“After Ben” by Con Riley— Living

Riley, Con. “After Ben” (Seattle Stories, Book I), Dreamspinner Press, 2012.


Amos Lassen

Theo Anderson cannot stop grieving over the loss of his partner Ben to a sudden death a year ago. He certainly is not interested in a new relationship bout life takes some funny turns. Theo is strongly physically attracted to Peter, a guy at his gym but he is more attracted to Morgan, his online friend, who provides him with intellectual stimulation. Morgan is a guy whose wit is sharp and he seems to be well versed in many things. Theo feels he is ready to “hook up” with Morgan and then he discovers that his cyber buddy is half his age.

Ben was considerably older than Theo and this put a stain on their relationship especially with Theo’s family and Theo is certainly not prepared to get involved in something that might end quickly. He realizes that he must also make sure that in his mind Ben has been laid to rest so that he can come to terms with his family and rebuild the friendships that his relationship has caused to let slide.

Riley takes us on a bittersweet journey with a man suffering from grief as he tries to find a way to happiness, love and satisfaction. It is very hard to read this book without becoming emotionally involved with Theo and feel the pain that he does. The narrative is written with beautiful sensitivity especially in the sections of Theo facing having to say a permanent goodbye to Ben. He has to go through the grieving process and all of its steps and we, like Theo, feel Ben’s presence. The fact that Ben died so suddenly (from cardiac arrest while driving) makes it even harder for Theo to pick up and go on. Theo becomes a loner to a degree and feels that he cannot be around other people. He puts his own life on hold and does not answer the phone and ignores messages from his friends. He knows that he has lost Ben but he just cannot leave him behind. When he finally tries and meets Peter at the gym, he is encouraged to begin the road back to life and while his body allows him to do this, his mind says that he is not yet ready.

But then he meets Morgan online and during the course of a few months they build a virtual friendship. Both men have baggage and each is challenged by the other. Theo begins to fall in love with the character he sees on the computer screen and pays little attention to Morgan’s opinionated ideas and thinks of him as having a big heart. Still it takes a while for them to actually meet face-to-face. There is even a hint of sexual tension before their first sexual liaison but the most surprising thing is that Theo remained in the dark about the issues that Morgan was dealing with.

Morgan has big shoes to fill. Ben was such a good guy and such an important part of Theo’s life that it will take a great deal to win him over. Even though Ben is dead, he is still a larger-than-life character in the story. As Theo finally begins to move from darkness to life, he begins to exhibit some really fine character traits and this is the reason that it takes him so long to move forward. He is a considerate and thinking person who has known true love and is afraid that he has had his chance so nothing much will happen in his life.

This is a first novel for the author and the good news is that we know there will be a sequel since the title includes the subtitles of “Seattle Stories, Book I”. I am not going to include any spoilers because it is not fair to do so but what I will do is recommend this book as a really terrific read.









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