"She shook her head. "He seems like he's the opposite of simple."
I snorted. He's completely complicated. And lost. And frustrating. But we do something for each other." I intertwined my fingers. "We fit. We need each other."
The first book in this series, Strong Signal, was already close to perfection for me. But this? THIS WAS GODDAMNED EVERYTHING. I really don't think you can write a better story about imperfect characters with realistic problems and reasonable motivations and actions.
This book reminded again why the "fuck buddies-to-lovers" trope is such a favorite of mine. I just LOVE the concept of "lust first, feelings later". When what was supposed to be just a casual hookup with no strings attached becomes a regular arrangement, then feelings (oh, those damn feelings) are beginning to sneak their way in, slowly but unavoidably. With jealousy, possessiveness and all. Ugh, so good.
Usually, once the MCs got together in my books, I lose interest. Very quickly, very thoroughly. Sure, it's nice to see how they manage their everyday life (family, friends, work) now that they're in a new relationship, but I already know that life is hard and complicated and I don't want to read about it. It unnerves me.
But that wasn't the case here. Not at all. I loved the first part of the story (the "getting together" part) just as much as the second part (the "handling RL together" part). The sex scenes in the first half were nothing but smoking HAWT (not really a big shocker if you're familiar with these authors' other works), and the (multiple) family dramas in the second half were realistic and believable. And thankfully not too angsty.
I can't really say anything more or add anything else that hasn't been said already in other reviews. This was a solid 5 star-book for me, it goes onto my "favorites" shelf and I can't recommend it highly enough.
"Named a Best Romance of the Year by The Washington Post"? Well, consider me NOT surprised. Absolutely rightful and deserved.
Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, I salute you.
"So this is what it feels like to be a father. To be responsible for another human life. To love someone so much, you almost can't stand it; and when you think about it, there's nothing you want in return.
It feels amazing."
This book was basically a big epilogue for the first 3 books in the series. It is set 15 (!) years after the last volume, with the former late teens Skylar and Rafael now being two adults in their early 30s. They're happily married, Skylar got his voice back and is finally able to talk (like Rafael promised him he would), and now they're trying to adopt a foster kid. All's well that ends well. Yay!
Fun fact #724 about me: I don't really like kids in my books. More often than not, they unbalance the relationship of the MCs and everything starts revolving around them, while the romance takes a backseat.
Thankfully, that was not the case here. I liked bratty little Michaela well enough that she didn't ruin Skylar and Rafael's relationship for me. Phew! Close call.
However, I did have an issue with this book. A HUGE one.
Like I said, the story takes place 15 years after the third book. And a lot has happened during that time. Things that are only mentioned in passing or as a footnote.
LIKE SKYLAR AND RAFAEL GETTING MARRIED.
LIKE SKYLAR, WHO HAS BEEN MUTE FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES, GETTING HIS VOICE BACK THANKS TO RAFAEL.
LIKE SKYLAR'S GRANDMOTHER PASSING AWAY.
Not gonna lie, this was more than a little disappointing and frustrating.
Because there was so much left to love here. It was really nice and touching to see Skylar and Rafael and all their friends as adults. And to see that their love has stayed so strong over the years was nothing but sweet and satisfying. And I liked both main storylines with Michaela/Mickey and Skylar's father.
But I can't help but feel like I missed some of the most important bits of Sky and Rafael's life, and that leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in my mouth.
Thankfully, I also can't help but give this book another 4.5-star rating. Because the writing was STILL so goddamn excellent, and all characters were STILL so completely and utterly lovable. Damn you, Rose Christo, for being so goddamn talented and for giving me all the feelz. How could I ever be mad at you?
PS: That twist at 91%? Shocking and awesome AF! I never saw it coming.
Guys and gals-who-love-guys-who-rub-their-penises-with-other-guys: I want to apologize in advance, because I know that most of my friends really liked this book and I liked the first 40% too. But once the MCs began to dip their toes into the romance territory, everything became just SO ABSURD and turned out to be so truly, madly, deeply stupid, that I really, really couldn’t.
*** SPOILERS 'N SHIT ***
There were so many eye-roll inducing moments, SO many, that I was afraid that I’d see my own brain at one point:
I could go on and on, folks; I've written down dozens of this nonsense stuff.
But my main problem with this book was that I didn’t buy the romance between Austin and Cam AT ALL. I've understood the closeness and the comfort that these two felt for each other after what they've been through. Truly and honestly, I did. I swear to Kylie! But there’s STILL a difference between being co-dependant and developing romantic feelings.
It made NO FUCKING SENSE that Austin was also suddenly being physically attracted to Cam. Or that he craved cock from one day to the next. The Gay-For-You, or Bi-For-You, or Whatever-The-Fuck-For-You theme was one of the worst and sloppiest that I’ve ever read. The brand-new gay sex machine Austin had no worries at all being attracted to a guy all of a sudden. There was no hesitation, no inner turmoil, no big conflict. Just NOTHING. His parents were A-OK with it too. And in perhaps the biggest suspension of disbelief in the entire book, so was his daughter. His daughter, who just recently had to cope with the fact that her parents are getting a divorce and who caught her father kissing and groping another man in the kitchen, was also immediately totally cool AF about Austin and Cam. Because Cam had a pool. And a dog. Sure, okay, whatevs.
