A Much Younger Man (The Men of St. Nacho’s #1) by Z.A. Maxfield

This title may be purchased from Amazon

One man is older and not quite wiser. The other is young and steady. Can they ignore the critics and let their hearts decide?

Veterinarian Linden Davies gets on better with animals than men. After a lifetime of always putting work first, he’s resigned himself to one-night stands and shallow blind dates. But years of heartache evaporate when he offers a handsome young busker a free health check for his companion Labrador.

Christopher “Beck” Beckett vowed to care for his late brother’s loyal dog. After falling out with his parents and ending up on the streets playing music for tips, he longs for a warm embrace and a compassionate kiss. Linden is perfect, and he takes Beck under his wing, but his hangups over a relationship with someone half his age have Beck’s head spinning.

As Linden lets the sweet wayward guitarist into his world and gives him renewed purpose, he battles disapproval from his friends and family. And when Beck realizes the kindhearted vet could well be his true soulmate, he fears that their love is probably doomed.

Will this perfect match transcend the judgment of others?

Rating: B

A Much Younger Man is, as the title would suggest a May/December romance, and it’s the first book in Z.A. Maxfield’s Men of St. Nacho’s series – a spin off of her earlier books set in the small California coastal town of St. Ingacio, (called St. Nacho’s by the locals).  It does feature some of the characters from that series, but the story is self-contained and can easily be read as a standalone

Busy veterinarian Linden Davies – known to his friends as Lindy – decided to try the infamous brunch at Nacho’s Bar one day, and was instantly captivated by the place, so much so that a few months and visits later he’d sold his thriving practice in San Diego and opened a new practice there.

I moved for the view, the powerful feeling of community, the sense of belonging and I’ve never looked back.

He’s perhaps a little set in his ways, but he’s mostly content; he has good friends, and colleagues and has his outstpoken parrakeet for company, but since his last relationship ended, he’s decided he’s really not cut out for relationships because his work has always come first (he doesn’t only run his practice he also volunteers regularly with various animal rescue charities).  He lives alone (with his parrakeet!) and contents himself with the occasional one-night stand or blind date that doesn’t really go anywhere.  At thirty-eight, he’s resigned to the fact that finding someone willing to put up with his workaholic lifestyle isn’t going to happen and that love has passed him by – until the day a beautiful young man by the name of Christopher Beckett bursts into his life and captivates him completely.

Beck is an extraordinarily talented guitarist, and the first time Linden sees him, Beck is busking on the beach by the bar.  Lindy can hardly look away; he knows he should – the guy can be no more than twenty and Linden feels ashamed at simply gawking at him, so he’s relieved to divert his attention to the chocolate Labrador sitting at Beck’s side.  When the performance is over, Lindy asks to be introduced to the dog – Callie – and offers to give her a free health check; Beck is a bit defensive initially, but when he realises Linden really does have the dog’s best interests at heart, he agrees to bring her along the next day.

Beck hasn’t had an easy time of it over the past few years, and has been travelling around earning money by busking.  His other – human – companion, Tug, is a bit of a shifty character to whom Lindy takes an instant dislike (one he’s not quite ready to admit is jealousy) – and Lindy can’t help being pleased when, a few days later, a distraught Beck arrives at the practice and tells him that Tug has left and taken everything with him – including Beck’s beloved guitar.  Well, Lindy isn’t pleased to hear that, but he’s glad Tug has gone – and that it was he – Lindy – Beck turned to for help.

Beck’s backstory – why he’s busking for a living and how he came to be responsible for Callie – is heart-breaking, and yet he retains the resilience and optimism of youth.  He’s funny and kind and secure in himself; he’s exactly what Lindy needs – if only Lindy would let himself have it.  But Lindy’s lack of self-esteem and inability to see that he deserves to be loved get in the way, as does his conviction that the eighteen-year age gap between them is a no-no.  The author addresses the question of the power imbalance really well as Lindy struggles with his deepening and genuine affection for Beck while worrying he may be taking advantage of him – and about what everyone else will think, preconceptions which are only reinforced by (well-meaning but very annoying!) friends and family.  The story is told entirely from Lindy’s PoV, so his struggles are immediate, and his longing for Beck and his love for him are very well conveyed although the single perspective means that Beck is perhaps not quite as fully-fleshed out as Lindy is.  And while I appreciated the way the author addresses the age-gap issue, there were times I felt it was just a bit overdone.

A Much Younger Man is a charming and wonderfully readable character-driven romance featuring a pair of loveable central characters who are meant to be together, but have to jump quite a few hurdles in order to get there.  It’s a delightful read and I’m really looking forward to reading more about the Men of St. Nacho’s.

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