Review: Bear Among The Books by T.J. Masters

Forty-eight-year-old Ben Thompson is a librarian, a passionate book lover, and a man who embodies the definition of a bear. He’s also lonely after the loss of his long-term partner. Young ex-gymnast Jason Barnes piques his interest, but Ben quickly realizes there’s more to Jason than his good looks. While Jason visits the library almost every day, he never checks out a book.

With gentle persistence, Ben befriends Jason and learns the nineteen-year-old’s tragic secrets. After years of abuse at his father’s hands, Jason was kicked out of his family home for being gay. And despite his apparent love of books, Jason never learned to read. Ben offers to teach him, and the two men bond over their lessons. Ben can’t deny his attraction to Jason, but he wonders if Jason is too young and too handsome to return his interest. With the help of the close-knit library team and Jason’s growing self-confidence, they move beyond the books and into the bedroom, where their own story is just beginning.

I couldn’t imagine life without the printed word. Every book was a powerhouse of knowledge, ideas, characters, and experiences. I had always felt sorry for people who didn’t read and never experienced the joy of getting lost in a well-written story.

One thing this book didn’t lack was an absolute reverence for books. That was wonderful to read about, I’m pretty sure everyone here will appreciate it.

This book surprised me in both good and bad ways. We have Jason, a nineteen year old who has just moved to town to live with his Grandmother after his horrific childhood, which I’ll get to later. Due to his childhood he never did well at school and therefore never learnt how to read, but he has an amazing imagination and loves to explore books even though he can't read them. Here enters Ben. Ben is forty-eight and instantly attracted to Jason but is rather conscious of their age difference so decides to keep things platonic and just help out where he can, in teaching Jason to read and offering him work around the library.

This started really strongly and I was absolutely glued to these two men. I loved the build-up of their friendship and attraction. Both Jason and Ben's insecurities were really well processed and explored. Unfortunately once they got together their relationship development ended and most of the story consisted of changes to the library. The story just lacked any real forward momentum after that and by 60% I found myself skimming through until the end.

I was pleasantly surprised by how soon these two started having sex and the frequency of that sex. Before reading the story I wasn’t sure how their sexual relationship would begin as I thought Ben would be more of a ‘father figure’ to Jason, which didn’t end up being the case. Ben was a stable and constant support for Jason, but there was that underlying attraction from the beginning which made Ben fit the ‘boyfriend’ role better than the ‘father’ role. However the sex name of ‘Big Bear’ was a little weird coming from a nineteen year old… or any age bracket for that matter.


Where this book really felt stilted was with addressing Jason’s abuse. I felt the writing displayed Jason to be very disconnected from his abuse and not in a way that would come from suppressing the pain, he just came across as rather unaffected by it all. Perhaps this is all to do with not having Jason's POV, we just get chunks of dialogue from Jason with no underlying emotion.

Jason was raped by his stepfather for 3 years and was then kicked out of home by his mother when she discovered them in the act and believed Jason had seduced his stepfather. This only ended 8 months ago. He’s had no counselling or psychological help and talks about it freely with Ben, and has no qualms about starting up a sexual relationship… with an older man at that.

Ben is affected by Jason's story and there were a few moments where the emotions displayed were very tender and subtle which was lovely. Those moments made me expect Jason’s abuse to be a more significant issue within the scheme of the book, but it wasn’t. The majority of the book was about the library and Jason's work on it with Ben.

If the whole book was void of emotional depth. The brief mentions of rape and Jason’s ability to get over it quickly would have been fine, but because of those subtle moments that had me feeling something, I expected a higher quality of feeling connected to Jason's recovery.


This was a sweet sweet May/December romance and I would absolutely recommend it if you're looking for something subtle and tender. I think I was left a little disappointed that I didn’t feel more, or that it lacked that ‘comfort’ element that I was expecting with such serious themes.

An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press!

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