Love Means … Freedom by Andrew Grey

Spurned by his father and driven from his home, Stone Hillyard is struggling to find shelter in the Michigan winter when he lucks upon the horse farm run by Geoff Laughton and his partner Eli. They take him in, warm him up, and give him a job working with their No Boundaries Therapy-Riding Program.

A drunk driver left Preston Harding unable to walk, and after months of hard work, his therapist recommends Geoff and Eli’s program. But Preston’s anger and arrogance nearly get him kicked out until Stone intercedes on his behalf, despite Preston’s insults. It’s a small act of kindness that helps open Preston’s eyes.

Stone and Preston will support each other as they face their families’ disapproval and fight old secrets. They’ll learn – sometimes the hard way – just how love can mean freedom for them both.

Love Means … Freedom by Andrew Grey is the fourth book in the Farm series in which the author introduces two new characters – Stone Hillyard and Preston Harding – who become part of the extended family on the Laughton farm. In this recent book, Mr. Grey has written another touching romance with substance.

Stone Hillyard has had a very difficult and tragic upbringing. He is driven from his home by an abusive father and forced to take odd jobs in order to survive and to make enough money to head south to a warmer climate. One stormy winter night Stone finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold when he’s forced to escape from a dangerous ride. Stone stumbles upon the Laughton farm and is immediately taken in by Geoff Laughton and his partner Eli who offer him shelter, food and a job working with their No Boundaries Therapy-Riding Program. At first, Stone can’t believe that Geoff, Eli and their family would take in an undeserving stranger and prepares to leave the farm, but he soon realizes that he is truly wanted and that he has a home and can build a life if he is willing to accept Geoff and Eli’s kindness and generosity.

Preston Harding comes from a well-to-do family and doesn’t want for anything, except perhaps understanding, acceptance and emotional support from his father. A car accident at the hands of a drunk driver has left Preston unable to use his legs. While Preston has been told that with intense physical therapy he will eventually regain the use of his legs, he is angry at being wheelchair bound and takes out his frustration and fear on the world. At the urging of his good friend and therapist Jasper, Preston becomes part of the No Boundaries Therapy-Riding Program, however, Preston’s rudeness almost gets him kicked out of the Program on his first day.

At Stone’s request, Preston is given one more chance to remain in the Program, and while their relationship gets off to a rocky start, Stone and Preston can’t deny their growing attraction to one another. As they get to know each other their relationship forms into a mutually supportive friendship that eventually grows into love. But as Preston slowly regains his strength and the use of his legs Stone is faced with the difficult decision of loving Preston enough to grant him his freedom to build the life, that according to Preston’s father, he was meant to have. But can Stone also free himself from his own past and trust that he is deserving of Preston’s love?

What immediately struck me after reading Love Means … Freedom is that the quality of the writing has remained consistently good throughout all the books in the series, including with this latest installment. The writing itself is quite fluid and the prose rich in its descriptions allowing the reader to become completely immersed in the story from the first page.

“Snow swirled around him as he began walking. Stone had no idea where he was going and only hoped he could find a warm place out of the wind, which began to pick up almost as soon as it began getting dark. He heard the sound of a car approaching behind him and put out his thumb, but the driver continued down the road, his wheels throwing up a wave of ice and slush, making Stone even colder. ‘Fuck.’ He rummaged around in his pack, but couldn’t find his gloves. ‘God damn,’ he half cried to the silent trees, his adrenaline-fueled bravado popping like a soap bubble. He’d left his gloves in the old fuck’s truck. He shoved his hands back in his pockets for warmth. ‘Maybe I should have just sucked him off.’ The thought made him shudder as tears threatened. He might have been desperate, but he wasn’t that desperate, not yet. Wiping his eyes, he looked around at the darkening landscape of trees and white. ‘Maybe I will be soon.’ Huddling to keep his skin out of the wind, he continued walking and found himself approaching a corner.”

The story is written in the third person and from the perspective of both Stone and Preston, who are well-developed characters, giving the reader deeper insight into the emotional struggles of both young men as they each strive to overcome their individual obstacles. Despite the fact that Stone and Preston come from completely different worlds they quickly realize that they have much in common, namely difficult family issues to overcome, and find not only solace in one another but also friendship and love.

As with all the books in the series, the author takes his time in the development of Stone and Preston’s relationship, including sex between these characters, with well-placed relationship conflict and angst throughout the plot that only serves to heighten the reader’s interest and anticipation of what will happen next. Being with Stone and trusting in their relationship has motivated Preston to make some positive changes within himself, but Stone’s feelings of inadequacy and his belief that he is undeserving of Preston’s love threaten to destroy their relationship.

Fans of the series will be happy to know that characters from previous books in the series are featured in this story as Geoff and Eli, Joey, Robbie and Geoff’s father Len lend their support to Stone and Preston helping them to realize that a chosen family can be more loving and accepting than one born into. In this respect, the author revisits the underlying themes of the series of belonging and family.

Love Means … Freedom has all the makings of a good reading escape. It is a heart-warming and sweet story that has the right balance of romance, sex and angst, while at the same time seamlessly interweaving issues of substance that deal with abuse, homophobia and the struggle for self-love and acceptance in Stone and Preston’s story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Love Means … Freedom (as I have all the books in the series thus far) and have no doubt that both readers familiar with the series and those new to it will also enjoy Stone and Preston’s story. The introduction of new characters and story lines with each successive book has allowed the series to continue to evolve and coupled with Mr. Grey’s consistently solid writing I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Love Means … Freedom can be read as a stand-alone book as the author provides enough back-story to situate all the characters and their histories. However, in order to more fully appreciate the wonderful characters and world that Mr. Grey has created in this book and the series as a whole, I encourage those new to the series to read the previous books in sequence before embarking upon this one.

Love Means … Freedom by Andrew Grey is available at Dreamspinner Press.

NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.

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