Series: Learning to Love: Book One
Author: Con Riley
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 344 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 Stars
At a Glance: I can always trust Con Riley to deliver the most romantic pivotal moments I’ve ever read, always, and Charles and Hugo do not disappoint.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Life should be a breeze for a playboy like Charles Heppel. As the third son of an earl, he lives for the moment, partying and playing. Settling down isn’t for him. Not when London is full of beautiful men who he hasn’t one-and-done yet.
To escape his family’s nagging, Charles applies for a temp job that matches his playful skill set. A role in a Cornish classroom could be his until the summer, if Charles meets two conditions: he must move in with the headmaster’s best friend, and teach him to be happy.
Living with Hugo should be awkward. Charles is a free spirit, but Hugo’s a man of faith, with morals. A man who almost took holy orders before disaster changed his direction. Only far from being a chore, Charles finds that making Hugo happy soon becomes his passion.
Together, they share physical and emotional first times. Ones that change Charles, touching his soul. He wants Hugo for longer than they have left, but learning to love with his heart, not just his body, will take a leap of faith from Charles — in himself as well as Hugo.
Review: Charles Heppel was a bit of a scene stealer in His Haven, as the cheeky, sex-positive best friend/brother-from-another-mother of Keir Brodie. Charles would happily confess he’s never met a man he wouldn’t do, and, in fact, he confesses that very thing in a rather comedic moment in the chapel at Glynn Harber, the school to which Charles has recently applied for a position. When he believes he’s having a moment with Keir, but instead, it’s Hugo Eavis—”His Holy Hotness”—who pulls back the confessional curtain to reveal himself to Charles, it places them directly on the path to a little close proximity; though only after Charles proves to the school’s headmaster that he’s more than capable and qualified for the job he’d only just been denied.
If I hadn’t already loved Charles, this book certainly would have sealed the deal. I knew him, of course, as a loving and loyal friend who adores children and understands that not every child learns in the same way, which still applies here, but Con Riley adds some depth and seriousness to his character we didn’t get to see much of before. There’s a reason Charles is so passionate about the concept of learning through play in addition to the standard curriculum, and Riley metes out those details in a way that only endears us to Charles all the more as he proves his intuition and gift for connecting with children over and over again, including—eventually—to his older brother George, who doesn’t give much credence to Charles’s extraordinary skill set.
Hugo is . . . well . . . so aptly named. Of course I had to look up the meaning of his name (bit of a nerd here), and “heart, mind, spirit,” are the very essence of who he is. He has persevered and overcome, he is compassionate and generous, loyal and sincere, and the way he and Charles complement each other in that regard meant everything to the building of a connection that was supposed to be short-term, but failed that in all the best ways. They connected so beautifully with each other that they simply became inevitable, but not without some internal conflict along the way. If you tend to lean into the hurt/comfort trope in your reading, that’s not a one-sided proposition here. Charles and Hugo each do their fair share of uplifting the other along the way.
There is one thing that remains consistent for me from one reading of a Con Riley book to the next: I always re-read the pivotal moment in her romances when the characters finally cement their happy beginning together. Always. Sometimes multiple times. The epiphanies, the confessions, the jumping into the moment heart-in-hand, the meeting each other halfway, and risking everything to do it, hits so, so good every single time. That streak continues in Charles when he and Hugo take that leap of faith together, and I love the way it paralleled with an unexpected and deeply resonant bit of Heppel family history to add a heaping helping of poignancy to the modern-day romance.
The groundwork has been lain for the next book in this series through the introduction of Sol, the school’s art teacher, who figures into Charles and Hugo’s story briefly but in a meaningful way, and we even get a glimpse of Ed and Pasha, the MCs of Riley’s True Brit, which was a fun and unexpected surprise. If you’re looking for a low on the angst, high on the good feels romance, Charles fits that to a T.
You can buy Charles here:
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