A True Lover’s Story: Wood – A.E. Via
This isn’t a romance about billionaires, movie stars, or models. This is a story of two ordinary, working-class men, dealing with life’s real problems, and trying to find love along the way.
It’s been a long seventeen years but Herschel Wood Jr. is finally a free man and he’s looking forward to reconnecting with his old cellmate, Bishop Stockley, who promised him a place to stay and some help getting back on his feet. Wood had a good life once upon time when he’d owned one of the most successful tattoo shops on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront – until a fatal accident that was his fault cost him everything.
Now at forty-six years old, all Wood wants is to work in another shop on the beach and find a mature, easygoing man to settle down with. But when he gets to his new place and finds he has to share the small trailer with Bishop’s childhood friend, he wasn’t expecting a sexy, smart-mouthed brat that enjoys pushing a man to his limits.
Wood pressed in tight until there was only misunderstanding between them, his mouth mere inches from Trent’s parted lips. “You wanted to get a reaction out of me you annoying, immature little shit… now you’ve got one.”
Trent Armstrong has never been considered a catch. He’s a twenty-nine year old laborer, an ex-con, and not the easiest person to get along with. He’s used to being the one people cast to the side when they’re done with him. Everyone he’s ever cared about has walked out of his life without a backward glance, so he’s used to the loneliness. His foul mouth and quick temper are a great defense mechanism and an easy way to hide his hurt.
From the moment the tattooed, silver-haired man walked into the house there had been nothing but tension, side-eyeing, and sparks between them. Trent has always held back a side of himself that he’s terrified to explore, and without warning Wood’s voice, his maturity, that maddening scent, and even his damaged past all trigger feelings that Trent thought he’d buried deep long ago.
Trent went completely still when Wood dragged his nose over his forehead and down the side of his face. His voice was shaky, and his breaths were hot and swift along Wood’s throat. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m doing what you want me to do.” Wood whispered. “I’m playing your bullshit game, Trent.”
The True Lover’s Stories are connected standalones. Each title features a different couple but will contain previously mentioned characters.
No multiple pairings. No cliffhangers. Ends with a HEA.
Note: This is a steaming agnsty, age gap, new-to-love romance.
Trigger Warning: AA Recovery
Wood is the second book of the True Lover’s Stories. Readers of Book 1, Bishop, knew Trent Armstrong as the titular character’s hot-headed, mouthy bestfriend. By all accounts, the man was into girls. It took a silver fox ex-con with beautiful tattoos for him to admit, that might not be exactly the case.
Herschel Wood Jr was mentioned in the first book as Bishop‘s beloved mentor. After almost two decades, he was finally released from prison. Now it’s time to pick up whatever’s left of his old life. Bishop‘s dad, Mike, offered to rent him his trailer. He’s to be rooming with a young ex-con who hated him at first sight but was also giving that certain unmistakable look that pinged Wood’s gaydar.
I was excited for Trent’s story. He was an interesting character. He’s practically a brother to Bishop and a second son to Mike. He’s doofus and has a temper but his antics were entertaining. I wanted to see how this dork deals with his gay-for- you moment.
I loved how Wood and Trent found their common ground despite their many differences. One was a mature, levelheaded former tattoo artist who wants to reclaim his lost art, the other was a bratty construction worker with a penchant for jazz music. Both a bit broken and a little lonely and realized they enjoyed each other’s company if they, well, Trent really (because this guy is an idiot), were honest with themselves.
I really liked Wood’s explanation when said he would choose a cactus tattoo to represent Trent and it’s not because he’s prickly. It showed how perceptive the older man was, seeing through Trent’s bluster to his core.
For all his faults, Trent’s loyalty shone through. When Wood’s demons got the better of him, it was him who doggedly nursed the other man back to health. Those scenes were the best parts of Trent.
For Wood, the author went out of her way to emphasize the age difference, giving descriptions of how prison aged the character. This is different from the usual route most authors take where they tend to highlight how youthful the older man looks despite his age. It’s also more realistic which I appreciated.
Wood has gone through and done a lot but he’s not jaded. He still has some optimism left, enough to give him strength to start anew. He has the kind of grace that comes with age and wisdom. Fine wine indeed. With that, he’s also in denial about his alcoholism.
The book tackled the struggles ex-cons go through once they regain their freedom. We follow Wood as he goes about finding a job, deal with discrimination, meet people from his past, and tie up the loose ends. The story executed this theme well.
I wanted to like this story more but unfortunately, the thing plodded along oh so slowly, especially the first half. If I thought Bishop was slow, the pace here made it a real struggle to keep going. I even put the book on hold for a couple of months.
Trent’s development, from antagonistic to civil to interested to committed, was done believably and progressed at a good pace. It’s just that the writing made things feel slow. I gave it a go once in a while until I hit the point where things moved faster, which was around the second half.
The last stretch could have been done better. The scheming ex felt forced, so were the petty jealousy. The most ridiculous part for me was the ending where out of the blue, Mike, who is straight and has a serious girlfriend, suddenly had the hots for a young, sex-addicted twink. It seemed like a ploy just so the next book will be connected to the rest. Do we really need another gay-for-you, age-gap story for this series?
