'Open House' is the sequel to Micki B. Ashlings book 'Open Seating'. In Open Seating we met Seth following the death of Mark, his partner of 20 years. Seth found himself with non-refundable tickets for a UK cruise for two. Mark's friend Bryce steps in and offers to accompany Seth covering the cost of his half of the trip. It's during their cruise that these two men begin a shipboard romance that both realize they aren't ready to end when the ship docks.
'Open House' picks up with Seth moving into Bryce's penthouse apartment after confessing that he has no desire to return to the home he shared with Mark for 20 years as the memory of Mark's suicide outweighs any of the happy memories that the home may have held for Seth. While I have to admit this relationship is moving at a rather fast pace, I definitely see where Seth is coming from about this. I would also find it hard to return to my home if the last memory I have of the person I'd shared it with was their suicide. Add to this the fact that after paying for his share of a cruise that was non-refundable, Mark's funeral and other expenses Seth's nearly broke so his options are limited. Given that Mark and Bryce are both men in their late 40s (47 to be precise) this event didn't really faze me too much considering they've spent nearly a month living together on board a ship.
Unfortunately returning to land also means returning to the real world and for these two that means a whole new boatload of problems to deal with on top of the challenge of just getting use to the reality of living together. Seth is faced with the reading of Mark's Last Will & Testament which reveals that there was a sizable life insurance policy naming him the sole beneficiary and the insurance company is refusing to make the payout because Mark committed suicide so the cause of death voids the policy, however, while the results of a mandatory autopsy on Mark's body may hold some disturbing results for Seth it may also be the information that Mark's lawyer believes can change the insurance company's mind about paying out on the policy. That is provided that the results of the investigator's report are favorable...an investigator who turns out to be the man who broke Bryce's heart 25 years ago and has since fallen on hard times and sees Seth's potential payout as the solution to his problems. (no spoilers here it's all in the blurb)
I have to admit this sounded like a pretty big undertaking to me. I mean seriously there's a lot going on here for both Seth and Bryce. I was dubious as to how the author would pull this off...if it was even possible? I have to admit overall I was surprised there was a lot about this story that worked. Unfortunately for me there were also a few things that didn't, so I'm going to address these things first and we'll just get them out of the way so I can move on to discussing what I liked (because that's more fun).
Ok, first on my list and if you read my review of 'Open Seating' and a few other books you'll know this is a pet peeve of mine it's in regard to using the word 'babe' as a term of endearment. I don't honestly remember the total number of times this was used in the first book but in 'Open House' it was used a total of '72' times plus the word 'baby' was used once as a term of endearment add to the word 'sweetheart' which was used once in the first book and in 'Open House' the word 'sweetheart' has appeared a total of '21' times. While I found 'sweetheart' be slightly over used it was the word 'babe' that drove me crazy. I realize that for many this is a term of endearment unfortunately for me (yes, this is a case of it's not you, it's me) anyways, for me an occasional 'babe' is ok, but after a while and after 72 uses it becomes repetitive and goes from being a term of endearment to a form of condescension and while I didn't really factor this into my rating because...its not you, its me. Admittedly it did distract from me from the story.
The other issue I had that made this an 'it's ok' read instead of a 'wow, I'm really enjoying this' read was that there were times that the characters just fell flat for me and I lost my connection to the story or I just couldn't see the connection between them...something just stopped working.
So what did I like about this book. I liked the growth that I'm seeing in Seth and Bryce as individuals and as a couple. That they communicated as a couple and there was no blame game going on about things when they went wrong they just worked together and dealt with things...like Bryce's ex showing up as the investigator and being a major obstacle, Seth never faulted Bryce for the things he did.
I really liked the overall story and all the stuff that was going on it kept things interesting. Also I really liked that we got to meet some of Bryce's friends and I loved that Lil & Grier from her Horizon's series. it's a quirk of mine that I like it when an authors characters cross over to other series even if I haven't read the series that the characters originally came from...yet!
For me the last half of this book was definitely the part that hooked me in and helped me decide that I'll be looking to read the next book when it comes out. Mostly though I want to see Owen get what he deserves and then some because damn that cray, cray dude is still on the loose.
'Open House' definitely went better for me than 'Open Seating' in spite of all the 'babes' being tossed about and I was left with the urge to go back and finish reading the Horizon's series which honestly was pretty impressive since I admittedly didn't enjoy the first book all that much, but now I'm thinking when I have the time I need to give that series one more shot. So this one was probably a little better than a 3 star read for me but not quite enough to get me to push it up to 3.5 but close pretty close. If the first part of the book had held my interest just a bit more it could have happened.
An ARC of 'Open House' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.