Title: The Way Things Are
Author Name: A.J. Thomas
Publication Date & Length: January 30, 2015 – 266 pgs
A night of drunken confusion at nineteen resulted in Patrick Connelly fathering a child. Determined to be there for his son, Patrick walked away from a sport he loved and forever hid his sexuality. After Patrick’s brutal divorce and a vicious hate crime, his son, Jay, has become obsessed with graffiti. Hoping for a fresh start, Patrick moves Jay to his childhood home in Seattle. Within two weeks, Jay is arrested again. On his way to pick Jay up, Patrick stops an assault, then finds himself in handcuffs too. Thinking things can’t get any worse, he’s confronted by the sexiest man he’s ever seen—his son’s new probation officer, Ken Atkins.
The hardest part of Ken’s job is working with difficult parents, and the undeniably handsome Patrick Connelly is going to be a difficult parent. A chance encounter and steamy hookup with Patrick leave Ken blindsided. As they work together to try to keep Jay on the right path, the passion between them proves impossible to resist. When the assault Patrick prevented comes back to haunt them and Jay gets into trouble again, Ken must convince Patrick that ensuring his son’s happiness doesn’t have to mean sacrificing his own.
I loved this so much! I forgot how amazing AJ Thomas’ writing is! This is the story of Patrick, a single father who works as a crane operator in Seattle. Patrick’s life is wonderfully chaotic. Thomas slowly feeds us his backstory and his current story until I just fell in love with him.
This is also the story of Ken. In a family of tough cops, he is a gay probation officer – dedicated to his job but intensely insecure.
And finally, it is the story of Jay, Patrick’s damaged, wayward, endearing teenage son.
What I love about Thomas’ writing is that she always builds romance around an engaging, exciting story. This one read a little like an episode of ‘The Wire’ but with characters I actually cared about.
Even the minor characters in this story were quirky and carefully developed. I was sad when this ended and would love to see a return to Thomas’ Seattle she has created for another book (Corbin and David please?).
Possibly my only complaint about the book is that the underlying mystery that runs through the story could have been developed further. It is unusual for romance books to include action storylines. I really like the fact that Thomas does mix action with romance, but here the action felt secondary at times, useful for plot development but almost impossible for readers to keep up with or guess at.
Finally, I like the way this relationship didn’t develop in isolation. The relationships surrounding the men were just as carefully drawn as the primary love story. All of our love stories include best friends, brothers, sons, bosses and parents and this novel explored a complex romance that felt very genuine.
Reading about the relationship between Patrick and Ken was amazing. They connected so easy and show how a relationship can deal with anything, including gas raising a troubled teen. I really liked how the relationship seemed to improve Jay’s behavior rather than make it worse which is what so many stories do when a parent meets someone new.
Ken shook his head, the motion making his entire body sway again. “I can’t believe you,” he said in disgust. “You have a child home alone right now, who needs an actual fucking role model in his life and actual supervision, and you’re here.” He gestured around at the dusty office. “I would have figured you’d be a bit old and butch for most of the clientele at this place.”
Patrick opened his mouth to deny that he was there selling himself, then stopped. “I’m not that old. And I am an employee of Corbin’s Attic.”
Ken chuckled. “You work for the club?”
“Yes. I had a shirt, but some vicious little drama queen insisted I dance with him, and he wouldn’t take no for answer.”
“You should have called one of the bouncers. They’re serious guys.”
“Uh….” Patrick scratched the back of his head. “I am pretty sure none of the other bouncers here would have come to my rescue.”
“Yeah. Which reminds me, I need to steal another shirt.” The security T-shirts were in a small, tumbling stack on top of boxes in the corner, next to five bigger stacks of black aprons and towels.
He sorted through the T-shirts to find his size, then held it up so Ken could see the stenciled yellow “SECURITY” on the back.
“You’re a bouncer?”
“Just until I get my first check from the Port. And until Jay gets in trouble again and has to pay another fine. And maybe until the owner finds someone else to use as eye candy when he wants to make the guy who refuses to go out with him jealous.”
Ken choked. “That was the owner? The blonde guy you were wrapped around out there?”
“That was Corbin Hollis, yes. Which is why none of the other guys would dare help me. He’s my best friend. He’s letting me pick up some hours here because I’m broke.”
Ken looked at him again, just for a moment, before he dropped his gaze to the floor. “I should let you get back to work, then.”
Patrick caught Ken as he stumbled toward the door. “Hang on, now. I told you why I was here. Shouldn’t you be fair?”
“No,” Ken said. “I shouldn’t be here at all. Not if one of my parents works here, that’s for damn sure.” Patrick wrapped his arms around Ken’s waist and tried to hold him steady while Ken squirmed. When he slumped back against Patrick’s chest, the hard cock straining against the denim of Ken’s jeans made Patrick freeze and nearly drop him.
A.J. Thomas writes m/m romance, mostly for her own amusement. She began writing as a child, but never attempted it seriously until later in life, penning naughty fan fiction and then original stories. Her time is divided between taking care of her three young children, experimenting with cooking and baking projects that rarely explode these days, and embarrassing her husband with dirty jokes. When she’s not writing, she hikes, gardens, researches every random idea that comes into her head, and develops complicated philosophical arguments about why a clean house is highly overrated.
She has earned a BA in English Literature and has worked in a half-dozen different jobs, from law enforcement officer to librarian. Originally from the Northwest, she has traveled all over the United States and currently lives in California. If she ever stops moving around long enough to call any place home, her heart is set on settling down in the mountains of Virginia.