Wood might not have gone about it fast enough but it delivered the angst, the hurt comfort, the redemption and the happy ever after for two men who very much deserved their second chance. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire but I still liked it overall.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Wood can be read as a standalone but I recommend meeting the wonderful Edison, whose old world charm and culinary magic won the heart of an equally awesome and talented man. Bishop is really great and his story is much better. Check out my review here.
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This meme was created by Reading Marie. It’s a great meme because it’s nice and easy to do.
This meme was created by Reading Marie. It’s a great meme because it’s nice and easy to do.
I found this tag on Chelle’s Book Ramblings . It’s simple and fun. I thought I would put my own spin on it and make it a weekly thing.
Bishop: A True Lover’s Story – A.E. Via
At only thirty-two, Bishop Stockley has lived a hard-knock life. His gang was his family, the streets his home. Until the crew he’d always called his brothers betrayed him. After doing five years in a federal prison, Bishop is back at his dad’s trailer and working for his landscaping company, thrust into a legit world where he’s no longer the alpha—a world where a criminal record is the least of his disadvantages, because Bishop can’t read or write. Illiteracy had never been an obstacle for him on the streets, he didn’t need to know how to read Moby Dick to survive, he needed to know how to read people… and that was a hustle he’d learned hard and fast. Now, he had to change his life.
Bishop’s only support system was a young, inexperienced dad who’d insisted he call him Mike all their life—since they looked more like brothers than father and son. And his hot-tempered, childhood, best friend from ’juvie, Trent. Bishop already had the deck stacked against him, but he wasn’t afraid of hard work to change his situation, and he did want to change. Especially after he encountered Edison Scala, a kind-spirited office manager who didn’t hesitate to come to his defense… a man that saw past Bishop’s grass-stained coveralls. A man who wasn’t intimidated by his stern features and his silence.
Edison hadn’t grown up the way most of his peers had. He’d been raised by a single father who’d owned an old-fashioned barber shop where Edison was taught how to not only shave with a straight razor, and shine shoes, but also how to treat others, to not judge, to be a gentleman, to be respectful and speak without profanity. But, the biggest lesson he’d learned, was to always be himself. His lack of friends and a social life wasn’t his fault. No matter how much weight he gained, no matter how many times his staff called him a square, Edison did not need to change.
Bishop knew Edison was off-limits. He’d made personal vows to himself when he was released from prison, ones that he never intended to break. But, when Edison asked him about providing landscaping services at his home, there was no way he could refuse. He hadn’t expected Edison to feed him, praise him, encourage him, and look at him the way he did—as if Bishop was somebody. Mike and Trent warned him not to mix business with pleasure and he didn’t intend to.
No multiple pairings.No cliffhangers. Ends with a very, very HFN.
This book is a M/M contemporary romance, a hardened man’s struggle to find real love.There are no police chases or doors being kicked in, in this one. But, don’t worry.Bishop is still intense enough to keep you on the edge.
Bishop: A True Lover’s Story is a moving story of one man’s struggle, not only to find real love, but to rise above and become a better person. This is different from A.E. Via‘s usual offering of law enforcement bad boys and shifter alphas. This is a true blue contemporary romance but with the same intense alpha males she does best.
The two main characters couldn’t be more different from each other on the surface. Bishop is rough around the edges. He’s an ex-gang leader and ex-con who couldn’t read and write. He grew up with a dad who was only 15 years older than him and wasn’t much of a father figure. Bishop was in prison for 5 years for armed robbery along with his best friend, Trent. Meanwhile, Edison was an executive at a law firm at only 26. He’s slightly overweight, cooks like a master chef and is a veritable bookworm. He has no social life at all.
Right off the bat, I connected with Edison with his weight woes, love for good food, lack of friends and capacity to devour books. It was easy to dismiss Edison as spineless at first glance. He lets his subordinates walk all over him, especially that giant prick, Skylar. But I think Edi is really just a well-mannered man who chose to be polite because he has class. He’s also genuinely kind. I loved how he makes old-fashion charming rather than backward.
Bishop is strong and vulnerable at the same time. I couldn’t imagine the kind of struggle he has gone through in a world where we take knowing how to read for granted. It was impressive how he was able to survive and adapt. He also is a talented artist who created magnificent landscape designs. I liked how he wanted to improve, not because he’s in a relationship with a wonderful man but because he owed it to himself. He’s one of the best leads Via created.
The story took its own sweet time establishing the characters and their backgrounds. Some might find the going too slow. Even I who like slow burn found myself wanting to hurry things along especially at the first parts. But I was happy I stuck around. As I got deeper into the story, I was rewarded with a beautiful portrait of a relationship between two people who fit together perfectly.
The secondary characters were also outstanding. Bishop’s dad, Mike, Trent and even Skylar the villain were all effective in their supporting and antagonistic roles. Skylar was a hateful piece of shit who liked making Edison’s life miserable because he really wanted Edi for himself. Mike is that cool dad who tried really hard to make up to his son for his lack of proper guidance while growing up. Trent was the brother from another mother who always got Bishop’s back. Trent was a favorite, he needs his own book. And I just know it’s happening!!!
Overall, Bishop: A True Lover’s Story is one of Via‘s best written books. Recommended if you’re looking for a story where love is pure and food is good.
A.E. Via books here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bit