Narrator: Spencer Goss
Published by: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Reviewed by: Alisa
What to expect: A beautifully written, gritty story about a man’s journey through self-loathing to acceptance of who he is and who he can become.
Plot: The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So does running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.
Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.
Review: This is not an easy story to read. It’s the story of a man who is so filled with self-hate that he’s tormented not only himself, but those around him. He has little substance and few good qualities. As the story starts Colin is in a place where he works, he drinks and he seeks out violent encounters with strangers. One of these encounters goes really wrong and it brings Colin to the attention of Rafe. Rafe has been through hard times of his own and he can’t but want to help Colin out of the miserable place he is in. The two men forge a friendship and over time it becomes more. Unfortunately Colin has to learn to care about himself before he can adequately care for someone else, and that is a long, painful road for everyone involved.
I was worried when I started this book that the author would try to make Colin a misunderstood, easily forgiven character but she didn’t and I think that is the ultimate strength of this book. As we go on Colin’s journey with him we see things from his point of view and it adds a different take on the things that happened between he and Daniel in book one. In some cases things weren’t as bad as Daniel’s narration led us to believe. In others though, they were. Colin has some very unlikable moments. He’s immature and angry and lashes out at those around him. He has little self insight and he feels little self worth. Colin’s whole world revolves around the love he desperately wants from his father. The love he’s sure is conditional and will be taken away should his father find out he’s gay.
Rafe was an interesting character and uniquely done. It was hard going in to this book to imagine who would want to be in a relationship with Colin. The author did a great job of making Rafe’s character one you could believe would stick around for Colin. The dynamics of the two men seemed very realistic. Rafe himself has some issues and he’s worked hard to overcome them. But those past flaws are the things that help him to have understanding and sympathy for Colin. I loved that while Rafe was endlessly patient with Colin, he didn’t let Colin go too far or become abusive to him. It was a balancing act but he did it well.
There were a host of side characters that greatly added to the story. Rafe works with LGBT teens and they were a delightful group. Watching as they become the catalyst for Colin to change his life was one of my favorite parts of the story. Daniel also plays an important role in the story which was something I never thought we’d see after reading the first book.
As much as I enjoyed this book when I read it, I have to say that hearing it on audio was even better. Sometimes the right narrator for a story enhances it. It makes it even more fantastic. That was the case here. I wasn’t sure about the narrator for the first chapter or so due to the cadence of his voice. After I got used to it I found myself thinking “This IS Colin.” Since the story is told in a first person narration we’re hearing Colin’s words, his thoughts, and I found them more heartbreaking in his voice rather than in my head. Listening to Colin’s voice as it cracks and breaks, as he stutters and hesitates, as he chokes through painful words and feelings and sometimes cries, I found myself totally entranced. I was much more emotional while listening to this than when I read it and I actually cried in a few places which I didn’t do when I read it. Colin sounded so broken and so wounded you couldn’t help but feel his pain.
So, this audiobook was a hit out of the ballpark for me. I loved everything about it. I loved the story and the issues that were looked at in it. I loved the rich and detailed characterization of both MC’s. I loved that the author didn’t excuse Colin’s bad behavior but instead made me love him despite it. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted a character to get a happy ending as much as I wanted Colin to. And, I especially loved the extra emotional connection that the narration added to the story.
What you might not like: This book looks at a lot of heavy topics including cutting, suicide attempts, alcohol abuse, bullying and date rape. I realize some of these subjects are not for everyone.
What you’ll love: Everything. You’ll love absolutely everything about this.