Review: September (Pride and Joy #1) by Robert Winter

David James is smart, successful, handsome… and alone. After the death of his lover, Kyle, from cancer, he buried himself in his law practice and the gym. At forty-eight, he is haunted by his memories and walled off from the world. When David injures himself working out, he’s assigned to Brandon Smith for physical therapy. The vibrant young therapist is attracted to David and realizes he needs a hand to get back into dating. What begins as a practice coffee date escalates to friendship, passion, and maybe something more, as they navigate a new relationship in Washington, DC, and the gay mecca of Provincetown.

But David remains trapped behind the barrier of fear and guilt. Will he remain loyal to Kyle’s memory if he moves on? Can he and Brandon manage a twenty-two-year age gap? Brandon thinks he understands David’s concerns, and for him, the answer to those questions is yes. He wants to be with David, and he believes he can overcome David’s barriers. But Brandon fails to account for the world’s reaction to a handsome young man attached to an older, wealthy lover. David’s memories, Brandon’s pride, and an unexpected tragedy might cost them something very special.

Auspicious Debut

It took me a long time to understand the title of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice because I thought both Darcy and Elizabeth were prideful. It wasn't until later that I understood the prejudices are societal. I'm not sure if the author intended September as a modern day reimagining of that classic but I couldn't help noticing the similarities.

David and Brandon each struggle with their pride when faced with those same societal prejudices Austen used. David is significantly older and established in his career as an attorney. He is well off and a generous soul. Money largely means he can help out his loved ones, but the thought of others believing him to be Brandon's sugar daddy is more than he can bear so he keeps telling himself that their relationship has an expiration date. Because Brandon couldn't possibly be interested in and/or attracted to a man 22 yrs his senior.

Brandon is effervescent, an audacious flirt, gregarious and struggling to make ends meet as a physical therapist. He'd rather gargle broken glass than take a hand out though. He may be broke but he's got enough to have a life that he's satisfied with at the moment. He has dreams of owning his own clinic some day, but he wants to earn it for himself. 

There may be a significant age difference between them and echoes of a deceased beloved lover and a truckload of pride between the two of them, but their chemistry is off the charts. Every time they're together I could almost hear the crackling between them. I'm surprised my poor kindle didn't combust on me while reading the sex scenes. I honestly think it might even be illegal for a reader to be as wound up as I got. When I say they are hot like burning... something was burning alright. Mostly me.

When they get out of their own heads, let their guards down and let go of their insecurities they have fun together; they talk and have meaningful conversations. They have differences and commonalities but more than anything else they connect. I don't think I've ever connected as quickly with two MCs as I did David and Brandon. They're just so... real. Everything about their story and characterizations were relatable and I invested almost immediately.

I have a feeling people will cite the tedium of daily life contained in this narrative and they may have a point. I felt like I really and truly got to know both of them through all those conversations and banalities. Being inside both of their heads and seeing the other person through their eyes added depth and emotionality. Some may say that Brandon seems much older and wiser than his 26 yrs but he's been through a lot. The tread is worn on those tires. Plus, he's from Texas (and read authentically Texan) so... maybe I'm biased. Others might say that the back and forth between them was excessive and dramatic and they may have a point too, but in my experience the fundamentals that make up a person are not easily altered and definitely not over the course of a few weeks. Obviously, I noticed these things too otherwise I wouldn't be mentioning them, but the simple truth is this book consumed me for two days. Every free moment I had was spent glued to my kindle, so I can only deduct a half heart because I loved this story from start to finish in spite or maybe because of these "flaws".

Winter's writing style is straightforward. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, but three things stood out-it's clear he gets romance, character development and dialogue. Both of these characters are fully realized. They communicate their feelings in realistic ways and each of their nuances were captured superbly. Neither are reluctant to tell the other know how attracted they are to the other and as their relationship evolves neither have any qualms about letting the other know how strong their feelings are. It was a delight to read two men who are so honest with not only each other but themselves.

The secondary characters all played their roles well. Some of their so called friends are vile. With friends like that who needs enemies? Others are gold. Pure gold. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed when I read the preview of the next book and discovered it wasn't going to be about Colin, but I will send good thoughts that he will find someone worthy of him.

Lastly, I fully expected my face to leak while reading September and there were a couple of lump in the throat moments, but it's not a weep reaping book, or it wasn't to me. Sure David and Brandon have their ups and downs, their joys and miseries but that's life. Life's messy and ugly sometimes but it's also wonderful and fun and uplifting and all of that was captured. Each of these men have to find the courage to reach out and hold on to what makes life beautiful and meaningful for them and that's each other. When it comes right down to it, after boiling off all the detritus that's what September is about-two men finding the courage to overcome their pride, finding and holding onto love despite other people's prejudices. I think that's something everyone can at least partially identify with and what makes this trope quintessentially classic.

Recommend to all MM romance fans.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Find out more on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

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