Heartsong (Vino & Veritas #13) ~ A.E. Wasp
Heartsong is the 13th book in the Vino and Veritas series, which is part of Sarina Bowen’s True North world. Heartsong is an age-gap, first-time, hurt/comfort story where the tropes blend together to form a truly beautiful story that kept me engaged throughout. Heartsong is one of those books that stays with you long after the final page is turned.
Sean and Cooper were well developed, genuinely loveable characters in whom you couldn’t help but become invested. Both with their own issues to overcome, they were well matched and each provided the pure love and support the other needed to break free from their insecurities and trauma.
For some reason, I have never read a book that dealt with gay conversion camps. It's not a conscious choice, I just haven't come across one, until now. This may be a trigger for some, but the trauma and impact of these 'camps' is dealt with sensitively, and although the description of the camp does not go into a lot of detail, it's enough to understand the long-term damage it has done to Sean.
As a result of the camp, he has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it is undiagnosed, and he has received no professional help and no support at all from his family. He has learnt coping mechanisms for when he has an 'anxiety attack', and these have worked well until his relationship with Cooper increases the severity and frequency of these attacks. Still years of hiding these episodes mean that while Cooper knows something isn't right, he is unaware of the severity of the issue until it all comes to a head.
Cooper has his own issues to overcome. Due to an accident, Cooper lost his leg and his career in the military. He has become a bit of a recluse, but with Sean's help, he comes to accept the changes to his life.
"Aww, you want me to rub it for you?" he asks, fluttering his eyelashes. Given how long and dark they are and how gorgeous his eyes are, it's a very effective trick. Between that and the blushing, if we ever do become a couple, I'll be putty in his hands."
What I absolutely loved is that Cooper is not only the older partner as part of the age-gap relationship, but he is the more emotionally mature one too. There is over 10 years between Cooper and Sean, and the two ages mean there is a natural difference in maturity. You wouldn’t expect a man in his early twenties to act the same as a man in his thirties, and although Sean is more mature than a ‘regular’ 20 year old, he is still only twenty.
So often in an age-gap relationship, you either have the super mature younger person or the older person who has the emotional range of the younger partner. Although this can and does work, life can certainly throw grenades that make you move either way emotionally, it was lovely to see a relationship where Cooper was the more stable influence because he had the extra years of emotional growth and experience to even out Sean's youth. Together they balanced each other out, it was a beautiful relationship to watch unfold.
This was my first book by A.E. Wasp, and if the rest of her writing is of similar quality, I’m looking forward to going through her backlist. If you enjoy a story that will bring a tear to your eye, but leave you on a happy sigh, then I'd highly recommend Heartsong!