Book Reviews

After Ben (Seattle Stories 1) by Con Riley

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Drama
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 07-October-2019

Book Blurb

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.

First edition published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2012.

Book Review

Losing a longtime partner, someone you've loved with all your heart, isn’t easy. We all understand this on an intellectual level, but to be confronted by it emotionally is much harder. Writing about it credibly, with compassion, and keeping the readers' interest is a challenge, but one that Con Riley has met full-on with this book. It left me emotionally drained, yet satisfied with the way things have developed for Theo. This story is a slow burn, totally realistic, and illustrates the different stages of grieving and survivor's guilt at every step Theo takes.

Theo has lost more than his partner, he has lost the will to live. He may go through the motions, and he tells himself that this is "coping", but he has clearly shut down. His friends try to pull him back into the land of the living, but Theo cannot deal with it. He tells himself it is too early, but the truth is a complex mixture of guilt, not knowing where to start, and a reluctance to start another relationship – possibly just to face another loss.

Peter and Morgan are total opposites, and confront Theo with some real choices he needs to make. Peter is all about the physical, and even just taking a step back into touching a man is difficult enough for Theo. Since there are fewer emotions, it is easier for him to deal with. But, in the end, the question becomes if it is enough.

Morgan is the man Theo really feels attracted to on an intellectual level. They never meet until fairly late in the book, so their relationship has time to develop. When they do meet all hell breaks loose – in more than one way. Dealing with his attraction to Morgan forces Theo to confront not just the need to say good-bye to Ben, but also to face some of his own preconceived ideas of what a relationship should be.

One of the things I found amazing was how deeply the author got me into Theo's head and heart to feel with him. When he is torn between the two potential new love interests, even though he barely even acknowledges them as such initially, I was torn as well. The gradual dawning of the solution, and the slow awakening of Theo's desire to live again were a joy to watch. If you like realistic stories about men who deal with loss, if you enjoy the slow burn of new romance, and if dealing with grief as part of life is a topic you want to find out more about, you will probably like this novel.

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 344 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 05-October-2019
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link