Book Reviews

How Not to Sin (Lovestrong 3) by Susan Hawke

Genre Gay / Bisexual / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by ParisDude on 15-May-2020

Book Blurb

One regular guy who happens to be a preacher…  

Reverend Dr. Gabe Samson doesn’t think he’s better than any of the people in his church, so please don’t put him on a pedestal. While he’s never hidden the fact that he identifies as bisexual, he’s never acted on it either. Gabe isn’t happy to learn that the sole reason he was hired to pastor the LGBT-friendly church was that the ruling elders wanted a safe poster child for inclusivity—in other words, they wanted the rainbow flag without letting it fly.

Plus one easygoing, new age kinda guy…

Seth Thomas owns Holistic Healing, a metaphysical shop and yoga studio. He’s never really been a relationship kinda guy, but only because he hasn’t met the right man yet. Seth is laid back and goes with the flow. When fate drops a hot preacher in his lap, why wouldn’t he accept the gift?

Equals a pair of men who click from the start. 

The two men find it almost too easy to get together, especially Gabe, who is fully embracing his bi side for the first time. Nothing in life is simple though. While Gabe and Seth are busy falling in love, they face an anti-gay hate group, a divided church, and a ruling elder who is hell-bent on sowing discord. Between Gabe’s patient wisdom and Seth’s snark, the pair fight the growing drama with the strongest weapons in their arsenal: love and humor.

Book Review

Book number three in the ‘Lovestrong’ series is filled with sweet, effortless, and conflict-free romance, a solid pinch of sermons and good vibes, some serious sass, and a satisfying end to a subplot started in book number one. The main characters were no complete strangers to me as they already had made brief appearances in the two previous installments of this series, but I didn’t expect to read a gay romance including a man of the cloth. This came as a welcome surprise, but it also resulted in a bit too many homily-like conversations for my taste… I’ll say more about that aspect a bit later.

The story, like the two previous ones, is told in the first person alternately by one of the two main characters. The first one is Presbyterian pastor Gabe Samson, a young and learned man, openly bisexual even though he has never lived out his “homo side” so far. One day while driving home in heavy snowfall, he has a benign car accident and is almost literally picked up by Seth Thomas, who runs a Holistic yoga studio and shop in the little town where the whole series takes place. Seth gets them safely to his own place, where they spend a nice and easygoing evening with a fire in the chimney, candle light, red wine, and some slightly flirtatious conversation. A very romantic scene I liked for its schmoozy setting and the natural flow of two strangers getting to know each other and realizing they like what they see. No precipitated insta-love, but really a gradual falling-for-the-other-guy-thing just as I love them.

Needless to say that after that evening, they start to date with just as much ease, finding out more and more about each other… and still liking it. But of course there is someone who does not like it—one of the church Elders, in fact, gets wind of the pastor’s pastimes and is not amused. During a meeting of all the Elders, he asks Gabe to explain what is going on and informs him that the church’s promoted inclusiveness, which has prompted them to choose a bisexual pastor in the first place, is nothing more than hypocrite lip service; they hoped said bisexual pastor would only date women, marry one of them, and never really ever act out his homosexuality. A major conflict within the assembly of Elders, within the church as a whole ensues, with people taking sides and jeopardizing the church’s unity… and both Gabe and Seth need all their strength and their emotional bond to overcome the obstacle.

What I liked about this book was the moral force of both characters. They knew who they were, they knew what they wanted, they knew how to fight for their rights without ever hurting anybody else in the process. They were both genuinely good guys, warm-hearted, caring, loyal, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, mature in their actions and reactions—almost too good to be true, but it’s lovely to read about lovely people, especially in these times. No one needs to worry, however—everybody is not as lovely in this book, otherwise I would have dubbed it a fairy tale of old. But the good ones and the bad ones are clearly recognizable, white and black, with the odd gray ones caught in-between and quickly labelled as ‘redeemable’ (which is true for most people we think of as bad). The love story is nice to follow, the main plot made me turn the pages, maybe not with bated breath, but still with keen interest.

As I’ve said at the beginning, some parts were a tad too sanctimonious for my tastes, which do not tend towards organized religion (I’m pretty much like Seth for that matter, albeit less easily seduced by a handsome priest, pastor, reverend, guru, whatever…). But I understood that it was necessary for the plot development as well as the characterization of Gabe and Seth: the readers need to know where both characters stand, and it’s perfectly good writing to show them doing their jobs. Alas, the sanctimoniousness sometimes crept into the guys’ private conversations, too, and made them a bit less believable than the dialogs I was offered in the previous two books. To be honest, and maybe the weirdo is I and not Gabe and Seth, I never ever planned the right moment when to take a new paramour to bed; more importantly, I would certainly never have discussed such plans had they arisen. Meaning the two characters sometimes discuss things I can’t believe anybody would think necessary to discuss.

Apart from that minor niggle, which didn’t prevent me from enjoying the whole story, I can only repeat that it was a lovely read, easygoing, nonviolent, with love and romantic things galore, a bit of well-paced suspense that kept me going, and of course, what I expected: a nice and cozy happy ending. Looking forward to the next installment now…



DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been provided by the editor for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook, print and audio
Length Novel, 228 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 19-February-2019
Price $3.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $17.99 audiobook
Buy Link