Courtland fans, get ready – the next generation’s here!
A campus flu outbreak, complicated by a freak October blizzard, brings Cornell seniors Seth Thompson and Bilal al-Mansoori together. Three days spent waiting out the storm at Seth’s snowbound apartment leads to an unexpected mutual attraction—and a hot night under the covers, which quickly deepens into a true emotional bond…
Plus, a world of problems for Bilal, an Iranian Muslim. Despite his homeland’s harsh laws and even harsher punishment for homosexuality, Bilal can no longer deny who he really is: A gay man falling in love for the first time.
Seth’s gentle manner and passionate lovemaking bring Bilal more joy than he ever thought possible. Yet, despite the lovers’ growing happiness, Bilal’s haunted by guilt and shame left over from his strict upbringing, and the sad realization that he’ll never see his family in Iran again.
Speaking of families, it’s time for Bilal to meet Seth’s…
Eric, Nick and Ally. Ten years later, this committed triad is still as deeply in love as ever, but even commitment comes with challenges…
Is there room in this non-traditional family for Bilal? His future with Seth may depend on it.
As a fan of the Courtland Chronicles since the very beginning, it's been a bumpy ride to get where we are today. Where we are today is a focus on the next generation of Nick's son Seth and his grown-up relationship with Bilal who's sexuality has him conflicted. Though the majority of the drama pertains to their bumpy romance it's still not a HEA for the senior Courtlands as a life-altering event befalls Ally which will require the unconditional love and support of her men, Nick and Seth, and their triad bond which is just as strong as ever. Throw in the energetic and wise beyond her years Lizzie and it all adds up to an emotional read that puts readers through the wringer.
After their unexpected connection during a snowstorm that readers witnessed in In From the Cold (and which is included here), the burgeoning relationship of Seth and Bilal is progressing nicely with just a few issues along the way. Those issues being Bilal's struggle to come out which is made even more difficult as in his culture being gay means death. This weighs on him heavily and has him treating Seth like a dirty little secret early on. Bilal's fears are palpable and bordered on paranoid as he often felt they were being stared at in public which had me sympathetic towards him but wanting to shake him too. Seth's understanding through it all but wants more from him and with gentle prodding Bilal starts taking baby steps forward in accepting himself. I applauded him as he finally started experiencing life, realizing there's more to living than endlessly studying and being alone. It was like seeing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. Bilal was overly serious when we first saw him but now the smiles are more frequent with bits of humor emerging. By accepting himself he's become a more fully fleshed-out person and I look forward to seeing where life takes him next as the fear of discovery hasn't gone away completely.
Throughout it all Seth has been his guide. He's been infinitely patient and supportive, never pressuring Bilal beyond what he could handle. Though Seth's previous relationships have been based on superficiality his connection to Bilal feels more mature and the seriousness of Bilal's circumstances make it more intense. Seth is a fun-loving guy, charming to all but not afraid to flex some muscle to keep Bilal safe when a former friend makes threats. It shows a caring side of Seth and proves he's not all about fun when seriousness is needed. His sexual interludes with Bilal continue to show his caring side and ranged from sweet to sensual, never getting too erotic this early on in their relationship.
Even as Bilal and Seth are heading towards a HFN ending, the same can't be said for the elder Courtlands as Ally experiences a life-altering event that was obvious to me from the very first hint. It's a dramatic change to their triad but I have no doubt that it will bring them even closer together and I'll have plenty of tissues nearby as this storyline plays out in what I hope will be a realistic way...and with Ms. Grant at the helm I'm sure it will. Their triad might not be displaying the erotic intensity it once had but it's now a relationship based on comfort and unconditional support to make for a heartwarming change of pace from their early years.
All in all this was an enjoyable read. It was both sweetly charming as the people involved have become like family and emotionally intense as it dealt with serious issues. Though the ending wrapped up many issues it left plenty threads dangling to leave us wanting more and I'm counting down the days until we're invited back into this unconventional family's life.
My rating for this is an A-
*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.