Rating: 4.5 stars
Matty (Matthew Jonathon Parker) is a wee bit of a nerd…a perfectionist…a “list” kind of guy… with a heart of gold. Consequently he has had one failed relationship after another, often with guys simply leaving him after being less than stellar partners, and needless to say, fairly hurtful and callous. All this means that Matty is a cautious young man, who rarely deviates from what he considers to be the safe, most efficient pathway. So what exactly is he doing in an online chatroom talking with perhaps “the one,” falling in love with “the one,” and, as our story opens, flying hours to Florida to meet up with “Jay” whom he is pretty sure he wants to spend the rest of his life with, cause he is “the one”?
To be honest, Matt is losing his mind, in a very funny, sharp, and, at times, poignant way. Always MJ by SJD Peterson is a lovely little novella that examines the emotional ups and downs of online dating and real life meet-ups with hilarious and heart breaking clarity. The story is quite simple in its brilliant way. Matty has had numerous relationships that have always ended badly. His best friend Jared, a straight talking, wise cracking guy whom he has known since college, is often there to help him through, when he needs him the most.
So imagine Matty’s surprise when, after a full blown panic attack where his best friend Jared talks him down via phone, that same friend ends up staring across at him a few hours later at the agreed upon rendezvous site. But that can’t possibly be so…he had just spoken to his best friend. And he was supposed to be meeting Jay…Jay…Jared. Jared was Jay, the online person whom Matty had fallen in love with. His best friend, who in real life was straight, flitted from one girl to another, had never been in a lasting relationship and was the kind of person that was always “making jokes.” Oh god…Jay’s online name was “always making jokes”…just like Jared.
What follows in this fast-paced, tight little story is Matty coming to the realization that his best friend had betrayed him by pretending to be the online persona Always MJ, who had professed to having fallen in love with Matty. What Matty comes to find out will completely turn his world upside down and cause him to take the biggest risk of his life. This from a man who hates taking risks but who desperately wants to believe that his best friend is really in love with him.
Peterson hands us a lovely character study wrapped up in a 48-hour love affair that actually spans years. I loved these two men for totally different reasons. Jared was sharp and witty and so very vulnerable under his rough, somewhat snarky exterior. He had fallen in love with his best friend and had no idea how to tell him. Matty was a bundle of raw nerves poured into the slightly introverted body of a really nice guy, one who so very often got taken advantage of but who really just wanted to find someone to love…someone like his best friend Jared.
Perhaps the only niggle I had with Always MJ was Matty’s slightly over the top reaction to his discovery of who “Jay” really was. I felt as though the white-hot anger Matty felt went on a bit too long, was a bit too dramatic. I understood the need for the reaction and actually was glad to see that Matty had backbone enough to stand up to his very forceful friend. However, I felt it was too prolonged and did not allow for the story to progress and continue to develop the more loving relationship that we knew was there between the two men.
Despite this small annoyance, the novel really was a delightful story with a HEA that had me sighing in delight!!