We first met Connor and Wes in Priceless, where they were set up a bit elaborately by Connor’s best friend Steve. The two managed to overcome their age difference, their backgrounds, and a violent attack on Wes in order to form a loving relationship. We now find them a year and a half later. Wes is a graduate student in physics at Berkeley, while Connor continues to be a professor and top researcher in the department. The men have moved into their own home and are preparing for their upcoming wedding.
Things are shaken up when Wes learns that the university is facing an ethics complaint about their relationship. Not only that, but Connor has been hiding the seriousness of the situation and the likelihood that Connor will be forced out. Combine that with the fact that Connor still treats Wes like he is incredibly fragile after his attack and Wes feels increasing frustration about their relationship dynamic. Things are only made worse by the rejection from Wes’ family and their attitude towards the wedding. With the wedding imminent, the men must work through their issues if they want their happily ever after.
As I mentioned, Fearless is a continuation of Wes and Connor’s story that began in Priceless. In the first story, we see the development of their relationship as well as the attack on Wes and his recovery. Although Wes has been able to heal both physically and emotionally, Connor is still sort of a mess about the attack and so afraid of doing anything to harm Wes further. But he overcompensates with a level of protectiveness that makes Wes feel stifled and babied, leading to a lot of conflict between them. So when Connor keeps the ethics complaint and its repercussions from Wes, no matter how well intentioned, it makes Wes even more frustrated and upset.
While I really enjoyed Wes and Connor together in Priceless, in this book they are at odds for almost the whole story. It is only at the very end that they really come to a good place together, which means that I had a hard time really engaging with them as a couple. That great dynamic between them, the adorable geekiness and sense of shared interests that makes them engaging, is largely absent here because we get so little of them happy together. I think what helped me here is my experience with them from the first story, and that made it easier to see the good of the relationship beneath the conflict. But even so, it was hard with such a negative dynamic and the resolution coming so late to really feel that bond of love between them for much of the story.
Now one of my issues with Priceless was the fact that the relationship between this senior professor and one of the students in his department was such a non-issue. I found it hard to believe that no one had a problem that Connor, as one of the senior faculty, was dating one of the students in his own department. So part of me was pleased to see it finally be addressed here and the potential ethic conflicts recognized. But I also felt a little frustrated that suddenly this crops up a year and a half after they started dating. Yes, I get that a complaint was just lodged against them. But they go from having the entire physics department come over to celebrate Wes’ graduation, to being ready to kick Connor out of his job with one complaint. Had no one thought about this issue before? There are no rules in place about teacher/student relationships? I guess it just felt a little odd to bring this out now to create a conflict when it was a complete non-issue before.
I think that some of the problem with this story for me is just that there is a lot of ground to cover in a short story. I don’t usually say this because I realize that short story is a worthy format on its own, but in this case I think the story would really have benefited from being longer. There were just a lot of issues here and perhaps too much to be adequately addressed. Aside from the conflict itself between the guys taking up the whole story, there were other things brought up but not fully addressed. We learn more about Wes’ family and their rejection and see how hard that hits Wes. But then this thread is pretty much dropped. There is also a larger issue about Wes’ interest in Connor being more aggressive physically in bed, and Connor’s fears about hurting him. This is again brought up as an issue and just barely addressed before the story ends. To me there is so much more to this issue of a changing sexual dynamic and how it impacts them as a couple, and again I felt like it is brought up and not really dealt with.
Despite all of this, I continue to find Wes and Connor a likable couple and the series is keeping me engaged. While we don’t see a lot of Steve in this book, I am looking forward to the continuation of his story (which begins in Doubtless). I think this story is best for fans of the series, or at a minimum those who have read the first book, as understanding the start of Wes and Connor’s relationship is really important here. So overall I liked this one but had some issues that keep me from totally loving it.
Cover: I really like this cover. Great images of both guys and I love the inclusion of the tattoo!