Rating: 4.5 stars
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Logan Sellers does not consider himself a prize. He’s an ex-convict, having served one year of a three-year sentence for assault. This assault was brought on, in large part, by his alcoholism, for which he is in recovery and attending AA meetings. He’s 6’7” and notices the stares and looks of apprehension he gets from passers-by who associate large and hulking with dangerous. Add to that his part-time, barely enough to pay the bills, day job as a package handler, and he thinks there is very little that anyone would find attractive about him.
Caleb Klass would disagree. When Caleb’s uncle and Logan’s boss, Harrison Klass, summoned Logan to his office and gave him an additional part-time job of assisting Caleb, Logan was just happy that he’d have enough money to pay rent. He wasn’t prepared to find a nervous, shaky young man who didn’t even want to open the door to him. Caleb is wearing clothes that are too tight, and has hair that seems to have been cut with a butter knife, if at all. All of that still does not disguise the fact that Caleb is gorgeous with high cheekbones and green eyes and lips that Logan tries not to think about. Mr. Klass has requested that Logan deliver a package, stay for 10 minutes, and ask a list of questions that he has sent with him, which, much to Caleb’s protests, Logan plans on following. Logan and Caleb have an instant, albeit tentative, chemistry.
Logan squinted at the paper. “How are you?”
“I’m agoraphobic. How are you?”
“I’m an ex-drunk,” Logan answered automatically. His jaw dropped and he heard his brain spin in awkward silence that followed. What the hell?
Seeming to take pity on him on him, Caleb said, “I once offered to host an agoraphobic group meeting, but nobody showed up.”
Caleb is agoraphobic, which is an anxiety disorder that keeps him locked up in his apartment. He hasn’t left his apartment building in three years, and his crippling fear of people and places outside of the four walls, as well as the resulting panic attacks that can occur at any moment pretty much dictate that his isolation could continue indefinitely. He works from home as a web designer and editor and has attracted a small clientele that doesn’t mind his refusal to meet in person. Logan feels an immediate protective instinct along with his intense attraction, and the two are able to support one another through their respective disorders.
As their immediate friendship blooms into something greater, they have to get over a few bumps along the way. Logan is on parole and meets regularly with his parole officer, as well as attending frequent AA meetings with his delightfully no-nonsense sponsor, Stacy. But that doesn’t mean that temptation isn’t around ever corner. Caleb takes two steps forward, one step back as he attempts to overcome his agoraphobia. A particularly frightening and realistic portrayal of the crippling disorder is Caleb’s refusal to call for help after a severe injury because he doesn’t want to leave the house, which almost has fatal results. On top of all that, it would seem that Logan’s supervisor, Karen Foster, has some criminal tendencies and is trying to recruit Logan to become part of her plans.
When One Door Opens starts out strong. It has a page-turning, will they or won’t they, charming first half. Logan and Caleb’s chemistry is instantaneous, with hulk-esque Logan showing his alpha male protective side and sweet but feisty Caleb providing his perfect foil. It was fascinating to learn more about agoraphobia, and while it would’ve been easy for the author to present it in a more dramatic fashion, I felt it was realistically portrayed. The MCs were flawed — it doesn’t get more flawed than an ex-con with an alcohol problem — but they were good for each other. It was heart-warming to see their total acceptance and support of the other’s issues, while still insisting that they better themselves and remain committed to recovery. Their banter is fun to read, and I found myself with a smile on my face for most of the book. Logan and Caleb realized they were far from perfect, but their self-deprecating humor kept this book from becoming too angst-driven. I particularly enjoyed Logan’s developing sweatpants fetish due to Caleb’s insistence on wearing old clothes that no longer fit.
My major issues came in the second half of the book. The stereotypical “villain” and the plot surround her was out of place in this story that was so much about Logan and Caleb and their developing relationship. And I did have a bit of an issue with the seemingly short amount of time it takes for Caleb to leave his home and attend a baseball game, which I would assume would be about the worse place for an agoraphobic. While I was happy to see Caleb overcome his anxiety and did believe Logan was the best person to help him do this, the fact that he did it with such relative ease seemed unrealistic.
I highly recommend this book and it’s author, J.D. Ruskin, who, for a first book, knocked it out of the park. I look forward to seeing what this author presents to us in the future. Ruskin’s ability to create intriguing characters, not only Logan and Caleb but a handful of fantastic supporting ones as well, and give them witty, charming dialogue, is a talent that is sure to yield great results.