Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: After Ben by Con Riley

Reviewed by Fehu
After Ben (Seattle Stories #1) by Con Riley
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 300pgs
5 Pants Off

A year after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben, Theo Anderson is still grieving. The last thing he’s looking for is a new lover. But as Theo soon discovers, sometimes life has other plans.

While Theo experiences a powerful physical attraction to fellow gym member Peter, it’s his new online friend, Morgan, who provides the intellectual challenge to make him come alive. Morgan is witty, brave, and irreverent, and Theo is ready to take the plunge… until he discovers Morgan might be half his age.

Theo’s late partner was significantly older—enough to strain Theo’s relationship with his family—and the potential of another relationship being cut short leaves him gunshy. Theo needs to lay Ben’s memory to rest, reconcile with his family, and rekindle neglected friendships if he’s to start afresh with a new lover. But Theo isn't the only one with a past.

His biggest challenge, in living after Ben, might not be his to face.

Beautiful writing! I laughed and I cried. Riley created a wonderful book full of emotional high and lows. The characters are drawn masterfully, they grow on you and it’s easy to fall into their story, to empathize with their sorrows and their joys. I loved the supporting characters Evan, Meggy, and Joel, who are a force of nature. Actually, I had hoped the next story might feature them, Evan’s brother, or Ben’s younger brother Marco. It’s not often that I like so many characters in one book but here it’s hard not to feel some connection to them and I think that is quite an accomplishment for a debut novel!

As the reader, you experience Theo’s point of view. Theo has recently lost his older partner Ben, who died of a heart attack. Ben and Theo were together for over 10 years, so it’s understandable, that his death is really hard on Theo, he shuts down on his friends and family and tries dealing with Bens death alone.  At the beginning of the book, Ben starts to open up, but they are baby steps with setbacks. The reader experiences memories of Ben, and these are the moments that made me cry, because it’s in these moments that one understands what Theo lost and how deep his feelings for Ben run.

The author has done a fantastic job to convey the depth of their love and Theo’s loss, without grand scenes or gestures, it’s in the everyday life that Theo misses Ben, who opened the door for him, when his arms were full, who told him that he loved him after they fought. Ben gave up his life in Italy and followed Theo to the US so they could be together; he made Theo enjoy life more. Ben was such a vibrant person that his death left Theo’s life empty of color and excitement. His way of coping is running in the gym, and after a few months it's there that he meets Peter. Another after Ben activity to help him cope was participating in discussions in the local internet forum. It is there that he meets Morgan.

Morgan is loud, outspoken, loves to discuss and is somewhat bossy, he is snarky and funny and actually the person who helps Theo overcome his grief, without ever meeting Theo in person. They start messaging each other and the messages are a lot of fun, Morgan is something else. I loved to see how their relationship developed slowly and sweetly, there were misunderstandings and hurt feelings but they worked it out.

Another complex relationship was that of Theo and his parents, they were reserved to Ben and never accepted him fully; this made it hard on Theo to lean on them after Ben’s death. It’s after Morgan’s messages, that he visits his family and they start to reconcile their relationship.

What I enjoyed most about this book is the pacing, which made the story believable and gave me enough time to connect with the characters. After Ben leaves a book hangover, it does not let you go easily and makes you think. In my opinion that deserves taking quite a lot of pants off.

5 Pants Off


  1. Great review! This one is definitely on my TBR list. I noticed that the second book, Saving Sean, is about Peter and it will be released on September 24th.

    1. I really wanna read it now, thanks to Fehu's review. Maybe I will wait till the series is over.


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