Mystery and misery scar their young lives. Three sisters and their foster brother are torn apart by tragedy and scattered across the country to grow up alone…
Hope Prescott lives in Boston, far from the warm, southern home she recalls. She works hard with one goal in mind—finding her long-lost siblings. Yet her job at the answering service and her own loving nature creates a family of friends, people she knows only by their voices. She especially likes Griswald, gruff old butler for wealthy Zack Givens.
Meeting Griswald is a shock; he is neither gruff nor old, but a powerful, handsome man. In fact, he is Zack Givens, cold, heartless—and charmed by the artless young woman who brings him chicken soup, treats him like a friend…and falls in love with the humble man she imagines him to be. When she discovers Zack’s secret and faces his betrayal, she leaves without a backward glance. Can Zack solve the mystery that haunts Hope's past to prove their futures lie together?
Hot damn, would you please take a look at that cover?! Two guys and no perfect six pack in sight! Revolution!
Seriously though, I wanted to have this the moment I laid eyes on it. Because c'mon! When was the last time you've seen an overweight character on a romance book that didn't include the fat, unhappy guy going on a revolutionary diet, loosing 200 pounds and THEN finding their HEA? I'm almost tempted to say never. Also, don't let the cheerful, light cover fool you. This is not a low-angst, happy-go-lucky book, and the things the MCs are dealing with are not your standard college guys/experimentation/coming out MM recipe. Sometimes it seems like a different cake altogether.
In this book, we get to meet Robert who, at the tender age of 13, realized that he's gay but can't be due to his very opressive, conservative family. His coping mechanism became eating. His weight became his armor. If no one wants to touch him, there is no reason for him to think or talk about attraction at all. Nobody wants him, so he doesn't have to face wanting someone in return. Which works out for him until he meets his new roommate at college. Out and proud Pete is pretty and smart, and (unfortunately) attracted to Robert from the get-go. What to do when the life you carefully constructed around yourself suddenly doesn't fit anymore?
There are several things that could have gone wrong with this, but made me happy when they didn't. Start with Pete. His attraction to Robert could have gone downhill fast if it would have been portrayed as some kind of kink. Too often fat-shaming occurs in the context of "No normal person would love you, only the very kinky ones with a serious fetish." So I was very happy with Pete being attracted to Robert for various reasons, and while he does have a thing for "big guys", he never made me cringe or shudder for making Robert (or me) feel dirty in any way. It was not attraction DESPITE the weight, nor was it BECAUSE OF it. Kudos to the author for finding the perfect way and tone here.
Secondly, I was afraid that somehow the story would have an undertone of... pity, maybe? Or at least the notion that overweight people are all struggling with some internal crisis and that binge-eating is their way of dealing. It could have been one of those stories where overeating was the only reason for the weight of the MC, and the overeating was the only reason for the MC to have problems in the first place, and so on and on. I didn't feel that way at all here. There is no denying that overeating was one of Roberts coping mechanisms and his armor. But. That was not all of it. His weight was not his "main problem", nor would he become magically thin and trim and fit as soon as he started to deal with his issues. He's a big guy, he will always be a big guy. But he can be a healthy, sport-y, happy big guys. His overeating is a problem, binge-eating sweets until he's physically ill is a problem. But it's not all it is, and not once did I have the feeling that it was somehow meant as a generalization á la "All overweight people eat too much because they have mental problems." Kudos. Seriously. All the kudos!
Also, how awesome was it for Robert to find love without changing his complete lifestyle, loose 200 pounds, start running marathons and becoming a sports model?! I have no words for how happy I this made me. Because hot damn.
The only thing I struggled with a little were Roberts parents, or better say the black-and-white feel of the families. Where Pete's family was absolutely 100% awesome on all levels, Robert's parents were somewhat cartoonish, evil Bible-thumpers incapable of loving their son the way he was, or even acknowledging him as a real person. I don't think they once looked at Robert and actually SAW him. So that was a little disappointing for me, a little too clichéd for my taste. But honestly? In the grand scheme of things, it didn't take away from my enjoyment that much. Minor blib on a bigger radar, so to say.
This was a strong debut all around, and a very courageous one at that. The writing might not have been flawless or perfect, but I honestly didn't give a crap anymore at one point, because I just liked the story too much.
I do love reading about characters who are different or have uncommon challenges in the m/m world. So this was a plus. I was thrilled by the way LJ Miles voiced Roberts reasons and anxieties around eating and food. The entire time I was reading I worried readers won't give this one a chance or judge Robert or worse Pete for not demanding a diet or else. The ending worked for me if for no other reason than Mile chose not to try to solve every problem by the end. Even in fiction live isn't that easy.
I've never read anything by Barton before, but I figured that between the success of her writing and the intriguing synopsis, this one would be an easy winner. Not so at all.
The general plot sounded great. Woman is cheated on by her fiance, finds herself attracted to another man, and that other man turns out to be her fiance's brother. There's so much potential for drama and emotion, and I really wanted to see it all play out. Unfortunately, it started off very shaky, and when the two-dimensional characters all came into play, it just got worse.
Mary Beth is your typical good girl, and she's engaged to a selfish jerk. He cheats on her at their engagement party, and she finds a sympathetic stranger to talk to, someone she's instantly attracted to despite her broken heart and confusion about her future. Said stranger is Parr, brother to her awful fiance, but he's not bright enough to realize that the crying fiancee he's talking to at an engagement party is his brother's woman. And when he does? Doesn't matter. He's angry at his brother and wants to win the girl. Worse than those three are the parents, all of whom seem more interested in marrying off their mismatched, unhappy children than supporting them. Parr's mother actually asks him to intercede and help the broken couple patch things up, and Mary Beth is just enough of a doormat to try to look past her fiance's cheating.
I had high hopes for this one, but I realized rather quickly that I wasn't going to enjoy reading it. I'm used to some contrived drama and even a few cardboard cut-out characters in romances, but this was just too much. When the set-up is so thin, the characters so oblivious, and I end up not liking any of them enough to care what happens next, it's time to bail and find something else to read.