Series: Learning to Love: Book Three
Author: Con Riley
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 311 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
Content Warnings: Non-explicit mentions of childhood anxieties
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: Every detail in this story is significant in its own special way, and when things come to their inevitable turning point, the identity of the villain and the way that person was dealt with couldn’t have been more important or impactful to Luke, Nathan, Austin, and the future of the school. Simply put, Con Riley has done it again.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Can Luke learn to love the man who left him?
Headmaster Luke Lawson is committed to saving his boarding school before a cash crisis sinks it. He’ll do anything to keep it afloat, even if that means accepting help from the man who broke his heart at uni.
Nathan’s offer to teach for free could be a blessing as long as Luke can harden his bruised heart. That’s tough when they’ll need to share living quarters and have a history of hook-ups. But Luke knows being compatible in bed isn’t enough to build trust. It can’t be when Nathan has always left him before morning.
This time around, it feels different. Nathan’s work overseas has changed him. Touched him. Opened a locked chamber in his heart that Luke is beginning to think must have been bruised in the past too.
As pressure mounts, can Luke trust that Nathan’s committed this time—not only to his school but to a shared future with him long term?
Review: One of the many things I love about Con Riley’s storytelling is that the emotional quotient is always so comprehensive. Not only are readers offered the opportunity to sink heart-first into the romance between her lead characters, but we become invested in the people who are important to them too; in Luke Lawson’s case, it’s the children and the teachers at Glynn Harber. The headmaster and his dwindling staff believe so wholeheartedly and unselfishly in the students—from the youngest, who are only just beginning to navigate their world, to the oldest, who will leave the school to begin their journey into an adulthood for which Luke has given his absolute all to prepare them.
Luke’s story began in Charles, book one in the Learning to Love series, with the challenges he faces in keeping the school fiscally solvent and a safe haven for his children. Additionally, the return of Nathan Ridd, Luke’s first love, gives readers a wealth of reasons to be curious about their relationship. It has been rekindling off-page until now, and while it would be accurate to call theirs a second chance romance, that alone is an inadequate description of all that this story is. Luke believes, for some convincing reasons, that his love for Nathan is unrequited, and watching the revelation of Nathan’s true feelings emerge while Luke rejoices, yet, understandably, remains somewhat cautious, is sublime. In the midst of this is the seemingly insurmountable threat to the future of the school leveled against it by a corporation that appears not only determined to allow Glynn Harber to fail but is actively involved in its imminent collapse.
This storyline provides for the inauspicious introduction of a new character, Austin Russell, who is sent to Glynn Harber to conduct what amounts to a forensic audit to determine where Supernus can bleed the school even more than it already has. Austin is, for obvious reasons, not an immediately likeable character, but his continued presence at the school serves an important role: first, to understand the human impact of Glynn Harber closing as he spends time with the children, and second, for Luke to unravel him. While Luke begins to understand that there’s more to Austin than his cold, cruel exterior, the more Austin becomes suspicious that something about his employer’s interest in the school doesn’t add up. As Austin thawed, I grew to like him so much and am excited that he will be the leading man in the next book in the series.
In the midst of this, we learn the backstories that make Luke and Nathan the men they have become, and, as is always the case where this author is concerned, those stories are terribly moving and impactful and a touch of perfection in what hasn’t been anything like a perfect life for them. The past, while sometimes a harsh and unkind teacher, is what makes Luke the kind and compassionate man he became and is why he cares so deeply for Glynn Harber and its students. Watching him open up to Nathan and reveal those things about himself that had, up to that point, remained untold, was profound. Knowing that Nathan wanted to be a man Luke could respect and love, while Nathan hasn’t had anything like an easy life himself, was a poignant revelation.
Luke and Nathan are the tip of the iceberg of a full cast of characters, some of whom are Luke’s family, and their inclusion in the story makes his own backstory all the richer. There is never a moment where the cast feels too large or cumbersome, every detail is significant in its own special way, and when things come to their inevitable turning point, the identity of the story’s villain and the way that person was dealt with couldn’t have been more important or impactful to Luke, Nathan, Austin, and the future of the school.
Simply put, Con Riley has done it again.
You can buy Luke here:
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