Quick question: couldn’t Austin at least for just one frigging paragraph pondering if his feelings for Cam mean that he was actually a bisexual? No, for some reason I suppose not. Remember how Cam himself was supposed to be bisexual too at the beginning of the book? But apparently they both didn’t really feel like talking about this issue and they didn’t seem to mind either, I guess.
Long story short, I briefly hesitated to give this book 3 stars. But alas, if I’m more invested in the flashbacks and the torture scenes than in the relationship at hand in a romance book, then it’s just not 3 stars material for me.
Unfortunately, I’ve already bought the sequel which is about another couple (Goddess Bless), but then I’ve also heard that it is supposed to be “not as good as the first book”. Oh joy. Here goes nothin’.
Thanks to Marte for the BR.
"There's something different about you, Dylan. Something I can't put my finger on, but I feel differently when I'm with you. It doesn't make a lot of sense when I say it out loud."
Well, Tristan, honey, let me tell you that it doesn't make much more sense when you silently read about it either.
Both MCs, or as I like to think of 'em as "The Coward and the Creep", annoyed the ever-living fuck out of me!
Dylan is a married man and a father to three kids. At the same time he's been secretly gay his whole life and is still a gay virgin at 37? Ok, fine. I guess that sort of thing could happen. Like if you're a deeply religious guy and living in an Amish community. An Amish community with women only (besides you, of course). Other than that, I'm only willing to buy this premise if the writing and the characters can deliver it. SPOILER ALERT:
They could NOT deliver it!
As a gay man myself, let me tell you that there is no way, NO WAY, that you define yourself as gay in your late teens/early 20s and you live through your 20s and most of your 30s and NOT give in to your sexual desires. Dylan even had his wife's consent to hook up with other men but doesn't act on it. Because an anonymous hook-up in a dark alley or in the backroom of a gay club would endanger his children's college future, while he himself would get caught in a tornado filled with sandpaper and poison. Or something. I dunno.
Oh, and get this: HE DOESN'T EVEN WATCH GAY PORN because "it’s something I can’t have, so watching’s almost like a punishment.". What. The. Actual. Fuck??
And don't even get me started on Tristan. This creeper takes the word "pushy" to the next level.
When he wasn't occupied with keeping Dylan drunk enough so he would make out with him, he talked Dylan's wife Teri into sending him pictures of Dylan or showing him a sleeping Dylan via webcam. Nice intrusion of privacy, Teri & Tristan!
But my favorite part was a particular sex scene, which basically went down like this:
Dylan: “I see myself as more of a top.”
Tristan: „Do you trust me?“
Tristan: „Ok then. Here, have a few drinks.“
~10 minutes later~
"When he heard the soft snores, he smiled and began to knead the firm round globes of Dylan's ass, sliding his hands toward the center crevice. He reached out for the lubricant and condoms, dripping some on his fingers before he decided to switch up his strategy. He parted Dylan's ass cheeks and bent in, sliding his tongue along the rim. That stirred the sleeping man. When he pressed his tongue inside Dylan's ass, the deep moan that came from above let him know he was doing something right."
Just lovely! SO nice to initiate ass play with a man who just minutes ago declared himself a top and just passed out because you got him drunk. Aww, so romantic.
Now imagine this scenario in an M/F book.
Besides their mutual declarations of how hot and sexy the other one was (which became very repetitive, very cheesy and so very, very old, so very, very fast), there wasn't anything even remotely deep or interesting about their relationship. And I guess even the Kindle Alexanders gave up at one point to create any palpable chemistry between the MCs and just went with insta-love, not even bothering anymore to explain their connection besides their mutual physical attraction:
"The conversation they were having now and what it meant, the depth of his desire for this man he'd known for all of a few days...none of it made sense."
NONE of it!
The big confession and Dylan's coming-out to his children at the end of the book was just utterly and completely ridiculous, unbelievable and 100% unrealistic.
Ok, now just picture this: you're a 16 or 18-year-old kid, and one night your parents, which you've known all your life and who you think were very much in love, call a family meeting and tell you that their marriage has been nothing but a big sham for all these years. And that your father was gay and that your mother was pregnant by another man. How would you react? Well, according to this book, a perfectly normal reaction would be
"Are y'all still paying for our college?"
GUYYYS, this book was so, SO awful. Terrible. Bad, bad, BAD!
I'm giving this author (duo? trio?) another chance, but I’m afraid the Kindle Alexanders will end up at the „authors everyone loves but me“ table, right next to Mary „so bad, it’s not even fun to hate-read“ Calmes and Josh „only a dysfunctional relationship is a good relationship“ Lanyon.
One star for the cover, bonus star for an entertaining hate-read BR.
Thanks to Julie for the BR!