Release Reviews: A Kind of Romance: Lane Hayes

by - Monday, June 06, 2016

A Kind of Romance (A Kind of Stories #2)
Lane Hayes
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Released June 6, 2016

Zeke Gulden is a ruthless Wall Street exec. His hard-edged, no-nonsense attitude has served him well in the cutthroat business world, but less so in his personal life. When he finds out his ex-boyfriend cheated on him with a coworker, Zeke can’t let go—not until he finds a way to get even. However, his meddlesome father has other ideas. The new hire at the family-owned bagel store is somewhat colorful, but his dad is sure he’s the perfect man for Zeke.

Benny Ruggieri is a fiercely proud New Yorker who dreams of making it big as a costume designer in the theater. In the meantime, he’s working two part-time jobs in the food biz. When his new boss sets him up with his successful son, Benny has zero expectations. If nothing else, he figures he can entertain himself by making the uptight businessman squirm. Instead, the two become unlikely friends with an inexplicable attraction they can’t ignore. Benny might be the one to help Zeke set aside his quest for revenge, if he’s willing to let go and forgive what he can’t forget… and give in to an unexpected kind of romance.

Before I start with this review, I must first state that I don’t give 5-star ratings lightly. It means more than just loving a book; it means the book is truly amazing, one that I will be thinking about and will remember for some time. For perspective, I have read 83 books so far in 2016 (as of early June), and A Kind of Romance, the second novel of Lane Hayes’s A Kind of Stories series, is the first novel this year I have awarded such a rating.

Ezekiel “Zeke” Gulden is one of four sons of George Gulden, the well-known and well-loved proprietor of Bowery Bagels in New York City, but he’s the only one who decided not to go into the family business. Instead, he has a lucrative career on Wall Street, and with his keen eye for market trends and his razor-sharp business acumen, he is very successful. This success has not followed him into his personal life though. In fact, his last boyfriend turned out to be cheating on him, and as a result of his cutthroat professional instincts, “forgive and forget” is not in his vocabulary. Benny Ruggieri is a flashy, colorful, and unapologetically proud man who aspires to a career designing costumes for Broadway, but like most New Yorkers with a big dream, he works a completely unrelated job while waiting for his big break. In Benny’s case, it’s two jobs: one in his family’s Italian restaurant and the other at Bowery Bagels. When George decides to set Benny up with Zeke, both men agree to go on a fake date to get him off their backs, but neither expects it to become anything, let alone start a friendship. Not only does a friendship form, but they realize there’s an attraction as well, one neither can deny, though neither really wants to be serious.

Probably the thing I liked most about this novel is that there was very little external plot in the story. By this I mean that the story focuses almost completely on the two main characters and the development of their relationship without it being overshadowed by external influences. Sure, there are plenty of things going on that affect Benny and Zeke, their families being the primary among these, but little of this is used to drive the plot forward. Instead, these factors are introduced to flesh out our understanding of the characters, to allow us to recognize why they behave the way they do and why their unlikely attraction works so well. This technique is refreshing, as most romance novels have some sort of looming “big-bad” plot device threatening to strike and force the heroes apart. Here, it’s almost entirely about Zeke and Benny and whether they can figure out and admit to each other just how strong their feelings are for one another.

As with the first book in the series, A Kind of Truth, the story in A Kind of Romance is written in the first person from only one character’s perspective. In this case, it is Zeke, and again this perspective decision works perfectly for the story and its characters. At one point in the story, Benny comments that Zeke doesn’t really see him. By being only in Zeke’s head, though, we understand this is completely untrue. Without this perspective, we would never get the full experience of Benny’s flamboyant exuberance and how much it contrasts with Zeke’s restrained professional normalcy. The single-sided perspective also allows us to learn the reasons behind Zeke’s struggle to have a successful relationship: he has a pattern of not being able to get over the things that people have done to wrong him.

As a pairing, Zeke and Benny are electric. The idea that neither is the other’s type but that they’re doing the fake-boyfriend thing first to appease Zeke’s father and then later as a convenient reason to spend more time together and to have sex with each other makes for some amusing interactions. The banter between them is fun and real. And as the story progresses and they become closer, not only does the sex become scorching hot—the pool table scene…holy fucking amazeballs HOT!—but their conversations, particularly Benny’s understanding of Zeke’s past issues, become poignant and touching. The progression itself is riveting to follow. The process of witnessing Zeke realize how important Benny has become to him, struggle with coming to terms with his feelings, and being unable to figure out how to express them to Benny until the inevitable situation occurs that jeopardizes their future together runs the gamut emotionally. And when the trouble does finally happen, the resolution encompasses all the major issues in Zeke’s life in a perfect and beautiful way.

