The Little Library by Kim Fielding

On the left, the torso of a man in blue jeans, a grey/brown tee with a blue shirt open over it, with an open hardback book in his hands. On the right, a small library in the shape of a house with a plexi front.Why I read it:  I received a review copy via NetGalley.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  The Little Library is a fairly quiet book, gentle rather than action-packed and told from the perspective of Elliott Thompson. Elliott has a habit of buying books on Amazon when stressed and given his recent history he’s stressed a lot. He was in a closeted relationship with a professor at his previous university and that guy, it turned out, was embezzling funds. Elliott was accused by association but eventually exonerated – he really didn’t know anything about it. He exited the university and moved back to his home town of Modesto in California, where he teaches online community college courses as an adjunct. His ex is in prison. He is looking for a tenure-track position at a research university but the field is a tough one and his reason for leaving his last job works against him.

Because books are taking over his house, he decides to build a little library out the front of his house. Over time, this brings members of the community to his yard and he begins to build friendly relationships. Some of the books he puts in his library are gay history books and he’s noticing that they’re going fast. He decides to do a bit of minor detective work to identify who is borrowing them and is delighted to find out it’s the hot guy he’s seen in the green belt when he’s been out running.

Simon Odisho is a former cop, recovering from being shot in the knee. He is having intensive therapy and walking is part of it. He is gay, has known it for years but has been closeted because he was unsure how he would be accepted at work and (this is the main reason) he’s pretty convinced his conservative Assyrian immigrant parents will reject him. He’s very close to his large extended family and the thought of being estranged from his parents in particular horrifies him. Lately though, he’s wondering whether he needs to take the risk and come out because he wants a partner and a family and it will never happen unless he can be himself openly.

Simon comes out to Elliott and they become friends and, pretty quickly, lovers. They agree to see where it goes, noting that Elliott won’t live in the closet again and that he’s looking for work which might take him anywhere. So there could be a short expiration date on their relationship. They decide to proceed cautiously to see whether what they could have would be worth taking a risk in other areas.

The romance is fairly domestic. Not without passion and sexual connection though. I did find myself skimming in a few places because things were moving a little too slowly. There were times when not much was happening.

What else? The Little Library was an easy read, kind of a cosy mystery without the mystery aspect I suppose. Elliott and Simon were both engaging characters, if a little boring at times. One of their dates is to a railway museum which kind of made me yawn because… trains? I’m not really into them. But that’s okay because the book wasn’t about trains – it was about Simon and Elliott and while they had interests different to mine, they were both nice guys, trying to do their best and find love. I liked that Elliott and Simon were kind of ordinary. Simon has a bit of a belly and Elliott thinks he’s hot – just like real life. It’s nice to read a romance sans-six pack abs every now and then. (I’m not going to complain about six pack abs however because hello?)

The ending was a little happy families but I couldn’t actually be too sad about it. I do like my romances wrapped up in neat bows and this one definitely had that.

Grade: B-

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