A Handful of Joy

When does never turn into happily ever after in the search for love?

Top accountant of Manzanita Imports in Sacramento, Ted Abbott stopped participating in the love game after he turned thirty quite a few years ago. He’s not tempted by the cute young new hires or the product reps his loyal staff suggest he ask out on a date.

Chicago contractor Matt Patterson is on the verge of giving up too. He’s worked his way up from apprentice carpenter to co-owner of a thriving business. At forty-something, he’s considered a lucky catch for anybody looking for a sugar daddy, which he knows only too well.

The chance of them meeting is nil until Matt’s uncle who lived in Sacramento dies and leaves his estate to his nephew.

After they meet in a dilapidated bar called The Roost, could their paths actually merge and become one?


“Where to next?” I asked Matt after shooting off a text to Josie.

“Somewhere I can think.” He turned and looked at me. “Thank you for the assist back there. It takes me a minute when something unexpected happens. A lot of people call me slow and others call me plain old stupid.”

He shook his head.

“A few of my friends at work call me ‘Give-me-a-minute-Matt’. I gotta step back and assess the situation and go over all my options before I come to a decision.” His mouth turned up in a rueful grimace. “Often people get annoyed when I do it.”

Not me. I was impressed. I liked a guy who took his time and didn’t just blunder ahead like his first thought always had to be the best. Careful thought beat impetuous action as far as I was concerned.

“Okay. All right.” I couldn’t leave it at that, though. “You didn’t hesitate the other night. Seemed pretty quick and direct to me. I was surprised.”


It took him a second, but he smiled a dreamy kind of grin.

“Yeah. The dance. The kiss.” He winked at me. “Not typical, so don’t get used to it.”

While we laughed softly together, I realized the easing of tension after our visit to Calvin was just what we needed.

“So, beef, chicken, fish, or other?” I asked.

“I don’t care as long as it’s somewhere quiet and we can talk without getting interrupted.”

His request wasn’t as impossible as it sounded. I took him to my favorite noontime Sudoku and tea spot, a tiny café I’d dubbed The Café That Time Forgot.

When it was built six generations back, Grumpy Gramp’s had been situated on one of the up-and-coming arterials in and out of San Francisco. Then highways had been built, with freeways not long afterward, followed by Interstate 80. The arterial receded into being a rural road, and instead of blossoming into the first of a flourishing chain of roadside cafés, Grumps, as it was affectionately called around here, became an anomaly, a family owned and operated East Bay institution.

Matt glanced at the sign over the brick building and laughed.

“Why’s he grumpy?”

“The café’s claim to fame is locally sourced ingredients for its soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries. The story goes that back in the early 1900s when Gramps built the café on the edge of the fields, he always helped the workers pick the produce. One day a farmer brought in a box of greens and vegetables he’d picked the night before, so they weren’t in the best shape in the morning. Grampa reamed him out, calling the guy a ‘limp asparagus’. Everyone in the café at the time thought it was hilarious. They said the place’s name should be changed. Gramma wasn’t amused but said from now on her café would be called Grumpy Grampa, not Limp Asparagus. The name stuck.”

Matt was full-out belly laughing.

“Oh, God. The image. Limp asparagus.”

“Yeah, I know. Not a place where any self-respecting man would want to eat. Ever.”

Reviews:True on Love Bytes wrote:


Ted lived quite the happy life, working with enough time to regroup, chill over some beers, and charge his battery. Until his job changed and with that his whole life.

Meeting Matt at a bar was something else. Just like himself, Matt wasn’t a youngster. A thousand thoughts are running through Ted’s head, doubts, how to act, oh my, the difficulties of a single gay man’s life.

Matt inherit property from his uncle Tom, who was gay and banned from the family. His uncle’s lawyer gives useless advice from a horrible homophobic pov.

Ted and Matt take stock of all the inheritance. Matt wants to look at all the houses.

What follows is a marvelous journey, with depth, clarification, and beautiful people.

It’s a considerate story, it’s gentle, there are some sad moments, but Matt and Ted gently made things right for people who were wronged.

The way the author created an intimate atmosphere was awesome, looking around everything was perfectly visually portrayed. Matt and Ted just fit, the attraction was instant, they are mature, gentle, emotional, and very lovable.

It was a short read, about 70 pages, I’m in awe, the content felt like a novel.
All beautifully written, developed at the right moments, the story felt so warm and comfortable, it touched my heartstrings.

Susan on ButtonsMom LovestoRead wrote:

A sweet story.

A Handful of Joy is the first book I’ve read by Pat Henshaw and I liked it very much. It’s a fairly short novella and I don’t judge them quite the same way I do a longer book because there just isn’t a lot of time for character development.

This is pretty much an insta-love story but I don’t mind those like some readers do. Both Ted and Matt are lonely and resigned to end up without a life partner as they are both over 30. They meet at a bar that Ted hasn’t been to in ages and Matt asks him to dance. (Later we learn that it’s not a gay bar and Matt was surprised the Ted didn’t deck him.) That dance begins their journey together with Matt telling Ted how he’s come to inherit property in the area and that he needs to settle his uncle’s estate.

I love the way these two interacted with each other. This isn’t a hot and heavy sex filled story. It’s really sweet with enough heat (off page) that you know the sexy time is good for them. I was captured by their story and was anxious to see how things turned out with all of the properties that Matt inherited.

There were just two minor things I would have liked to learn during the story: 1 – I really wanted to know if the uncle’s homophobic, thieving lawyer got what was coming to him and 2 – and what about the house that Matt and Ted never found when they went to look at the inherited properties? Neither of these missing elements were enough for me to drop a star from my rating. Like I said at the beginning, short books like these usually can’t contain all of the elements that a voracious reader like me wants to read. 😊

If you’ve read this far (thank you), I want to end on a totally positive note and express once again how much I enjoyed the first book I’ve read by Pat Henshaw.

A copy of this book was provided to me at my request but my review was voluntary and not influenced by the author.

***Reviewed for Xtreme-Delusions dot com*** (posting on Dec. 12, 2021)

Red's Book Reviews on MM Romance Reviewed wrote:


Ted is an accountant who after a long day decides to pop into a local bar for a beer and to recapture memories of better days. Instead he meets Matt, a construction worker who has recently inherited a bar. The story follows Matt and Ted over the next couple of months as they help each other and develop their relationship. I liked that this wasn’t a quick one weekend kind of story and that you got a bit more of their lives and a proper HEA at the end. A Handful of Joy is a really good short read.

Heather on MM Romance Reviewed wrote:


A Handful of Joy is short, sweet and to the point, but it doesn't lack for anything because of that... Pat Henshaw is able to pack a complete tale into the seven chapters they provide. It's got a meet-cute, but not an insta-love story which for a short is pretty amazing! I love how the story flows and provides a satisfying HEA in so few words.

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