Erryn and Dana review Life Lessons (Life Lessons Book 1) by Kaje Harper. Self-published and released on audio December 2, 2021. Narrated by J.F. Harding. 8 hrs and 47 mins in length. Ebook released November 14, 2021, 348 pages.) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Tony Hart loves teaching, even though he’s not much older than his high school students. Between his profession, a few good friends, and plenty of books, he’s content with his quiet life. Then, the murdered body of another teacher falls into the elevator at his feet, and Tony’s life becomes all too exciting.
Jared MacLean is a homicide detective, widowed father to a young daughter, and deeply in the closet. But, from the moment he meets Tony’s blue eyes in that high school hallway, Mac can’t help wanting this man in his life. Mac’s not out and can’t afford to be out, but Tony makes him want the impossible.
Mac isn’t the only one with his eyes on Tony, though. As the murderer tries to cover their tracks, Mac has to work fast or lose Tony, permanently.
(This is a rerelease of the 2011 original with light editing.)
I’m a huge Kaje Harper fan and was thrilled when I heard she was bringing her first series out on audio. I leapt on this first book and devoured it in a day.
So many feelz. I love JF Harding as a narrator and he was perfect for this. His voice just lends itself to the mid-western feel of the piece – very much rooted in Minnesota. And he’s great with building the moments of tension and sprinkling in the moments of levity.
As for the story – I enjoyed that as well. What happens when a guy is just going about his day, minding his own business, and suddenly he’s a witness to a murder? Well, gets way too close to a murder victim, anyway.
Tony Hart is that guy. Unassuming English teacher who’s got a good life. He’s out, proud, loves his career, and is doing okay. Then it all goes wrong.
Jared MacLean is the opposite of Tony. He does love his career, but he’s in a very deep closet, and not really happy. Those quick trips to Vegas to slake his needs aren’t cutting it. He spots Tony and everything shifts within him. He wants Tony. But he also wants to keep his job, and custody of his young daughter, so he sees Tony as out of reach. Of happiness and satisfaction just beyond his reach as well. He’s lost his wife – he’s not willing to lose more.
Except…well, you know… Danger breeds close quarters and things explode. Tomorrow is never guaranteed and if you meet the right person, how can that be wrong?
Fortunately, they’re able to get together in public – Tony has a young boy who he cares for deeply and Jared’s daughter is about the same age. But it’s the private time the men crave.
When the killer is caught, will they have enough of a relationship to build a life with? As a romance lover, I wanted a happy ending – and I got it. But it was more of a happily for now scenario and I’m looking forward to the next book. Highly recommend.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
I have had this book on my to read list for a long time, and I was excited to see it re-released and put on audio. Of course I jumped at the chance to review it. The first version of this book was released in 2011 and only lightly edited. I feel like you can tell it’s just the littlest bit dated, with marriage equality not being a thing back then. Overall the themes are still relevant today.
Tony is an out and proud teacher, who no kid in school seems to hate, even the more homophobic ones. I think that boils down to the fair way he treats his student and because his expectations of them are strict but not unreasonable. Beyond his career, we know he has a few friends, a child who is like a nephew to him, and a turbulent break-up in his past. Jared is a closeted cop with a daughter who lives with his cousin. His hectic career makes it hard to provide her with a stable environment but he tries to spend as much time with her as possible. Everything he does is for his child, including staying in the closet. Though work is another big reason for that. Both guys are good guys who are likable and relatable, though I do wish Jared could find a way to be himself.
The mystery in this book was interesting. It starts when a dead body falls through the elevator doors at Tony’s stop. Jared is a detective who shows up to the crime scene. Unlike a lot of mysteries that I’ve read, Tony doesn’t immediately start trying to solve the mystery himself. He lets the police do their job, but he does encourage students to let the police know anything they think might be relevant. The killer doesn’t know whether Tony saw him or not, and threats against Tony escalate throughout the book.
I thought the mystery was really good. I don’t think it’s obvious at any point who the guilty party is, and how much more is involved in regards to what made him kill. I found it very intriguing though and enjoyed the ride. I look forward to the next book coming out on audio to see how Tony and Jared manage their budding relationship while keeping it secret and what other mysteries Jared has to solve. The narration by J.F. Harding was perfect for these two characters. I definitely recommend checking this one out.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
I was born in Montreal but have lived for 30 years in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kind, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home.
I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment, usually M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have a few Young Adult stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)
My husband finally convinced me that after all the years of writing for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I have a weakness for closeted cops with honest hearts, and teachers who speak their minds, and I had fun writing four novels and three freebie short stories in that series. I was delighted and encouraged by the reception Mac and Tony received.
I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/.
You can find me and my book reviews on my author page here on Goodreads – I hang out on Goodreads a lot because I moderate the Goodreads YA LGBT Books group. I also post free short YA stories on that group, more than 50 of them so far.
You can also find me on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper