You & Me by Tal Bauer

“I’m head over heels for you, Landon. You came into my life and flipped my world upside down. Everything has meaning again. I can’t get you out of my head. Your smile and your laugh have become my sun and my moon. You brought color into my world.”

Wow, I am on a roll with good books lately! I’d seen it come up on various lists and never picked it up but this book ended up being selected as the monthly pick for my book club. I was excited to check out a new-to-me author and the premise of the book sounded right up my alley. Not one, but two single dads? Yes, please! Plus friends-to-lovers and bi-awakening? Sign me up! But this book turned out to be so much more than I ever imagined. The writing was beautiful, the romance took my breath away, and the bonds between these characters (and their sons) brought tears to my eyes more than once. 

The story is told entirely from Luke’s POV, he lost his wife a year earlier and had a rocky relationship with his teenage son, Emmet. In an effort to try and repair his relationship with his son, he turns up to one of his high school football practices and is roped into volunteering for the team’s booster club by the charming and friendly Landon Larsen. Landon is the father to the team’s star quarterback, Bowen, whom he has a seemingly perfect relationship with. As Luke spends more time volunteering with the team, little by little he starts breaking down the wall between him and Emmet. He also quickly develops a deep friendship with Landon and before long, realizes these feelings he’s got toward Landon go way beyond friendship. He’s never been attracted to a man before but there is no denying the intense feelings he’s got for Landon. The problem? His son and Landon’s son are best friends. Pursuing a relationship with him could mean losing his son all over again. Is this attraction worth the risk when he’s only just starting to get his son back? 

In a way, this was a very slow burn but if you look at it in terms of the connection between Landon and Luke – it was practically instantaneous. From the very beginning, they were so comfortable with one another, the friendship between them was just so easy and came as naturally as breathing. I loved the easy way Luke accepted it when he learned Landon was gay. I loved how comfortable they were casually touching whenever they were together – knees pressed together, shoulders brushing each other, resting a hand on a bicep. The way they laughed together. How light and happy Luke felt whenever he was with Landon, or even just thought about him. All these little moments built and built until Luke finally realized he was head over heels for Landon. It was gorgeous. And I loved how simple it was for Luke to accept his sexuality once his eyes were opened. 

Even when they weren’t officially dating, the things they did together just read as incredibly romantic – which made me so happy. I also loved how supportive they were of each other, they really were each other’s rocks. If you believe in soulmates, I absolutely think that’s what Luke and Landon were. This book certainly had spice and the deep connection these two had only made the sex scenes even sexier. But I think what I loved, even more, were all the intimate moments between them – the little stolen kisses, hand-holding, whispered words, etc. It was just so beautiful. And the declarations of love were swoon-worthy. It was so refreshing reading about mature characters who were so in touch with their feelings. It’s not a super common thing to find in a romance novel. 

Beyond Luke and Landon’s gorgeous relationship, I think the father/son bonds between Luke and Emmet and Landon and Bowen were so well done. My heart ached for Luke, who so badly wanted to repair his broken relationship with Emmet. Hearing about how close they had been compared to seeing how distant they were now broke my heart. I think I had tears in my eyes in the 2nd or 3rd chapter the first time Luke earned a half smile from his son. Both men were such great dads to their boys, even if the relationships couldn’t have been more different. The way Landon threw that lifeline to Luke at the beginning and how Luke did everything in his power to not squander the opportunity really won my respect. The way all 4 of these guys became a family was beautiful. I feel like I’ve used the word ‘beautiful’ a lot now but it’s the first word that keeps coming to mind to describe so many aspects of this story! 

There was some angst but I appreciated that the source of the conflict turned out to be much different than I was expecting. The thing that came up took me by surprise and made for a better story. I’m glad the author didn’t go the route I was expecting! 

The epilogue was the sweetest and leaves the door open to maybe revisit these characters – not to worry, this story is very much complete as-is with a very satisfying ending. I’m just being greedy and hoping to spend more time with these guys in the future! In the meantime, I’ll be running to check out more of Tal Bauer’s work. I’m definitely a fan now! 

“I think,” he began, “you’re the man I was dreaming about.” Another kiss, folded into my hand. “You’re the man I dreamed about all those years ago when I was struggling to find myself. You’re him. You’re the man I’ve been searching for my whole life.” He pressed my hand to his cheek and closed his eyes as his tears started to fall.

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