Rating: 4.25 stars
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When Dylan Williams learns that his twin brother Darryl is in the hospital after getting beaten up by homophobic thugs, he is devastated. Not just because Darryl is seriously injured, but also because Dylan blames himself. He knows he is the reason his brother was in Webber Park, and he also knows he is the reason those guys beat Darryl up.
Mike Aurietta witnessed the attack, called the police, and followed Darryl to the hospital. At first Dylan wants nothing to do with this stranger in his brother’s hospital room, the one who now knows way more about Dylan’s business than he wants. But he also finds Mike strangely comforting, especially when Dylan’s brother Aaron and Aaron’s boyfriend Joey fly in from Florida and start taking over. And when Darryl awakens and is clearly angry at Dylan. And even more when Joey and Aaron whisk Darryl back to Florida to recover, leaving Dylan without his twin for the first time since they were kids separated for a week in the foster system.
Mike knows that Dylan is interested in men. No one hangs out in Webber Park if he is not looking for a hookup. But Dylan is unwilling to admit he is gay, even with a gay older brother. So despite the fact that Dylan keeps showing up and he and Mike continue to further their physical relationship, Mike knows not to expect too much. A guy who can’t admit liking men even when hooking up with one isn’t somebody who is going to want anything long term. But the more time the guys spend together, the closer they become, and what once seemed impossible between them might actually become a reality. But even as their relationship deepens, both men must face things they don’t want to consider — Mike might lose his job as a football trainer if anyone finds out he is gay, Dylan might have to accept that he likes men, and both of them must be willing to take some risks to have what they really want… each other.
So I absolutely love the Florida series by K.A. Mitchell, and Collision Course, the book that introduces Aaron and Joey, is one of my all time favorites. So I was so excited to not only revisit Dylan and Darryl who have small roles in that story, but to also get to see Joey and Aaron again. This story takes place about two years after Collision Course with Darryl about to graduate college and Dylan sort of hanging around, wanting to be near his brother. Though they are very different, the brothers have always been incredibly close, and it kills Dylan to see Darryl hurt, especially when he thinks it is his fault. Darryl is angry at Dylan for keeping his sexuality a secret, yet Dylan still denies it. And before he knows it, his brother is gone and Dylan is left all alone with his twin not speaking to him.
I really felt for Dylan in this story. Darryl is smart and successful and the “good” twin, while Dylan is the one no one seems to have much faith in. He is sort of aimless, following Darryl around but not really sure what he wants for himself. Dylan has never learned to really trust that people might really care for him and never feels quite good enough. I do wish I understood him a bit more though. We learn he has a lot of hostility toward his mother for example. The family won’t even speak about her, as she was a drug addict who had lots of kids but didn’t care for any of them. But we never really get to understand much about her, and how this impacted Dylan. She is just sort of danced around, and I kept waiting for it to be addressed head on, but it never came. Similarly with his father, who we learn is in jail. Again, I felt like this is brought up but never really fleshed out. And even more so with Dylan’s inability to accept being gay. Even by the end of the book I never really got why. So I feel like a lot of stuff is brought up here that didn’t quite get developed as well as I’d like.
Mike is also a really interesting character. He compartmentalizes his life between his barely accepting family back home, his job as a football trainer, and his personal life. As a former football player himself until an injury ended his career, Mike is incredibly dedicated to his team and his continued role as part of the Longhorns is incredibly important to him. He knows that being part of the case against Darryl’s attackers increases the likelihood that someone will find out he is gay. But he is also determined to do the right thing. And Mike has his own issues as well. Not only being mostly closeted, but a fear of wanting and needing something that will be taken away. He grows to care so much for Dylan, but he also worries that Dylan will never be able to accept what they mean to one another. But like with Dylan, I felt there were some unanswered questions with Mike as well. We hear about his ex-boyfriend and his claims that Mike has boundary issues. But even by the end of the book I never really understood what this meant. Their relationship and the problems they had are brought up in pieces, but nothing ever tied together well enough for me to truly understand what was going on.
But even with these characterization issues, this story really worked for me. I loved seeing Dylan slowly opening himself up to being with Mike. We watch the two sides of him warring with each other, one clearly wanting Mike and the other afraid to accept what it means to have him. It was rewarding as a reader to see him take these slow steps and finally accept what he really wants. The guys are super hot together and in many ways their relationship develops through sex. It is only in the heat of the moment that Dylan can let himself have what he wants. But soon we see that he is reaching for more, even in little baby steps. That it is not just easy sex, but Mike himself that Dylan really wants. I do think the pacing was a bit off here though, with the first half of the book being a little slow. There is a lot of sex and a lot avoiding self-reflection, but not a lot of advancing the plot. Things really pick up toward the second half though, especially when the guys really get into a relationship and must face what that means for both of them.
Despite some issues, in the end I really enjoyed this one. If you are a fan of the series like I am, you won’t want to miss the chance to check in with these guys. And even if you are just starting, I think you can pick this book up easily and enjoy it (though PLEASE read Collision Course because it is awesome!). But I think Mitchell once again delivers here with great characters, a super sexy romance, and an overall enjoyable story.