Love Ahead: Expect Delays by Astrid Amara
Austin thinks driving a 1989 Geo Spectrum fourteen hundred miles in the middle of winter is a bad idea. But he would never forgive himself if the man he loved, Zach Roth, got himself killed in Idaho, so he agrees to go.
Besides, he has something to prove. He wants Zach to know that its more than just Zach’s deliciously wicked body he adores. And if it takes spending Hanukkah in Zach’s Grandma’s old hatchback to prove it, then so be it.
Ever the optimist, Zach believes everything will turn out for the best. But bad weather, robberies, blown gaskets, run-ins with the police and motel bedspreads of questionable cleanliness seem to conspire against them, and they may need eight days of miracles just to keep each other and their romance alive.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m still catching up on all the holiday stories in my queue and this fun, adorable story jumps out. The writing is very good and the emotion is clearly translated through the men, their relationship, the struggles, and the quiet moments. There is hot sex and a lot of it but it also feels like the story is tempered and doesn’t need to include every single scene. I liked that balance and it helps create a more interesting dynamic within the relationship. The story is a bit over the top but never ridiculously so and only requires a small suspension of disbelief to buy into the actions. Something that I think readers can easily and happily do.
The story is a road trip between established lovers, something that anyone who’s been on knows can make or break a relationship. This time Zach is driving his grandmother’s Geo Spectrum from Seattle to Boulder, Colorado and invites his mechanic boyfriend Austin for the ride and to meet Zach’s family. Of course the road trip is anything but smooth and easy as they navigate weather, theft, seedy motels, violent criminals, drunk hicks, and a Bronco’s loving grandmother.
Although the story sounds over the top and madcap, the events are deft and subtly used so they unfold naturally and with only a hint of obvious manipulation. The violent criminal is the biggest stretch but presented in such a way the reader can identify and forgive the action, buying into its appearance and the resulting emotion. Each of the events presented feels genuine and interesting, nothing overly superfluous or ridiculous. Instead this offers various trials for the couple to either overcome or falter. The men’s reactions and the resulting affect on their relationship makes for a nice change of pace from the usual new lovers who fall in love theme.
Both Zach and Austin are interesting men in their own right but have great tangible chemistry together. I liked that they were six months into their relationship and contemplating that next step. They’re in love yet not at the same point – Austin wants to move in together while Zach is still wary from past experiences. I appreciate the deviation from the traditional fictional path and that these two have some issues to work out before their happy ending. They’re in love and want to be together, the small moments that each realize they are in this for the rest of their lives are very poignant and sweet. I also like that despite that feeling, Zach isn’t quite ready to move in and would like some more time. This feels natural and honest, rather than love curing everything.
The sex scenes are nicely incorporated to mean something each time yet also don’t feel gratuitous. In fact there are a few fade to black scenes that I appreciated, showing some restraint in the erotica content. This also makes those scenes that are depicted mean more and have multiple nuances. Zach and Austin are not quite opposites but they clearly compliment each other and work well together even in ways they’re unaware. I really like these two together and the give and take of their dynamic. It’s not always easy and they struggle, argue, and make mistakes but their connection feels genuine and strong as if despite their problems or even because of them they’ll emerge better than ever.
For such a quick novella the solid writing, great characters, good tension, and series of events all lead to an engaging and entertaining story. I didn’t want to put this down and this is a couple I’d love to see more of, though I doubt that will happen. The small touches and quiet details sing far louder than the crazy actions and that more than anything makes this is a really touching and fun story to read.