After the Scrum, by Dahlia Donovan – A Heartwarming M/M Romance

After the ScrumAfter the Scrum by Dahlia Donovan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying that I loved this story – and all of its quirky, thoughtfully written characters. It’s sweet, sexy, poignant – and, overall, one of the most unique M/M romance novels I’ve read.

Caddock “The Brute” Stanford is a former rugby star, reluctantly forced into retirement at age 40 because another injury could cripple him for life. It’s a risk he can’t afford to take, because he’s already suffered the tragic loss of his beloved brother, and has recently become the sole guardian of his 4-year-old nephew, Devlin (aka, “Devil”– as only a 4-year-old can be).

His high-profile life has also forced him to put his need for a real relationship on the back burner for far too long. Even in a society that has accepted gay marriage, gay rugby players tend to attract the wrong kind of media attention, something he can’t afford to risk. And then there’s his father – who idolized his brother, but can’t accept Caddock as an athlete or as a gay man. So, although he’s painfully lonely – and, at this stage of his life, utterly lost – Caddock subjugates his own need for romantic love and, instead, pours himself wholeheartedly into helping Devlin deal with the devastating loss of his dad.

Desperate to put some distance between himself, his rugby life, his estranged father, and his recent, painful losses, Caddock decides to make a new start with Devlin, away from the craziness of urban London. He buys and plans to renovate a pub in the small Cornish town of Looe, naming it after his late brother. He envisions a new life as a business owner in this seaside retreat, where he and Devlin can enjoy their privacy, make new friends, and settle in a community where they can live peacefully — and hopefully find the acceptance they both need. He has no idea what else he’s about to find there – and therein lies the joy of this story.

Francis Keen is a bit of an eccentric. He’s an openly gay man who’s a bit broken, but has built a stable, safe life for himself in a community that cares about him. Raised by his grandparents in Looe, he still lives with his gran, for her safety – and for the loving acceptance she’s always offered. He’s a child of Looe who’s returned to open a small interior design studio after a devastating break-up and a traumatic assault in London. His life is simple, on the surface. But on a deeper level, he’s painfully lonely. He’s also a victim of post-traumatic stress syndrome. His constant companion is a Sheltie named Sherlock, a therapy dog trained to help him when his anxiety is at its worst. Sherlock is a little furry demon, lovable as can be, a constant source of comic relief – and more – throughout the story. He is every bit as powerful a character as Caddock, Francis, and Devlin, because his healing powers extend well beyond his role in his owner’s life.

When Francis is hired to handle the design for Caddock’s pub, he finds so much more than a new job and a creative challenge. He finds a man, so different from himself in so many ways, but so intensely compelling he can’t ignore the immediate attraction. What he doesn’t realize is how perfect they are for each other, and how fate has conspired to bring them together – where each has a chance to find the loving family life they need and deserve.

Their attraction is electric. Caddock is dominant, but also tender. Francis is tentative, but also eager to experience everything he’s never had in a loving relationship. He’s the thoughtful, studious, sensitive – and often hilarious – counterpart to Caddock’s ‘brute’ force, in love and in life. Caddock, recognizing that he has to tread carefully to earn Francis’s trust and love, goes out of his way to help him realize that what they have together is the real thing – and although they are different in many ways, their dreams are one and the same.

Together they are absolutely perfect for each other, and perfect for the beloved Devlin.

This is not a story about sex, although the sex is deeply erotic and very well written. This is a story about love, hope, healing and family. There are some frightening twists and turns, all of which are completely relatable, and not insurmountable, leading to a spectacular HEA without cliffhangers.

I look forward to more from this talented author and highly recommend this book if you need a story that will find its way into your heart and stay there.

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About Dahlia

Avatar for author Dahlia DonovanDahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress. She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters. An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.

Connect with Dahlia here:  Website    Facebook   Twitter (@DahliaDonovan)


Published by

Paula Radell

Always a passionate reader and a somewhat more casual writer, Paula Radell started her first book review and promotions blog, Curl Up and Read, in September of 2013. In early 2014, she left a career in nursing to become a freelance project management consultant. She also turned her part-time hobby into a full-time passion by becoming a freelance editor, publicist, and a hopeful author. She is a Goodreads Librarian, Group Moderator, and a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has also taken advanced internet and social media marketing certificate courses at the University of San Francisco. Born and raised near the beaches of southeastern Virginia, Paula now lives in Mendocino County, California with her husband Ray, a couple of stray tabby cats, Matthew & Diana, and a 2-year old rescue Greyhound, Willow. When she is not catering to the dog’s every whim, touring and tasting the latest California sparkling wine vintages with Ray, or sitting in Starbucks reading a great book, you can find Paula at her laptop – writing, editing, reviewing or avidly promoting the books and authors she loves. Two releases are planned in the coming year: Where Angels Lie, a dark romance; and an inspirational novella (name still under debate).

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