REVIEW: Fair Isn’t Life by Kaje Harper
Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.
Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.
Dear Kaje Harper,
I really enjoyed this novella – and as I hasten to add, often contemporary m/m romance is not my favorite subgenre. Moreover, farming is not really my thing, but I ended up really enjoying learning some stuff about farms that I had no idea about.
As blurb tells you Mason and Luke reconnect two years after they graduated from high school. Mason is out and proud and marched as part of his school orchestra. Luke is struggling to make ends meet after the beloved farm that he helped his dad run for years went down. He was forced to let the experienced farm hand go and left his home.
Mason and Luke did not come out to each other in high school, but they were friends and both were secretly crushing on each other. When Mason notices Luke he is curious and worried about him and wants to reconnect so being an optimistic and stubborn person he seeks out Luke and after brief initial reluctance Luke agrees to meet up.
I really liked both young men.Their circumstances may have been drastically different, but it was clear to me almost from the very beginning that their friendship /untold crush was based on something real and it does not take Luke too long to admit that he is indeed gay and interested in continuing meeting Mason and maybe dating him too.
Luke is in a dire financial circumstances when we meet him, and he knows that his cleaning job at the Fair is going to end when the Fair ends, so he knows he has to start looking for something permanent. Meeting with Mason gives him a necessary push – by no means Mason was saving him, or anything like that. Luke is a hard working and stubborn soul in his own way, but Mason helped with something as simple as stable internet connection and use of his laptop for example to send emails related to his job search.
Luke’s passion is farm and animals ( especially cows – Anne was awesome :)), he knows a lot about them and that’s the kind of work he wants to do and it seemed to me ( as somebody who respects farmers, but knows nothing about farming ) that he was very qualified after helping his father run the farm for several years.
“Luke pulled himself together, squaring his shoulders like he was in 4-H judging class, and looked at the cow. “Nice strong frame, pinbones a bit high, nice feminine head. Good dairy character, deep chest, wide ribs. Decent legs, pasterns kind of long. Good udder, rear attachment a bit narrow. How many lactations?” The man laughed. “I knew it. 4-H kid, right?” “Yes, sir.” “So was I. About fifty years before you.” He let out a long breath. “Farming’s never paid worth a damn, but it’s a noble calling. I went on to vet school, made a good living from it, now I’m teaching. But every year, there’s less and less kids with a real feel for cattle or pigs or sheep.”
I was rooting for Luke to have his dream come true and I rooted for him and Mason to have some kind of the future. I thought the story was well paced, since it was a novella, and the relationship arc seemed to be for the guys to reconnect, to me it made sense that there was no what I call “mandatory break up” plot point. I thought it worked very well.
Since they were both young, I would have been totally fine with the story not having strong HEA, and I was very happy and believed in how it ended.