has made something of himself. One of the very first things he does is to throw a temper tantrum and yell childishly at an elderly woman at the synagogue. It's later revealed that he has a learning disability (if this wasn't already ascertained from the backwards 'R' in the title), but his 'coping mechanism' seems to be lashing out at people and storming off like a child. Way to show everyone how much you've grown up.

In comparison, Jonah seemed a likable enough character. He was certainly more level-headed and behaved somewhat like an actual adult, but some of his actions (specifically his interactions with Gideon) were still extremely unrealistic. I can appreciate someone being a bit forward and going for what they want as much as the next person, but I found it rather upsetting that after having not seen each other in 10 years and having no past intimate relationship with each other, Jonah (who is a rabbi, btw!) would just show up banging on Gideon's door at 7am and, with no declarations of feelings or anything, just unzip & whip it out. Really?!?

I was SO over this story after only the first few of chapters, but kept listening just to get a feel for Derrick's narration. I don't know if it was because he also felt the juvenile nature of Gideon in general, but the narration quickly grated on my nerves. Every sentence ended with an upswing or dramatic push of air that just made everything sound sarcastic or pouty. It made me think of having a conversation with a teenager going through that 'know-it-all' stage of constant eye-rolling and "duh!" attitude. Try as I might, after just another chapter or two, I couldn't handle it anymore. With neither story nor narration to make it worth my time, I had to throw in the towel.

Always one to give someone at least a second chance, I've moved on to another book narrated by Derrick. Only 2 chapters into A Case for Christmas by Josh Lanyon (also part of the Romance Package and an author I already have an established history of enjoying) and the narration is MUCH better. This gives me hope for Rhys' upcoming release. I will give Felice Stevens another shot, as well, but I sincerely hope the characters and story of her next book that I read (listen to) have more depth. When it comes to M/M romance, I expect men, not petulant teenagers.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Bring Out the Best

Gideon is strong and has overcome much in his life. He really feels the need to prove himself. He has lots of ideas of what people think of him. Jonah in his own way is coming to terms with the direction of his life. I love how they bring out the best in each other.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Accepting the past and moving into the future

Gideon Marks left Brooklyn 10 years ago. He has fought his way back to NY, building a successful catering company. He is out to prove that everyone was wrong about him.

Rightly or not, he has a huge chip on his shoulder. That anger extends to Jonah Fine. Gideon’s recollections of their teenage years was that Jonah was perfect and Gideon was the screw-up. To him, leaving town was a no-brainer. Plus, perfect Jonah was heading off to Boston for law school. Tired of being viewed as a failure, Gideon ran.

Upon his return, he caters a small event at his old synagogue. Not only does he find the same Rabbi Fine, but now there is a younger Rabbi Fine. Jonah is working through the process of replacing his father as the head of the congregation, but his appearance is a shock to Gideon, who had convinced himself Jonah was long gone.

But Jonah as a rabbi?

A gay rabbi?

Gideon is forced to re-examine his entire set of beliefs. It turns out Jonah has always had feelings for Gideon and is willing to do whatever it takes to prove it. Over and over, Jonah supports Gideon in his goals. In turn, when Jonah needs help, Gideon is there. So happily ever after, right?

Of course not. There has to be a dark moment. Whether Gideon overreacted to Jonah’s well-intentioned interference in his life or not is debatable, but it did solidify the relationship between the two men when they did reunite.

Gideon has to face his past, though, and Jonah is there to support him with his issue. In turn, Gideon encourages Jonah to take his rightful place. When Gideon opens up his business to help others, his world begins to expand. Helping others brings extra meaning to both his life and his relationship with Jonah.

My biggest issue with the book is Gideon. The book is told entirely from his point-of-view. Sometimes, he comes across as whiny, and without Jonah’s point-of-view, it felt unbalanced. By the end of the book, though, I felt Gideon had grown as a character and I liked him a lot more.

Derrick McClain is a great narrator. He is consistent and reliable, which might sound boring, but is actually wonderful. When he narrates, I know it will be a quality performance.

It was a nice book. I’m a huge Felice Stevens fan, so this was enjoyable. I’m really happy that the next few books in the series are available. Book 3, “All or Nothing” is now out on audio and I’m excited. I can’t wait to hear Rico and Adam’s story.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Hard Headed Gideon

Unfortunately this was just an okay read/audio for me. If I can't like one of the main characters in a book it's usually a bust for me. Gideon was just to much for me, the issues I had with him were:
He carried around a huge chip on shoulder.
When something wasn't going his way he blew up and never gave people a chance to explain themselves.
Just overall acted like he was the only person in the world to have a shitty childhood.
My issue with Jonah was he let himself be a door mat for Gideon.
Normally I enjoy Felice Stevens books but this one not so much. :-(

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely phenomenal book

When you need a pick me up, Felice Stevens is always a way to go. This story was sweet, emotional, and sexy. The narrator did an amazing job really pulling you into the story.

My heart sincerely ached for Gideon and all the hardships he has and still is carrying. Battling dyslexia for his whole life, pushing away everyone because he is ashamed.

Jonah cannot believe it when he sees Gideon catering the synagogue event. He tries to get Gideon's attention. Gideon does everything in his power to break down his walls until he let's him in

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I loved the book, but the audiobook blew me away!

Gideon is back home for the holidays, intent on making his catering business a success and show everyone, especially Jonah Fine, his high school crush, that he could make it despite what they all thought of him. Jonah seems really interested in him now that he's back, but Gideon has a secret that makes him push the young Rabbi away. Jonah is not willing to be pushed away, though.

Jonah was the stuff dreams are made of, so sweet and so determined to make things work, despite Gideon pushing him away. And Gideon was just awesome! I just wanted to cuddle him at times, he had such a hard life and it was difficult for him to get to the place he is now, but I loved his drive to make his business the best he could, despite his limitations. Jonah and Gideon together were smoking hot, too! I adored that we got to see more of them as a couple this time.

I've read this story several times and it's in fact one of my favorite Felice Stevens' books. There's just something about Gideon and Jonah that I can't get enough of. Added to that, I'm a huge Derrick McClain fan, so of course I was going to jump at the chance of listening to one of my favorite books narrated by one of my favorite narrators and you know what? I was blown away by Mr. McClain's performance. He captured Gideon's essence perfectly, bringing to his narration all the intensity and emotion that his character required. I adore Jonah, too, who was Gideon's perfect counterpart, more serene, understanding and patient, but also showing the love he felt for Gideon. I loved the other characters' voices, as well, they were all pretty distinguishable. Mr. McClain's voice is nice and smooth, without going overboard, and he brought Gideon and Jonah to life for me. While I love the book to pieces, I was thoroughly enchanted by the audiobook. Highly recommendable!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Heartwarming and sexy

4.5 Stars!
Narrator: 4 Stars
Story: 4.5 Stars
Length: 5 hours, 51 min.


So since Felice Stevens popped my audio book cherry I though it fitting to dive right into another one. Though this was a different narrator I still enjoyed it just as much. Derrick McClain has a deep yet smooth voice and that in and of itself had me enjoying just listening to it but he also did a great job at delivering and differentiating the characters. You were able to hear the way he captured the emotion and vulnerability in the characters.

The story itself was heartwarming and sexy. Felice Stevens is without a doubt becoming one of my favorite MM authors because her stories as are always so emotional, beautiful, sexy and touching in some way. I absolutely love her characters and Gideon and Jonah are now added to that list. Gideon no matter his struggles was determined to make something of himself but still has those deep rooted insecurities. Then there's Jonah, who has his own things going on, but is so focused and dedicated to proving to Gideon that he is worthy. Gideon and Jonah were absolutely wonderful and so damn sexy together. That Jonah....whew! he's a little persistent bossy thing that will get you a little hot and bothered, if you know what I mean!! :)

Overall, totally enjoyed it and recommend it. I most likely will pick up the ebook version and read it to grasp more on the emotional side of the story. I so want to give this 5 stars but maybe because I'm still an audio book "virgin" it's hard for me to tap into all the emotions from the story as there were certainly moments in this story where I should have felt more but couldn't really tap into it. But, Felice Stevens as always gives you an amazing story and I certainly won't shy away from this narrator in the future.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A solid 4 stars for Learning to Love!

One thing I've found I can count on from Felice Stevens--when I pick up one of her books, I know I'm going to get a good, solid story with romance, heat, a bit of drama, and my #1 must have-a happy ending. Every part of this is true for Learning to Love, even if the "L" word is said a bit too early in the story for my liking.

As for me, I'm going to give you the "L" word now--as in I loved both Gideon and Jonah. Gideon is a character that every reader will be proud of for what he's achieved given the adversity he's faced in his life. And Jonah is a man who is strong, compassionate and thoroughly enamored with Gideon-and has been for years. They both perceived each other differently back in high school than what their realities truly were, making Gideon's slightly harsh reaction to Jonah understandable once we find out his reasoning...even if we don't agree with that reaction ten years later.

