Audiobook Review: Learning to Love by Felice Stevens

After ten 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.

Narrated by: Derrick McClain
Listening Length: 5 hours and 51 minutes

Guest Reviewer - Annery

***3.00 for the book, 3.5 for the Audio***

This is my third Felice Stevens read and I’m beginning to sense a pattern. The landscape is authentic and recognizable along with the usual cast of New York characters. In this case some nice Jewish boys from Brooklyn and their friends and family. I like to read about everyday people but this one was just on the ‘underwhelming’ side.

Usually when I do audios I follow along with the print just to ‘see’ the words or even highlight but in this instance I stuck strictly to my ears and the performance by Derrick McClain. I happen to like Derrick very much and once again he didn’t disappoint. There’s a clear distinction between characters and a nice but not over dramatized narration. He even does nice voices for the women in the story. I’m not sure he did any favors to the main MC, Gideon Marks. No fault on Derrick’s part but rather on who Gideon is or how he is written.

Gideon Marks has come home to Brooklyn from a self imposed Florida exile. He wants to make a success of his catering business but he also wants to rub it in the face of those who thought he wouldn’t amount to anything. He particularly wants to impress one Jonah Fine and Jonah is impressed. So what was my problem? Glad you asked. I had a few, though none of them were deal breakers, more like sand in your shoes. Not as bad as pebbles but annoying nonetheless.

The major stumble for me is Gideon himself and when you sort of dislike the main MC everything teeters. He had the standard issue fraught childhood, his mother and beloved grandmother were killed in an accident leaving him with an alcoholic father who was ill equipped to deal with Gideon’s needs which went beyond the usual teenage growing pains. What said needs were/are the reader can figure out pretty soon before being told. It’s very noble of the author to have a character with these issues and having him deal with them, but Gideon is a bit of an insufferable ass and with something like a boulder on his shoulder. For one thing all those nay sayers he’s come home to stare down are mostly in his head and while this attitude is perfectly believable and understandable in a troubled teenager it gets harder to swallow from an almost 30 successful businessman. It annoys me to no end to have people jump to conclusions about the intentions or motivations of others when their main complaint is being unfairly judged. Also when people do nothing but snap at others when they’re being shown nothing but kindness I want to reach in the book and slap them. I wanted to grab Gideon by his curly locks and drag him around a bit and hug him later.

Another hurdle is that though Jonah and Gideon knew each other since they were teenagers I don’t see how they would get hung up on each other. As far as I could tell they only saw each other at temple; they went to different schools and weren’t even friends. So how smitten could they have been to the point where Jonah seems to have been waiting for Gideon for ten years when they never had anything going?

In any case after some back and forth of Jonah being unbelievably patient with Gideon and letting him figure out that he is and always was into Gideon our love birds are living in bliss when we have the ‘out of nowhere’ righteous indignation from Gideon, subsequent stomping out, and some groveling from Jonah and forgiveness from Gideon. Thing is in my book Jonah had nothing to apologize for. Another instance of Gideon being a prickly diva. More stuff happens, Gideon confronts and makes some sort of peace with his past and Jonah solves his non-problems. Good people doing good things. Amen.

The theme here seems to be that your enjoyment of this book will depend on how much you like or hate Gideon. I don’t hate him but I can see us having words.

A review copy was provided.

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