Rating: 3.75 stars
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Drew McAuliffe is an accountant in the small town of Rock Bay. He still hangs out with the guys he knew in high school even though he doesn’t really like them or fit in with them. Brock especially is a total jerk, not to mention a homophobe. But it is a small town and most of his clients are connected to Brock or his family, so Drew just lays low and sort of muddles through. Things get a bit complicated when another high school friend, Tally, returns to Rock Bay and settles into a relationship with coffee shop owner Lex. Drew thinks this may finally be the time to come out as bisexual now that Tally is out as well, but Brock’s hatred of gays makes Drew fearful that Brock will poison his clients against him.
Mason Anderson has just taken a job as a nurse at a nearby hospital. The timing is good to get him away from his controlling jerk of an ex and Mason is looking forward to starting fresh. As it turns out, not only is Drew doing an accounting job at the hospital where Mason works, but they also have several mutual friends. The guys run into each frequently, but never quite get passed awkward smiles and exchanged hellos. Finally they manage to get together and soon a relationship is really growing between them. But both men have some baggage to deal with before they can make things work. Mason’s ex Todd tried to control him and change Mason into someone else. Now Mason is still learning to trust again and to not always assume that Drew is going to act like Todd did. He needs to open himself up to love again and not be fearful of things falling apart. And Drew needs to decide if he is ready to be out and open in a relationship, even if it means there might be some fallout with his clients and his family. Even though the men care about each other a lot, they need to have the confidence to take some risks if things are going to work between them.
Letting Go is the second book in the Rock Bay series, following Coming Home, which features Tally and Lex. We meet both Mason and Drew in that first book in their role as friends of the main characters. One of the issues I had with Letting Go is that it the repeats large sections of that first story from Drew and Mason’s point of view. More than a third of Letting Go retells the story of virtually the entire first book, from just before Tally returns to town until the men resolve their conflict at the end of the story. As a result, the first third of this book just felt incredibly repetitive to me. Even more than five months after reading the first one, I found myself bored reading the same story again. And honestly, even if you haven’t read the first book, Drew and Mason’s roles in that story are so small that I am not sure there is any real value in seeing these events from their viewpoints. I think the author could easily have given us the highlights of Drew’s role in Tally and Lex’s relationship, his conflict with Brock, and the occasional conversations between Mason and Drew without retelling the whole story. Especially because Mason and Drew have virtually no contact during this whole section of the book beyond quick hellos. But as it was, I just felt like I was biding my time until the real story began.
Once we get past this section, things do pick up as we get into Mason and Drew’s relationship. The guys have an interesting relationship dynamic. While only 20, Mason has been out and dating men for a while. He is much more experienced, both sexually and in relationships. He has some anxiety about getting involved with someone again after Tim, but generally he is friendly, outgoing, and pretty confident. Drew, on the other hand, is much less experienced. Though he is in his 30s, he hasn’t had been with many women and not with men at all. He has basically been hiding himself, afraid to reveal his bisexuality, afraid to stand up to Brock, and just sort of going through the motions of life. He finally decides he is going to start living the way he wants and stop worrying what other think. But he is definitely the one learning as he goes in terms of becoming comfortable with himself and his sexual relationship with Drew. The guys are cute together in a bumbling sort of way, and a sweet and sexy relationship develops between them. I also enjoyed getting to see some of our old friends from Coming Home, including Tally, Lex, and Amy. I like the camaraderie between the gang and the way they helped Drew learn that he doesn’t have to be dependent on people who don’t really care about him. I also liked Mason’s friend Logan and loved their interaction. I am guessing the author is setting Logan up for sequel fodder as there are some hints he might stick around, as well as about a potential partner, which sounds promising (of course, Logan is not gay so who knows).
One thing I would have liked to see developed further is Drew’s coming out as bisexual. It happens sort of toward the end of the first book and so it is repeated here as part of the retelling of that story. I think it would have been worth making that a more prominent part of this book, as I feel we spend a lot of time following along with Drew’s angst about whether he should come out or not, but not much seeing it actually happen. Although we do get some fallout afterwards, I wish for a little more balance between the buildup compared to the actual coming out and the aftermath. I also felt frustrated with the ending here. Both guys seemed to behave badly, although oddly I felt like Drew was more in the wrong despite the fact that the story pretty much blames Mason. And then things don’t seem to fully resolve, either between the men or between Drew and his family when suddenly the book ends. I was caught off guard a bit as I expected a bit more follow through to tie up the loose ends.
So overall I found this a mostly enjoyable story with some likable characters. But the structure of the first third of the book really slowed things down for me so much that I had a hard time really getting excited about this one. The pacing just felt off to me. Way too much beginning and then not enough end I guess. I like this author and her writing and I would be curious to see where else she takes this series, so I am not giving up on it. I just needed a bit more to make this one really work for me.