The two of them together are combustible and everything between them is quite intense. The "L" word pops out very early on which felt a bit rushed to me, but Gideon and Jonah both show us again and again throughout the entire story that it is eventually warranted. I really liked how the two of them supported each other, and by the time I was done reading I couldn't imagine them ever not ending up with each other.

There's a couple of spots with some drama to keep you on your toes. I do think Gideon's reaction to something Jonah does for him is a bit extreme, though I can understand why Gideon would be upset. The other bit of drama on Jonah's end dealing with the temple doesn't quite get all answered in this story, or at least not enough for me to feel like we got all the answers.

A quick aside here for a warning...be sure to keep some hearty snacks on hand while you read. There's plenty of simply scrumptious food going on in the book since Gideon is a caterer with his own storefront-after reading I had to go dig out my own recipe box for my mom's kugel recipe, and I lucked out while reading that my hubby just happened to make brisket for us, otherwise I'd be pulling out that recipe too LOL.

Overall, this is another great story, leaving me happy and satisfied once I was finished reading (oh, and a bit hot and bothered because whoo boy...Gideon and Jonah can really amp up the steam factor!). Learning to Love was a very solid 4-star read for me, and I definitely recommend it to M/M romance fans 18+ (for adult language and that oh-so-scorchingly hot M/M sexual content). I really hope we get a story for Gideon's best friend Rico too-I found him to be sweet, supportive and an all-around wonderful character.

The narration: Derrick McClain delivers a solid performance with consistent character voices and perfect pacing. He really brought across Gideon's frustration and upset of emotions quite well. I especially liked Jonah's voice, it had a calming effect on me as opposed to Gideon's--so they balanced each other out. 4 stars for the narration!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kp
  • 08-02-17

A Beautiful Story!

If you could sum up Learning to Love in three words, what would they be?

Learning to Love is a story about acceptance. Of yourself, of others. Gideon has come so far in his life but still feels not good enough due to his learning disability. Jonah has always admired Gideon but never let him know. When these two reconnect they have to get to know each other all over again. This gives them a second chance at love. This story is told so beautifully. I fell in love with Gideon and loved seeing him blossom. Jonah is a wonderful partner and loving person. This is one of my all time favorite books and I have reread it countless times. Now I got to experience it new all over again through the audibook!

What does Derrick McClain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Derrick McClain has brought two of my favorite characters to life. He did an amazing job of voicing Gideon's vulnerability and fears. He brought to life Jonah's strength, compassion and love. This is a book I will enjoy listening to again.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

McClain nails it.

Gideon and Jonah have had a special place in my heart since they first appeared in a holiday anthology a few years ago. I was one of the readers clambering for their full length story. Stevens did not disappoint. When I found out it was coming out in audio, with one of my favorite narrators, I was excited but cautious. Expectations and all. However, Derrick McClain nailed the performance. Gideon and Jonah lived up to the voices in my head. I can't give an audiobook higher praise.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Millsy Loves Books
  • 08-29-17

Good story

Where does Learning to Love rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Learning to Love left me with a lot of mixed feelings. Their story was good but at times i wanted to smack Gideon upside the head, he annoyed me some what. Then other times i just wanted to hug him because he was obviously hurt and a little lost and held all this against everyone. Gideon Marks chip on his shoulder left him feeling he had to prove to people that he had made something of his life. After losing his mother and grandmother in a car accident Gideon was raised by his alcoholic, emotionally abusing father. But while trying to prove himself he could never see that the people around him were proud of him.

When Gideon returned to his home town he never expected to find his childhood crush as the new Rabbi; Gideon isn’t ready to deal with Jonah and no matter how much Jonah tries to get close to Gideon, Gideon tries his hardest to push him away. Good thing Jonah isn’t a quitter and he’s determined to have Gideon, the man he’s always loved.

Jonah had a lot of walls to break down with Gideon. As well as his own struggles with taking over from his father. But his love was strong enough for the both of them when Gideon was struggling to except that his feeling were true. I really would have like Jonah's POV i think it really would have help the story more. Mainly due to the fact that like i have said Gideon's behaviour at times grated on me. I would have liked more from Jonah to balance it out. All in all it was an interesting story that ended with a HEA.