The Freedom of Loving (Matters of the Heart, #3) by Abrianna Denae
Jared Hartley is tired of pretending. He’s spent the past seventeen years trying to live by other people’s expectations. When his home life implodes, he turns to the only person who’s wanted nothing from him except the one thing he hasn’t been able to give—his love.
Sam Evans is lonely. He has a job he loves and familial responsibilities, but he’s also spent the past six years wanting someone who will never be his.
Jared and Sam have loved each other since they met, but Jared’s complicated home life meant the only thing they could ever be is friends. When Jared returns for his annual vacation, he has one goal in mind: show Sam how great they could be together. But matters of the heart are never easy and Sam, too afraid of getting hurt, won’t cross the boundaries set in place.
With the help of their meddling family, Jared hatches a plan to woo Sam and win the heart of the only man he’s ever loved. As the pair grow closer than ever before, they learn what love freely offered and given feels like for the first time.
But Jared’s not-so-distant past comes calling, and Sam’s family life faces upheaval, putting their fledgling relationship to the test. Will love prove to be enough to survive the inevitable crash of reality, or is their soul-deep connection one of friends only?
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“Hello?” I call out as I close and lock the door behind me. No one’s in the living room, so I check the kitchen, but that’s empty as well.
As I walk out of the kitchen, I almost run into someone. “Whoa! Hey, you’re finally here,” is my only warning as I’m encased in strong, familiar arms.
Letting myself relax into the embrace, I wrap my arms around Jared, taking in his scent and the feel of his body against mine. God, I’ve missed this. Missed him. We stay like that for long moments, just holding each other. Connecting in ways only two people who are hopelessly in love with each other can.
It breaks my fucking heart to have to pull away from him because he’s not mine. As much as he feels like home, he’s not and he might never be.
“Finally,” he says as we pull apart. His blue eyes sparkle and like always, they take my breath away. “I’ve missed you, Sam.”
“I missed you too,” I whisper when I finally find my voice. Clearing my throat, I have to look away. “Where is everyone?”
“Robert’s taking a shower. The boys are in Gare’s room.”
“You mean you haven’t scared Pres off yet?”
He grins. “No! Why does everyone keep saying that?”
“Because you’re… a lot, J.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” He laughs.
“Of course you do.” I roll my eyes.
We head into the living room and sit on the couch. “So how was dinner? Sorry I couldn’t be there, but you know how Amanda is. Rescheduling is only acceptable if she’s the one who’s doing it.” I roll my eyes.
“Don’t worry about it. It was good. There’s still food left if you’re hungry. Niall seems nice.”
“He is. At least, that was my impression. Haven’t talked to him much since I’ve been so busy with literally everything. But you liked him?”
He shrugs. “Yeah. I mean, he was pretty quiet, but I don’t blame him. We’re… a bit much for new people.”
I snort. “You think?”
Jared grins. “That’s what makes us fun. But anyway, he seemed cool. Definitely has a crush on Robert.”
“Yeah? Good to know.” I study him. “You’re planning something, aren’t you?”
He laughs. “Of course I am.” A pause. “I managed to get his number. I’m going to invite him out with us. But I want you to reinforce that. I’m not sure he’ll actually show up if it’s only through a text.”
“What makes you say that?”
He sighs. “He’s kinda like Robert that way. Doesn’t want to make a nuisance of himself. But he really helped Garrett out today.”
“What’s up with that, anyway? You were vague on the phone.”
He grimaces. “I guess Gare went out and his portable went out. So he was struggling to breathe, and Niall saved his ass.”
“Shit.” I let out a heavy breath.
“Pretty much. Shook Robert up good.”
“I bet. Gare’s been doing good since Christmas. But I know Robert doesn’t trust it.”
“Yeah. They both need a break.”
Jared shakes his head and lays down on the couch. His head lands in my lap, and I run my fingers through his hair. “Tired?”
“So fucking tired. Should have got a later flight, but I didn’t want to be there for a second longer than I had to.”
I hum and massage his scalp, which makes him close his eyes. “Have you heard from your family today?”
“Nope. So I’m guessing my father hasn’t gone running his mouth yet. I’m sure I will soon.”
“I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”
He shrugs “They don’t matter. This,” he reaches up blindly and pats my arm, “being here with you guys is the important thing. Everything else is just background noise.”
“Until you have to go back,” I remind him, though my heart makes happy little flips at his words.
He makes a noise but doesn’t respond. I continue massaging his head and bask in his presence. This may be all we’re allowed to have, but it’s worth it.
4 out of 5 (very good)
THE FREEDOM OF LOVING is the third book in the Matters of the Heart series and it's time for Jared and Sam to shine. Both of them appear in book 2 (Robert and Niall) and, this book runs concurrently in places, so I really would recommend you read at least that one first. I haven't read book 1 (Garrett and Presley) yet but it will be done, I promise you!
Jared is in a marriage of convenience... but not for much longer. He's put up with a lot from his wife but her latest trick is one step too far. Once his divorce is final, he'll be free to be with Sam, the man he has loved for years. Sam returns that love but refuses to be the other man. There is a little angst as Jared mistimes certain revelations but nothing too serious.
Oh, if anyone needs to be together, it's these two. The chemistry is there in spades on every page they share. But it's not all hot and heavy, it's full of emotions too. They are there for each other, and there for their found family, including horrible situations with parents that others simply may not understand.
I found the pacing to be perfect for their story. It moved along nicely without being bogged down anywhere. There isn't a single thing I would change. This is a hug-in-a-book and definitely recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Abrianna Denae is a queer author living in Northern California. An English major, they have always had a passion for writing.
Deciding to sit down and write one of the many stories that had plagued their mind for years was the easy part—finding the time to do it was a different story.
Caffeine is their best friend, and sleep is their worst enemy.
A lover of books that make the reader feel something, Abrianna tries to incorporate as much of their real-world views and feelings into their stories as they can.