Rating: 3.75 stars
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The Cost of Loving is the long-awaited sequel to When Love is Not Enough (and this review reveals some key plot points from that story). In the first book, we meet Jamie, Darian, and Matt. Jamie and Matt are best friends and Darian is Jamie’s lover and fiancé. Jamie was in the closet, especially to his mother, who was abusive. He had started living with his father, Dan, and Darian, but still was seeing his mother on a regular basis and struggling with the bigotry he was facing. In the end, he could no longer handle the stress and sadness of his life and committed suicide, leaving behind a grieving father, fiancé, and best friend.
When Darian and Matt meet each other at Jamie’s funeral, their chemistry is intense. They are grieving together, and they relieve their sadness through sex. At the end of When Love is Not Enough, Darian is temporarily living with Matt and they have a sort of tentative relationship with one another, though it still hasn’t moved much past the physical. Matt knows more about Darian than Darian realizes though, since Jamie left him a set of journals and didn’t want anyone else to read them. Matt and Darian have strong feelings for one another, but, since Jamie’s death is so recent, it’s difficult to know which feelings are real and which are merely coping mechanisms to deal with the grief.
In The Cost of Loving, it is not long before Darian starts pulling away emotionally. He spends most of the day in bed and only interacts with Matt to get him into bed. He’s trying to find a way to cope with the loss of Jamie, but he continues in a downward spiral that starts to destroy him. Matt loves Darian, but he wants more from him than just the physical. Eventually, Darian moves back with his adopted father, Dan (Jamie’s father), who forbids Matt from seeing him. Dan feels that Darian is using sex with Matt to replace Jamie and he puts extreme limits on all of his interactions to try to get him healthy again.
In the meantime, Matt is facing bigotry associated with his coming out in front of the whole audience at church. He’s still in the closet at work, but he knows he needs to be truthful to them as well, especially to his best friend, Jason. Matt just wants to be with Darian, but he is kept from seeing him or even communicating with him. It’s a difficult time for both of them, and they both have to decide if their relationship is real or if it was just a convenient way to deal with the grief of losing Jamie.
I hate that I couldn’t rate this book higher. I loved When Love Is Not Enough and was looking forward to this sequel. I was excited to read about the men I had grown to love, Matt and Darian, and was not disappointed in that regard. They are both beautiful souls who are loving and kind and adventurous and I love them together as a couple. I found the journey they were taking together through the aftermath of the suicide and, subsequently, the overwhelming grief they both felt, to be both touching and honest.
The problem I had with this book was everyone else. There was so much hate and animosity and it created a whole supporting cast of unlikeable characters. Dan, who was supportive and kind in the last book, turned into a kind of tyrant, not allowing Darian, who is an adult, to do anything without his permission. The biggest problem for me was everything was taken to the extreme. Do I understand Dan being protective and feeling a need to help Darian as best as he could, even still letting his love of Jamie affect him? Completely. Do I understand him bringing up Darian masturbating in the shower and shaming him for his behavior? Absolutely not. There didn’t appear to be any love or concern there at all, just a desire to control Darian and, in his own way, keep him in a closet of Dan’s own making.
Very few moments felt realistic in this book. When the psychiatrist, in order to prove a point to Matt, ran tape of him having sex with Darian, it seemed more like something you’d see in a TV soap opera rather than a book. The characters themselves seemed like soap opera characters as well. I’m not saying that homophobia is not a huge problem. It is. But the extent to which almost every single character felt and expressed this hate lacked in believability. There were only a couple of characters who were even the least bit tolerant and even Matt’s mom, who eventually makes a bit of a turnaround, was extremely difficult to like. His father and brother? Awful. I get that these ideas are still out there, but to see an entire family display so much blatant hate, without showing even a moment of self-reflection or recognition of the impact these words and action would have on Matt, ruined this book for me.
If you liked When Love is Not Enough, I’d recommend getting this one to return to the lives of an adorable couple, Matt and Darian. This isn’t an easy read. There are a lot of hurdles for both of the men, but the triumph is that neither one gives up and follows the fate of Jamie. They have each other, and the power of true love conquers all.