Carter Stevenson has just moved to Santa Josephina, California, from Los Angeles. Carter is shy and not always comfortable with other people. He gets easily overwhelmed by noise and distraction, which makes his Tourette’s Syndrome act up even worse. He is self-concious about his uncontrolled tics, noises, and random movements so he avoids people and doesn’t open himself up too easily. He is hoping that the move to the quiet town will be good for him and help him feel more comfortable and settled. The first night in his new home Carter spots his gorgeous next door neighbor, Ethan Hart, although when they meet the next day things get off on the wrong foot. But Carter is determined to make amends and soon the men begin to form a close friendship.
At first Carter is wary of being anything more than friends with Ethan. Ethan suffered a severe brain injury ten years prior, permanently impacting his thoughts and behavior. Carter worries he is taking advantage of the man, that Ethan is not capable of understanding and being involved in a romantic and sexual relationship. But with some reassurance from Ethan’s parents, as well as time spent together, Carter comes to realize that Ethan is perfectly able to be a part of a meaningful partnership. But even as their relationship deepens, and Ethan makes it clear he wants things to be more serious with Carter, Carter is still hesitant. His past relationship failings make him wary of getting involved again, and his anxiety around other people make him even more shy. But soon Carter realizes he has come to love Ethan in return, and finally accepts his feelings. And as love grows between them and the men deal with a difficult news, it becomes clear that these Ethan and Carter truly can take care of each other.
Oh you guys, I am not sure I can explain just how lovely and wonderful this story was. I could not put it down. If it hadn’t been 1:30 at night I would have read the whole thing in one sitting. As it was I finished it in two. Carter and Ethan just complement each other so perfectly. What I love is how the places where each man struggles with himself turn out to be exactly the things his partner most loves. Ethan tends to see things in black and white and life in simple and clear terms. If you meet someone and like them, you are now friends. If you find someone attractive and they feel the same, you can have sex. That inability to see the shades of grey causes Ethan to struggle sometimes with doing or saying the socially appropriate thing, or thinking things through logically. But Carter loves that openness, that ability to see what you want and just reach for it. And Carter helps Ethan navigate though complications, offering support and perspective and gently steering Ethan in the right direction, while at the same time never stifling Ethan or closing him down.
On the other side, just as much as Carter provides support for Ethan, Ethan is also exactly what Carter needs as well. Ethan has music in him. His brain interprets the world through sounds and immediately he sees beauty and rhythm in the tics and movements that so bother Carter about himself. Ethan finds Carter’s movements beautiful, and makes Carter feel beautiful too. For the first time with Ethan’s help, Carter sees something positive in these actions that have always embarrassed him and kept him isolated. Ethan is almost never shy, he doesn’t hesitate to do or to to say what he wants. He isn’t held back by insecurities and self doubts the way Carter is. And Ethan is so open, so vibrant and loving and incredibly empathetic to the feelings of others. He helps Carter open up in ways he never has before. Carter becomes more comfortable socially and through Ethan discovers a world of friends, as well as renewed self-confidence that changes his life. And Ethan helps Carter step out of his head a bit, to stop the constant analysis and worry and over thinking. Carter learns to be a bit more like Ethan and to reach for what he wants and stop holding himself back with doubt and fear.
I was just completely captivated from the very beginning by this story of two men who are each a bit broken in their own way, but who find such completion in one another. It is incredibly romantic, beautifully written, and so moving. At the same time, the story never feels over the top or too sweet and nothing is too easy or too perfect. These guys each felt so real and Loveless’ combination of personal experience and research made it easy to understand both the challenges these men face, as well as the successes they find. The author creates characters who are both unique and the same time men with the same needs as everyone else – love, acceptance, understanding, and someone to care about them and to care for in return. It is just a beautifully written, extremely romantic, and totally engrossing story.
I have reread this review about ten times now because I worry I am not conveying clearly enough how much I enjoyed this or how great I think it is. Even if my review doesn’t do it justice, I encourage you to pick this one up and give it a try. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.