Review: One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

Title: One Small Thing
Authors: Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Novel
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance

Rating: 4.75

Rue Murray is a cosmetology student with dreams of moving to California and working at a trendy salon.  He never suspected his drunken experiment with a woman one night would lead to an unplanned pregnancy.  But when it is clear she doesn’t want a baby, Rue knows there is no way he can give his child up and decides he will raise the baby alone.

In addition to full-time school, Rue works evenings bartending at a club.  He has been trying for the past six months leading up to baby Alice’s birth to find suitable and affordable child care, but he has had no luck.  With only a few days left until he must return to school, Rue is panicked about finding someone to watch his daughter.  Even with his best friend Dusty helping out at night, Rue still needs someone to watch her during the day.  In a fit of desperation, Rue turns to his reclusive neighbor, writer Erik Van Nuys.

Erik is shocked when Rue shows up at his door (complete with piercings, painted nails, and pink flip flops).  Erik has major issues – anxiety, panic attacks, discomfort at being touched or close to other people, just to name a few.  Moving into a new apartment was traumatic enough, and he can’t even begin to imagine handling daily interaction with not only Rue, but Dusty and baby Alice as well.  But Erik’s writing career isn’t bringing in much money and he could really use the extra income.  And Erik feels for Rue and his desperate situation. So against his better judgement, Erik agrees.

Things are a bit awkward at first for the guys. They are incredibly different.  Rue is friendly, confident, outgoing, and a bit sarcastic.  And Erik is full of his neurosis that keep him away from people and ensconced in his favorite chair, watching Star Wars over and over.  While Rue has had lots of experience with men, Erik has been essentially asexual, only discovering his sexuality when he recognizes an attraction to Rue. Yet over time, the men slowly develop a friendship. And to both of their surprise, they each start to have feelings for one another.

After never having any interest in a relationship, Rue is shocked to find himself wanting more from Erik than just a casual hook up.  He begins to see Erik as part of his small family, along with Alice and Dusty. And he realizes that he actually wants something real between them.  Erik is even more off balance, never having dated or even having close friendships.  He finds himself terribly attracted to Rue, but can barely even begin to know what to do with those feelings.  Yet Rue and Erik each finally get up the courage to make their move, and soon develop into a loving relationship with Alice at its center.  Just as things are becoming solid between them though, Rue’s dream job comes through and suddenly both men must figure out what they really want and if they can have it together.

So those of you who read my reviews a lot can probably tell right away Rue and Erik hit all my favorite buttons.  I love opposites attract and these are two of my favorite types: one who is a shy, nerdy, virgin hero, and the other who is adorable, sparkly, eye liner wearing, and enthusiastic.

I love Erik’s first impressions of Rue:

A boy stood in the hall… or, well, a man, really, but he looked young. Maybe early twenties, if I had to guess. His sleek black hair was combed to the side, partially covering one of his eyes. From what I could see of it, and the other, they were green. But it wasn’t the color that had me staring. It was the fact that they were lined carefully in black… and his skin was creamy pale, like porcelain… and his lower lip was double pierced, with two of those rings with the little balls about an inch apart from the center.

I took it all in, so confused I still couldn’t bring myself to say anything. And that was before I got to his clothes. He was wearing a tight black T-shirt and those girl pants that stop midway up the calf. They hung low on his hips and were cinched with a studded, bright pink belt… which matched the pink flip-flops he wore on his perfect little feet. I stared down at his toes—the nails were painted black with hot pink accents—until the sound of him clearing his throat brought my gaze back up to his face.

At the same time I really appreciated that the authors don’t let Rue fall into a stereotype. While he may love eye shadow and sparkly rainbow headbands, those things define Rue’s appearance, not Rue himself.  I loved the Rue defies your initial expectations.  While he works shaking his ass as a bartender, he has long tired of that life and is just biding his time until he can finish school.  He doesn’t hesitate to take responsibility for Alice, feeling it is important to be a parent to her.  Rue is ready to put his party boy life behind him, and he keeps surprising even himself when he realizes how much he enjoys the domestication slowly growing between him and Erik.  But those of you who love your heroes a bit twinkly will definitely love Rue (especially in his fishnet tights!).

Erik is also a fascinating character and I loved seeing his growth throughout the book.  When we first meet him he is anxious, clinging to his routine, and scared of interaction with others.  He can barely handle going to a grocery store.  But over time he begins to open up, gains comfort in new situations, learns to stand up for himself and those he cares about, and becomes willing to take risks to get what he wants.  I love that we see this as an incremental process and that it is clear that there is no overnight fix.  And even with all the progress he makes, Erik still has occasional steps backwards.  I thought Erik was such an interesting character and thought the authors did a great job showing him slowly find himself.

Although I think the authors did a great job making Erik and Rue and their relationship feel quite real, the setup didn’t ring quite true to me.  Despite how desperate Rue was to find childcare, it still stretched the limits of my belief that he would approach a total stranger to ask him to watch Alice.  Knowing he passed an apartment security check in no way qualifies him to care for a newborn.  And once he meets Erik that first time, I can’t believe he didn’t run and lock the door behind him.  Rue is clearly a very loving and dedicated father, and his asking Erik to watch Alice (not to mention Erik’s acceptance) felt somewhat unrealistic. Then again, this is the setup of the book, so it’s one of those things you either go with or you don’t.  And despite my concerns about realism, this didn’t stand in the way of my enjoyment of the story.

I also had a bit of trouble with the dual POVs. The story alternates between Rue and Erik’s POV, which in itself wasn’t an issue. But we often got a repetition of events from the second man’s perspective, which I think slowed things down a bit and at times made it feel a bit repetitive.  I think there may have been ways to show what the other man was thinking or feeling without having to repeat a scene from the alternate POV.

Overall I really loved One Small Thing.   I personally really liked watching their trip to Rehoboth Beach as my family vacations there every year so that was a bit of fun.  And I absolutely loved both Rue and Erik and enjoyed seeing the little family they built along with Alice and Dusty. Watching Erik blossom over the course of the book was especially gratifying. They were sweet and romantic and very hot together.  This is a really wonderful story and I look forward to more from these authors.

P.S. Stop by Piper and M.J.”s guest post about writing a story set in Delaware.  Although the giveaway is closed, it is a great chance to learn a bit more about the writing of the book.  

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