Author: Cari Z
Book: Handle With Care
Series: Dreamspun Desires
Page/Word Count: 194 pages, 50K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza
A fragile heart needs extra care.
Burned-out social worker Aaron McCoy is on vacation for the first time in years–boss’s orders. Road-tripping to his brother’s wedding with his best friend, Tyler, seems a fun way to spend the mandatory two-week leave, and they set out for Kansas–and a difficult homecoming.
Aaron’s mother was a drug addict, and his adorable younger brother was quickly adopted, while Aaron spent his childhood in foster care. As Aaron mends fences, Tyler hopes to show him that this time, he won’t be left behind to face his problems alone.
Aaron’s opening up to how right it feels to be with Tyler and to the possibility of taking the leap from friends to lovers. But along with the wedding celebration comes a painful reminder of the past. Aaron’s heart is still breakable. Can he put it in Tyler’s hands?
4✨s – I have really enjoyed Cari Z’s writing in other stories, so I grabbed this Dreamspun Desires and it was just lovely! This engaging story provides lots of feels with a best friends-to-lovers trope and a difficult yet heartwarming reunion of brothers who’ve been apart for too long. Aaron was a troubled foster kid so now he works himself to exhaustion trying to help get kids into better situations. Forced to take a vacation and get some rest, his best friend Tyler convinces him to take the road trip and reconnect with his brother for his wedding. Tyler is more than a best friend, as Aaron lived with him and his parents after he turned 18 and went to college. After his rebellious teenage phase, Aaron has grown up serious and hyper-focused on maintaining the stable, if rather dull, life he has built. Tyler is more adventurous and outgoing but understanding of Aaron’s need for security. Both are quite obviously suffering from “omg, I can’t tell him how I feel, I don’t want to lose my best friend if it goes wrong” syndrome.
This isn’t a very long novel but the tightly written narrative is chock-full of great characterization and slow-burn romance. The dynamics between Tyler and Aaron show comfortable acceptance of quirks and foibles between two opposite personalities and admitting their feelings doesn’t devolve into drama. Seeing his brother Zach again brings a mix of jealousy and resentment that Aaron isn’t proud of but with Tyler’s support, makes the effort to create a better relationship and also face another piece of his past. I liked Zach and Chrissy, his fiancé, who almost stole the book with her strong presence and fantastic depiction as a female supporting character. The dialogue reflects genuine, raw feelings at times, not in a negative way but not sugar-coated either. I just loved how Tyler and Aaron’s bond of friendship morphed into romance among the diverse elements of the story, concluding with a steamy, sexy HEA. Recommended!
4✨s – This book was lovely to read, you kind of know the overall feel you’ll get with a Dreamspun book. Aaron and and Tyler have been friends for years, ever since Aaron showed up as a teenage foster kid. Now close to burn out at work he’s been given time off of work and the two men are going on a trip. Aaron has done well for himself since being fostered by Tyler’s family but it’s clear he still has a few unresolved feelings about things, especially that his brother got adopted and not him. The trip the men head off on gives him the chance to deal with things in his head and heart. Aaron is such a lovely guy! The work he does in Child Protective Services is fantastic but having been in the system means he knows what’s at stake. Unfortunately he also feels each case personally causing him to come close to losing himself to the job. Tyler is there for him through everything showing his feelings and sincerity and is always trying to help him relax and take time away from work. Both men are extremely comfortable in their friendship and now and then there is the hint of more but with so much at stake, Aaron is scared to lose his best friend and the family it’s given him. The things he went through as a kid are heartbreaking and it’s difficult reading how he acted and reacted once in the foster system. His brother settled easily being so much younger but Aaron remembers it all so it’s not so easy for him to let go. The friendship between Aaron and Tyler is huge in this story. Aaron’s main support system as well as his friend, brother and confidant. Reading the two together brings a smile when it’s easy to tell how much they mean to each other. Cari has conveyed that really well to the readers. We have a few secondary characters arrive through the book as we make our way to Kansas. New friendly faces as well as someone out to cause grief gives the two men cause to come together even more. There are some lighthearted moments for the men along with some tougher moments for Aaron when it comes to his past. Any fan of Dreamspun Desire books will enjoy this outing and I’d recommend to contemporary romance readers also. I received an ARC from the publisher and am happily giving a review.
About Cari Z:
Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.
Cari enjoys a wide range of literary genres, from the classics (get ‘im, Ahab) to science fiction and fantasy of all types, to historical fiction and reference materials (no, seriously, there are so many great encyclopedias out there). She writes in a wide range of genres as well, but somehow 90% of what she produces ends up falling into the broad and exciting category of m/m erotica. There’s a sprinkling of f/m and f/f and even m/f/m in her repertoire, but her true love is man love. And there’s a lot of love to go around.
Cari has published short stories, novellas, and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on Literotica.com, under the name Carizabeth.
Where to find Cari Z: