Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic contemporary M/M romance from Kim Fielding. LOVE CAN’T CONQUER kept me turning pages long into the night. It features two mature men finding a forever connection…perhaps.
Check out the excerpt, my review and get in on the big giveaway, below!
About the book:
Bullied as a child in small-town Kansas, Jeremy Cox ultimately escaped to Portland, Oregon. Now in his forties, he’s an urban park ranger who does his best to rescue runaways and other street people. His ex-boyfriend, Donny—lost to drinking and drugs six years earlier—appears on his doorstep and inadvertently drags Jeremy into danger. As if dealing with Donny’s issues doesn’t cause enough turmoil, Jeremy meets a fascinating but enigmatic man who carries more than his fair share of problems.
Qayin Hill has almost nothing but skeletons in his closet and demons in his head. A former addict who struggles with anxiety and depression, Qay doesn’t know which of his secrets to reveal to Jeremy—or how to react when Jeremy wants to save him from himself.
Despite the pasts that continue to haunt them, Jeremy and Qay find passion, friendship, and a tentative hope for the future. Now they need to decide whether love is truly a powerful thing or if, despite the old adage, love can’t conquer all.
How about a little taste?
Night had fallen some time ago, and the black sky spit cold, stinging raindrops, making Qay shiver as he descended from the loading bay onto the street. He had to walk a couple of blocks to his first bus; he’d be soaked and miserable by then. Wouldn’t it be nice if someday he could afford a car? Although he’d always lusted after muscle cars, he’d be happy with even the most basic little econobox as long as it ran and kept him dry. He certainly didn’t need anything as burly as the dark SUV parked a few yards away.
Just as he realized that he recognized the SUV, the driver’s door opened and a big man in a green uniform slid out. Qay froze in place. The man walked over until he was just out of arm’s reach, and then he stopped.
“You worked late,” Jeremy said.
“What… what are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.”
“But…. Why…. How did you…?” As usual, Qay was eloquent when flustered.
Jeremy’s grin was small and tight, but it was there. “We’re getting soaked. Can we have this conversation in my car? I’ll crank the heat.”
Not trusting himself with words, Qay simply nodded. When Jeremy held the passenger door open, something lively fluttered in Qay’s chest.
They sat silently in the SUV for a long time, fogging the inside of the windshield. The radio was off, but the fan blew full blast. Qay watched rain droplets fall from his hair onto his lap. They left little circles of darker blue on the denim.
“Stuart is an asshole,” Qay finally said.
“Yeah. That’s why I worked late.” He snuck a peek at Jeremy from the corner of his eye. “Have you been here since five?”
“Four thirty, actually. And I’ve had to pee for at least half an hour.”
“I could probably talk the security guard into letting you into the factory. The bathroom’s pristine. I just cleaned it.”
“I guess I can hold it a little longer.”
Qay nodded. He glanced at Jeremy’s right hand, which lay on the console between them, and saw that the knuckles were scabbed and slightly swollen. “What happened?” Qay asked.
They were quiet again, the pause dragging on long past awkward. Then Jeremy cleared his throat. “How did the exam go?”
Qay couldn’t stop a wide smile. “I aced it. The prof even kept me after class to tell me I’m brilliant.”
Jeremy looked as happy about this news as Qay felt. “Hell yeah, you’re sharp as broken glass.”
A little of the tension between them eased. Qay picked at a thread on his slightly frayed jeans, then stopped himself and drummed on the armrest instead. “Why are you here?” he asked, looking through his window into blankness. “And how?”
“I used to be a cop, remember? You told me you work at a window factory in Northwest, which narrowed it down. I made some phone calls.” He snorted a laugh. “Didn’t want to get you in trouble or let you know what I was up to, but I remembered Stuart’s name and asked for him. I found him yesterday. Pretended I was a bill collector when he came to the phone. He was just about in tears—kept insisting he’d paid what was due on his credit card.”
The thought of Stuart nearly crying over an imaginary unpaid debt cheered Qay more than it should have. “So that’s the how. What’s the why?”
“I have… questions. And an apology, if I can man up enough to spit it out.”
“Apology? For what?”
Jeremy gave him a long look. “Let’s go somewhere, okay? I can piss and we can eat and… and we can talk.”
Maybe he was courting disaster, but Qay nodded. “All right.”
Jeremy is a 43 year old single out-gay park ranger in Portland, Oregon, who’s tired of being single. He’s had two serious relationships in his life, one in college and one that ended six years ago, when he kicked out his longtime lover, Donny. Donny was a fellow officer when they both served on the police force, but Donny was a self-destructive alcoholic and Jeremy needed to save himself, after a while. Jeremy is a widely respected ranger, known for rescuing many of the homeless in the parks he patrols.
Donny turns up on Jeremy’s doorstep one night, bleeding from superficial stab wounds. While Jeremy won’t let himself get pulled into Donny’s drama, he does help him out. His discussion of the crazy night to his good friend, Rhoda, is overheard by Qayin Hill, a patron in Rhoda’s coffeehouse.
Qayin (Hebrew for Cain) is a drifter, ex-junkie who’s been clean seven years and is trying–at 45 years of age–to rebuild his life. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was an abused kid who sought refuge in a suicide attempt–and hails from Jeremy’s home town. In fact, they knew each other way back when. Qayin’s ashamed of his past, but he’s attracted to Jeremy, who really grew up from the short, pudgy boy that was teased mercilessly in school. Qayin hides his true identity from Jeremy, but only for a short while.
This proves a small setback in the courtship. Bigger issues press, like when the guys who messed up Donny decide to toss Jeremy’s apartment, and bodies begin to turn up. While Jeremy isn’t a cop any longer, this does have elements of a police romance. Bad guys on the distant edges are a constant threat, but the real danger is the emotional investment of Jeremy and Qay. They have a lot of scars that they wouldn’t generally share, but they do, creating an intimacy that is more valuable than sex–which they decide to postpone for several dates–despite a significant attraction.
I really liked how these guys made themselves vulnerable. Qay has so much shame over his past, and still owns it. He’s a depressive, who’s had more than one suicide attempt, and admits his recovering addictions (to prescription and illegal drugs) on their first meeting; Jeremy is only ever supportive. Jeremy has a bit of a hero complex, and he knows it can be overwhelming. His life really has been in the service of others, which is why it’s so crappy that Donny brought huge problems to his doorstep. No matter what, Qay won’t add more burdens to Jeremy’s back. Even if it means walking away from the only man he ever loved, and who loved him in return.
The book spans several tumultuous weeks, which seems a little fast for a true love to develop, but these guys have a history of attraction. Once Jeremy gets over his initial shock, he remembers that Kevin (Qayin’s birth name) was his first crush. For all the guilt and terror that Qay still carries of his childhood, he recognizes that young Jeremy Cox was a bright spot. Their intense attraction and deep confessions lead to a strong emotional bond. Plus, these guys are in their mid-forties. They have learned a lot of the world, and are open-minded about past mistakes.
Trouble comes, as it is wont to do, and Qay is as rock-solid as he can manage to be. Especially as Jeremy is in very bad shape. That said, it is the growth of their relationship that most distresses Qay. He’s never had a stable relationship, and he feels unworthy to Jeremy’s goodness. I think I knew where, specifically, this book would take Jeremy, Qay, and me, but I wasn’t a bit put off by the journey. There are some ghosts that can only be laid to rest by confrontation. It was a fairly spectacular reunion, and a sweet epilogue. I’m quite sure that readers will disagree with the title. While romantic love may not conquer all, in this story it was pretty close. In the end self-love, for Qay, won the day.
There are some great secondary characters here, most notably Rhoda, Patron Saint of Caffeinated Beverages, but also Nevin Ng, another close friend of Jeremy’s who has the mouth of a drunken trucker, despite being an awesome cop. Trigger warning, there are lots of discussions of depression, suicide and abuse. Also, a brief scene of graphic violence and torture.
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an E-copy of Rattlesnake, Audiobook of Good Bones, and $30 Dreamspinner gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Kim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.