Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Terrell Washington grew up in a bad neighborhood, poor, black, and gay. Well not really gay, because no one is gay in Terrell’s neighborhood if they know what’s good for them. But he managed to make it out, go to college, and get a degree in journalism. But Terrell quickly hit a glass ceiling when trying to find a job, and ended up as the head bartender in a local chain restaurant. Despite being stuck in this rather dead end job, the bright spot is his coworker Colby Meyers. Colby is Terrell’s opposite in many ways. Outgoing and social to Terrell’s more reserved personality, confident and optimistic where Terrell is practical and cautious. Colby believes anything is possible while Terrell has learned to keep his head down and be happy with what he can get.
After a year of friendship, Colby finally works up the nerve to share his feelings one night as the guys hang out on the back dock of the restaurant. Terrell has longed for Colby as well, but is terrified of sharing that he is gay. It also never entered Terrell’s mind that a guy like Colby would ever want him. Colby is golden and gorgeous and vibrant. His own Captain America. And Terrell is small with bent legs from childhood malnutrition and a mouthful of crooked teeth. Yet Colby is clear that he has wanted Terrell forever and Terrell slowly comes to have the confidence in Colby’s affections as well as to share his own feelings in return.
It is not easy for Terrell, however. He has lived such an isolated, controlled life for so long. Never being able to admit he is gay, Terrell’s sex life has been a series of furtive back alley encounters, just enough to get off and nothing more. He knows nothing about being in a relationship or having a meaningful sexual encounter. Terrell also is terrified of revealing he is gay to anyone. He learned early on that people in his neighborhood can not be gay if they want to stay safe. Despite his growing love for Colby, it is virtually impossible for him to imagine being out. But Colby is incredibly patient. It is clear from the beginning how important Terrell is to him. He understands Terrell in a way few people can, despite being of a different race and socioeconomic class. And he is so loving, so caring, and so determined to make Terrell see how important he is to him. But Terrell needs to gain that confidence himself, to believe that there can be something real with Colby and that Terrell is worthy of that relationship. They come from two totally different worlds, but with some patience and understanding, they can find a way to be together.
Oh, this was such a wonderful book. Amy Lane is a master at this type of story and she really brings such warmth and love and depth to this one. Terrell in particular is such a fabulous character. You can just feel how he lives in this sort of defensive crouch, keeping his head down and trying to get by. He has made it out of his old neighborhood, but so much of that fear and that self-preservation instinct have never left him. The title Bolt-Hole refers to the small hiding spot the guys have in the back dock of the restaurant. But it also describes the way Terrell lives, creating small spaces for himself that he can control and where he can protect himself from the world around him. What I loved about this story though, is that even with all those issues and insecurities, Terrell isn’t so stuck that he can’t accept the good Colby brings to his life. In so many books we see the MC just endlessly spiral through those doubts, never able to move forward or reach for what is in front of him. And I really appreciated that for all of Terrell’s fears and insecurities, he wants Colby and accepts the good he brings into his life. Although Terrell is scared, and worries at some point Colby will see the “real” him and leave, he still gives in to that deep need for the warmth and love Colby gives him.
I loved the juxtaposition between these two guys. We have Terrell with all this emotional baggage and history that comes from being black, being poor, and hiding that he is gay. And in contrast we have Colby, who grew up with liberal loving parents who accept that he is gay. Who was taught to believe that anything is possible, that he can do anything and be anything that he wants. His optimism on life is something so foreign to Terrell, but it makes Colby too vibrant to resist. Colby is so patient, so loving, and so understanding of Terrell, even though Terrell’s life is something Colby can never fully get. They are so great together and I just loved seeing their relationship grow.
The only thing that kept this from being a 5-star book for me was the mystery component. Early on in the story there is a murder in the restaurant where Terrell and Colby work, and uncovering the murderer is a side plot to the main romance. For me, this mystery just felt so unsubstantial that I could never really get invested. The book addresses it early on and then there is a climax at the end, but then it is dropped for large parts of the story. Yes, we do get some trickles here and there, especially as Colby’s sister becomes involved as a lawyer for the accused. But for the most part Colby and Terrell are so on the periphery of the case that I had a hard time really caring who did it. So the sudden climax at the end just felt out of place. I think Lane does such a wonderful job with the guys’ relationship and building and resolving the conflicts that they face, that this subplot didn’t add much to the book.
So this is another wonderful story by Amy Lane and one that I highly recommend. Terrell is just one of those characters that will stick with you. He is so honestly portrayed and the type of person you just want to root for. It is a beautiful love story and just so wonderfully done. Definitely check this one out.
Cover Review: I love this cover. The story takes place over the summer and one of the Terrell and Colby’s favorite things to do together is to swim in the local river. The cover really captures that feel of summer time and lazy days with someone you love.
P.S. Ok, you all know I adore Amy Lane’s writing but my deep secret is sometimes I get a bit scared before starting one of her books. Because she knows how to wrench your heart before her characters find their happily ever after and despite how much I love them EVERY TIME I sometimes get worried before I start. So for those of you like me who are a bit wimpy, the angst meter on this one is pretty low. So go forth and enjoy! Plus, there is PIE! You all know how I love my pie!