Title: After Ben
Series: Seattle Stories: Book One
Author: Con Riley
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 344 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: After Ben is not a novel full of bombast or populated by outlandish characters. That, in fact, is what makes a Con Riley book a Con Riley book. There is a certain calm even amongst the undercurrent of passion and emotion. Even in its most poignant and gut-wrenching moments After Ben is a quiet and sincere love story, a story of lightning striking not once but twice in one man’s life, and it embraces the definition of what it means to love to its highest power.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: No more kissing a ghost…
A year after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben, Theo Anderson is still grieving. The last thing he’s looking for is a new lover, but as Theo discovers, sometimes life has its own plans.
The strength of his attraction to fellow gym member Peter is surprising. So is how compelling he finds Morgan, a new friend he makes online. Morgan is witty and fierce on the internet forum they frequent, while Peter is physically present in a way that’s hard to ignore.
Both men bring Theo closer to acceptance: he needs to lay Ben’s memory to rest if he’s to start afresh with a new lover.
Getting honest about the reasons for his yearlong isolation means confronting why he lost Ben… only just when he’s ready to commit, Theo finds he isn’t the only one haunted by the past.
Whether with Peter or with Morgan, choosing to love again—after Ben—might not be Theo’s toughest challenge.
Review: Picture it: A book is released in 2012. You buy that book, but for whatever reason you don’t get around to reading it. We’ve all been there, yes? And then five years later, you finally pull it out of the archives…and you proceed to kick yourself for not reading that book sooner. That’s what reading After Ben was like the first time.
Reading it the second time has only reminded me why I loved it and reinforced how very much.
Theo Anderson’s is a story of the grieving process and the debilitating effects of a sudden and unexpected loss. We meet him as he is beginning the slow emergence from a void of lost days and the sleepless nights that have left him intimately familiar with Ben de Luca’s absence and the resulting loneliness. Theo remains deeply, resonantly involved with Ben through his memories of a love that imprinted on every moment they spent together, but this is not a story of grief alone; it is a story of recovery as well, and readers play witness to all the stages of Theo’s mourning—from the shock of Ben’s death, to the residual anger over that loss, to Theo eventually braving and testing uncharted waters. And later, finally, coming to accept that the man he will always love with all his heart would want him to live, because Ben had done so much living himself in his short time on earth.
What Con Riley does with an exquisite and heart-aching precision is to show readers what made Ben so unforgettable. It’s through his unmistakable presence that we feel his glaring absence on every page, and the anguish and aching need that became Theo’s constant companions, feelings that still reach in from time to time to shake his progress. Ben is woven into the very fabric of this story’s telling; he lived and loved bigger and bolder than anyone Theo had ever met, so it was a matter of course to get swept up in his joie de vivre. Their life together was full, a series of blissful moments that were tempered, naturally, by the normality of little everyday irritations and frustrations that pop up in every relationship. Through it all, Ben remained the constant who grasped every scrap of joy and wonder life had to offer, and he brought Theo along for the ride—sometimes whether Theo liked it or not.
It’s in the testing stage of the grieving process that Theo begins to reach out, first to Peter, a man he meets at the gym, and next in an online friendship with a force of nature he knows only as Morgan—someone with obvious intelligence and who is doggedly opinionated and is a contradiction of opinions, and loves to debate and instigate. It’s through these unexpected connections that Theo is faced with an epiphanous emotional awakening. He not only realizes he is capable of having feelings for someone again, but that he might very much be in the process of falling.
The online conversations between Theo and Morgan become a private act of connection, the intimacy of those conversations grows, and without the immediacy of touch, the sense memory of Ben crowding in, and the pressure to perform, Theo responds. He finds himself drawn to their chats and misses Morgan when he goes silent without warning or explanation. But then Theo discovers Morgan is not the man he had imagined him to be. Morgan might be much younger, and the leap to that conclusion chokes Theo with the fear of leaving someone behind the way Ben left him. Call it fate, chance, synchronicity, luck, or what have you, but when he and Morgan finally do come face to face with each other, it is a moment that’s at once fraught and combustible. Morgan has been through things he’s not prepared to share yet, and Con Riley serves up every single word of his story with care and in more than a few impactful moments.
After Ben is not a novel full of bombast or populated by outlandish characters. That, in fact, is what makes a Con Riley book a Con Riley book. There is a certain calm even amongst the undercurrent of passion and emotion. Even in its most poignant and gut-wrenching moments After Ben is a quiet and sincere love story, a story of lightning striking not once but twice in one man’s life, and it embraces the definition of what it means to love to its highest power. It is a character driven novel filled with a rich cast who not only support Theo and Morgan but who drive Theo forward and, in some cases, help him get out of his own way. Even those he’d tried to shut out and push away after Ben’s death.
If you’ve read this book before, read it again. It’s the same book now as it was in its original release years ago, but it’s a story that has stood the test of time thanks to it addressing such timeless and universal truths. If you haven’t read After Ben yet, add it to your TBR pile, but don’t take five years to read it like I did.
You can buy After Ben here:
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