I know it sounds odd to say because I loved this story so much, but I really struggled to write this review. Normally, I have at least a problem or two with a book that I can use to structure the rest of the review nicely. But all I had after completing A Kind of Romance was that fantastic feeling in my chest, the emotional tightness, the warm afterglow of a story superlatively told, and it continued for a long time afterward. This feeling is what I crave, what keeps me reading romances. And while I get it with many novels to a lesser degree, it has been many months since the last time I felt it this good. So thank you, Ms. Hayes, for a wonderful read. I cannot say enough good about it, and I look forward to picking up another of your books soon.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of A Kind of Romance in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Zeke Gulden is a work-a-holic, uptight, Wall Street exec. He is all about status, appearance, and success. He is gruff, controlled, and no-nonsense about everything. In contrast, Benny Ruggieri is a food service worker and aspiring costume designer. He is an employee at Zeke's Dad's bagel shop and his boss won't stop until he has set the two of them up on an official date. But Benny is about as opposite of Zeke as he could be. He is flashy, fun, vivacious, and outgoing. He is who he is and does not care what anyone thinks. He is smaller and less imposing, but a firecracker. He loves fashion. color, and anything fabulous.

They are not each other's "types" at all. Somehow during their "fake date" to appease their matchmaker, a surprising interest and connection occurs despite their differences. They are opposite in looks, behavior, upbringing, outlooks, and there is even an age difference. Zeke likes "normal and balance." Benny takes normal as an insult and prefers to stand out.

I loved how Benny brings out a more impulsive and passionate side of Zeke. They both kind of bulldoze unexpectedly into each other's lives and are trying to figure out how they could fit. I enjoyed their sarcastic banter, rapport, and sexual tension. They have really hot chemistry and the whole opposites thing really made me smile.

I liked Zeke's point of view and seeing how he was surprising himself with his actions and thoughts about Benny. And even though we did not get Benny's point of view, he was well developed and a strong, smart, lovable, and vibrant guy. I absolutely adored the fiery dynamo.

Zeke has issues from his past and rigid thinking. He's got trust and commitment issues and denies the obvious at times. He always tries to be the best and to prove himself, but he also has a hard time forgiving and letting go once hurt or betrayed. And there are several situations in his past that have left a mark on him and he has not fully dealt with. I liked that he was out and not afraid to be who he was even with his peers. But he could be stubborn and a bit clueless. Benny brings out his more patient, understanding, flexible, and fun side. But he definitely has some emotional issues to handle.

Benny does not want to play games and is not afraid to call him out. He is also brave, proud, and a force to be reckoned with. But Benny also has a soft heart and could get his feelings hurt.

I really loved these guys! They were so different, yet so compatible and passionate. This story engaged me from the start, and I was totally immersed throughout. I enjoyed their dynamic and how they made such an impact on each other. It was humorous, sexy, heartfelt, and emotional. Oh, so many feels!

Characters from A Kind of Truth make appearances in this one including Rand, William, and Zeke's dad, George. His character was actually a very integral part of their present story and Zeke's past issues. Zeke's best friend, Carter, is also introduced and I could see some leading man potential for a possible future story in this series.

I really enjoyed this book and appreciated how Lane Hayes built this unlikely love story. Love is unique, messy, and scary sometimes. It can be a sweet, intense, and healing force, and it can show up when least expected with the most unlikely people.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

A Kind of Truth (A Kind of Stories #1)
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Rand O’Malley dreams of superstardom. He hopes to one day sing the blues like a rock god. Moving to New York City and hiring a new manager are steps to make his dreams a reality. But nothing moves as fast as Rand would like, and everyone has opinions, which include he keep certain pieces of himself quiet if he plans on making it in the Big Apple. Like his bisexuality.

Will Sanders is a gifted musician who dazzles Rand with his ability to coax gorgeous notes from an electric guitar one moment and play the piano like a professional the next. He’s a geek, but Rand isn’t concerned about Will’s pressed exterior clashing with his tattoos. His focus is music. Yet there’s something about Will that makes Rand think there’s much more to the quiet college student than he lets on. As Rand’s dreams begin to materialize, he’s forced to reconsider his priorities and find his own kind of truth. One that might include Will.
Lane Hayes 

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to a well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles both be men! Lane discovered the M/M genre a fews ago and was instantly hooked. Her first novel was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards and her third received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards. She loves travel, chocolate, and wine (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

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