Rating: 4.25 stars
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On the surface Red De Vere appears to be a rich party boy, constantly hopping from bed to bed and always in the media for his exploits. While there is much more to Red beneath the surface, he doesn’t quite have a firm hold on what he wants from life, and, as a result, sort of lets his reputation lead him along. But one thing he is serious about is his interest in Carter Davison.
Carter lost his wild lover in a tragic fire and still has not completely recovered. Not just from Jackie’s loss, but from the way he allowed himself to be so wrapped up in Jackie’s crazy life that he began to live for the other man and lost his sense of self. While Carter really likes Red and can tell Red is pursuing him, Carter is also wary about getting involved again, especially with someone as in the public eye as Red.
Carter’s real passion is for a youth center at which he volunteers a lot of this time. The center is undergoing a renovation, which means Carter is determined to work long hours helping out. When Red wants to volunteer, at first Carter is wary about his involvement. But soon it becomes clear that Red is sincere in his desire to help, and Carter gets to see that there is so much more to him that the face he presents to the public. The men begin to get more serious about one another, but Carter is still wary about getting involved with Red, despite the strong attraction and growing affection between them. And as troubles begin to brew at the youth center, the men find themselves facing more problems than just their own future.
Flying Colors is the fifth book in Clare London’s True Colors series, a series I have really enjoyed. While the first four books (one full length novel and three shorts) all focus on Zeke Roswell and Miles Winter, this latest book features their two best friends, Red and Carter. In this case, Carter is actually more of a brother figure to Zeke, as his former lover Jackie was Zeke’s older brother. Since these guys are side characters in the other stories, I think this book stands alone quite well, though Miles and Zeke do make several appearances here.
I think where London really succeeds here is in developing the characters of Carter and Red. Both men are so nicely layered with much more going on that what we first see. Red especially is well developed, and we learn about the public face he puts on, as well as about the deeper side of him. He genuinely is hurt by the fact that people see him as nothing but a rich playboy, that they assume he just wants attention and to spend his money. Here we see how deeply he feels for others, how committed he is to Carter, and how much he wants to help at the center. He is truly a good guy, but struggles with making people see the real him. Carter is also well developed as a man haunted by his past and sort of trapped. Life with Jackie was intense and crazy, and while he loved Jackie, it also stripped him down to be in that kind of relationship. After Jackie’s tragic death, Carter just hasn’t been able to step back out in the world of dating. He lost himself so much with Jackie he is afraid to try again in anything more serious. It is only when Red breaks down those walls that he is able to consider opening himself up to love again.
Much of this story focuses on the youth center where the men work and the goings on there. This includes the renovations they are doing, the kids they work with, and some of the ensuing trouble that develops there over the course of the book. While I found it interesting, for me, this took over too much of the story. I felt that while Red and Carter are nicely developed, we don’t have as much time with them as a couple as I would have liked. For whatever reason, the center activities were just not as compelling to me and I think the book was too imbalanced in that direction. I am not sure this is really a universal problem though, and I am sure many readers won’t feel the same. But for me I felt like I wanted more of the romance and less of this side plot.
Overall I think this is a nice addition to the series and I enjoyed seeing Red and Carter get their turn at romance. I am not sure they can quite compete with Miles and Zeke in my heart, but I liked getting to know them and found this an enjoyable book. I think it is a nice choice both for fans of the True Colors series, as well as for newcomers looking for likable, well developed characters and a warm, romantic story.