Published by: Dreamspinner Press
Format: ebook, paperback
Genre: m/m romance
Reviewed by: Sara Beth
What to Expect: An inverted slow burn romance – one that skyrockets straight into heavy steam and just as quickly falls back to earth, where two very different men are left to pic up the pieces in their own unique ways, until finding their way back to one another.
Plot: Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert into a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.
Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.
Review: This review should be laid out in two columns: one marked ‘everything I loved’ and the other ‘everything I questioned.’ Overall, the book touched me, in a lot of ways, even if I found myself raising my eyebrows at some of the choices Archer made in relation to character and story development.
What makes this book alternately so beautiful, and so maddening, is that in order to find one another, these two have to find themselves first, and for Henry and Ruben, that takes time. I’m talking years, and all of it spent apart. But…not really. Henry deals with the fallout from their brief but meaningful encounter, and his own past, by writing his feelings in a column that becomes nationally recognized. He very deliberately directs his words to Ruben, with no way of knowing if Ruben is aware or even cares. It is very message in a bottle. It could have been so bad, and syrupy, but Henry’s stories of everyday history are so poignant and effecting that I was left wishing the damn column actually existed.
Meanwhile, Ruben not only picks up what Henry is throwing down, he obsesses on the details that reflect their moments together. He is young, and experiencing a lot, but most of all he is experiencing regret over his decision to walk away from what the two of them could have shared. Henry’s words on paper serve to accomplish what their weekend together couldn’t – they convince Ruben, over time, that what existed between them then could mean everything later, if he could only figure out a way to make contact with the man again and convince him he feels the same.
The happily ever after is hard won, but the battle is never between the two of them – it’s within themselves. It takes each man figuring out who they are and what they really want, separate from one another, to bring them back where they belong – together.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: Moving on to the things I questioned. The age difference. For me, there are much more significant things besides years separating a 32 year old and an 18 year old. This isn’t just a gap in years, it’s a gap in significant life experiences that typically happen during those times. I was able to suspend my disbelief, based on the writing and how much I liked these guys, but I think Archer could still have used their age difference as a plot driver while developing Henry as a man in his forties and Ruben in his later 20s. Also, the ending was very rushed. After basically 200 pages of watching these two muddle their way back to one another, it was disappointing to only have a few pages with them together again. I found the epilogue unnecessary, and wish Archer had used that space to provide more time with Henry and Ruben navigating the surely complicated channels of their reunion.
What I Really liked: Let’s talk about the writing. Alison Archer does something very few authors are capable of- she writes present tense like she’s playing an instrument, one she is familiar with and excels at. And it’s fitting, reading in the present as Henry and Ruben reflect on their pasts in order to struggle towards their future. The fact that she clearly knows how to play with the idea made this, stylistically, an enjoyably clever part of the read. And I admit it- I’m a sucker for the idea that no matter how improbable, it’s still possible to reconnect with the one that got away. This book brought out that wistful kind of yearning feeling in me, one that I’m sure a lot of other readers are familiar with.