Rating: 4.5 stars
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Gabriel “Red” Thatcher sits at a bar, all alone, marked with a tattoo on his arm that reminds him of the five years he spent in prison, before he was released eight months ago. Red lost five years of his life to prison, but life on the outside doesn’t seem to be much better. He’s been looking for a job all these months without luck, so he’s living in an apartment his sister pays for, feeling like his life is over at only 25. Little does he know, it’s only just begun.
Red catches the eye of Silo Winters while drowning his sorrows in his drink. Silo instantly comes on to him, and it isn’t long before Red realizes that Silo is just as destroyed as he is, with the same cause to blame. They bond over their shared recent releases from prison, but Silo was hoping to get Red to take him home, since he doesn’t have anywhere to sleep. He gets his wish, just not the way he imagined. The two end up in a friends with benefits relationship, but the mutual benefits are money for household expenses from Silo and a place to sleep from Red.
As roommates, the two start to get to know each other. Red is fighting the demons of his past, trying to reconcile with a sister who he’s not sure he’ll be able to forgive. Silo is fighting against a reputation he earned for a crime he insists he didn’t commit, but which makes it difficult to hold a job or live a normal life. Together, though, they build a sort of life, as friends who support and understand each other. When they start to give into the feelings that have been there from the start, they find they have even more obstacles to overcome, in large part due to those nightmare years they spent in prison. They have to decide if their shared experience is a benefit or a detriment, if they’ll be able to look toward the future and leave behind a past that has been very cruel to the both of them.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I liked the characters of Silo and Red, finding Silo particularly charming and loveable. I liked their dynamic not only as friends, but especially as things get more heated. There’s a power play in effect here, and it’s interesting to see Red struggle with his physical desires while mentally holding them back due to his traumatic past. And it doesn’t hurt that it made for some steamy bedroom scenes.
The same thing that kind of put me off this book in the very beginning is what I started to really enjoy and connect to toward the end, and that is the author’s rather inelegant use of dialogue. In other words, it had a bit of a strange rhythm and irregularity to it all, which was difficult to get used to. People didn’t say the things you wanted them to say the way you wanted to say them. However, as time went on, it was this quirkiness that really endeared me to the characters — they weren’t cookie-cutter typical molds of men you’ve seen in a thousand other m/m books. At the same time, their eccentricities made for an exciting, kind of odd, yet believable and exciting relationship dynamic.
The plot goes a little off the rails toward the end of the book, a particularly tense plot point kind of coming out of the blue, but I was able to look past the craziness and just enjoy the relationship between these two men that grew out of shared trauma. They found each other at a point in both their lives when they literally had no one and nothing else. They rebuilt their lives with each other, and their bond, even if it never turned romantic, was a strong one. It was interesting and disheartening, to be honest, to think of recently released prisoners and the lengths they need to go to to try to build some semblance of a life without any help from anyone.
I would definitely recommend this book from this new-to-me author. For a book that contained quite a bit of heavy material, it still remained light-hearted and extremely readable, and it kept me engrossed until the very end. If the pretty cover doesn’t draw you in, then I hope my review will convince you.