Rating: 4 stars
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After being dumped by his boyfriend of three years, Zach Kelly realizes his life is sort of a mess. Ben walked all over Zach and made him feel worthless and like he could never do anything right. But despite that, Zach is sad to see his relationship end and feels at a loss going forward. Looking for a change of scenery, Zach gives in to an impulse and decides to travel to Provincetown for the week.
Provincetown is a gay mecca, a beach town filled with gay men looking for parties and hookups. At first Zach feels totally out of place with his too baggy clothes and awkward demeanor. He has always tried to rein in his wilder impulses and to be controlled and disciplined, things both unneeded and unwanted in Provincetown. But when his landlords take Zach under their wing, he soon finds another side of himself, realizing that he can let loose and live for himself a little without worrying so much what others think.
When Zach meets the gorgeous Van Pierce he is immediately struck by the handsome man. He has no idea that he has met the famous porn star Hart Throb, he just knows that he is drawn in by Van immediately. Van himself is feeling out of sorts as well, and meeting the shy, unassuming Zach in a sea of wild men just looking for crazy hook ups appeals to him. And even more appealing is that Zach has no idea about Van’s alter ego Hart, and likes him for himself and not his porn persona. The two men hit it off right away, and despite their determination that they are just friends, end up falling hard for one another. Just a few short days is enough for both men to realize their feelings for one another are strong. But Zach lives across the country, and this was meant to be a week’s vacation. They lead two very different lives, and despite their intense feelings for one another, it seems that all that can be in their future is heartbreak.
When Love Takes Over is the first book in Flores’ new Provincetown series and starts us off nicely enmeshed in this resort town. Flores manages to really make Provincetown come alive, from its people, to its atmosphere, to its famous sights. It is clear that the author is both familiar with and fond of the town, and the book really brings it to life. We can see it most in the way that Zach transforms so quickly upon his arrival, opening himself up to the atmosphere and the new experiences, seizing the chance to becomes a more open, freer version of himself. The descriptions are wonderful and the town and its people just leap off the page. At times I do think there may be a bit of overkill. The book spends a LOT of time detailing minute things that maybe we could have lived without, such as the name of each bar in a given hotel, or the exact way groups of people sit around the pool. Especially in the early parts of the book before Zach and Van really are spending time together, I felt like we could have pulled back on some of the ode to Provincetown in favor of advancing the story. But for the most part I really enjoyed the way the author brings it all to life and I could really feel the magic of the town and its affect on Zach.
Flores gives us two interesting and well developed characters in Zach and Van. Both have had relationship challenges in the past, and both have found themselves taken advantage of in the name of love. Van has come farther than Zach when the story starts, having realized how much he lost himself in past relationships and determined not to let it happen again. His job in porn is a chance to control his own agency, to live on his terms, and he enjoys his job. At the same time, being a commodity wears on him and he really enjoys the fact that Zach sees him as a real person and not a porn star. Zach is still a little further behind Van in that he basically lost himself completely in his relationship with Ben. Taking the trip to Provincetown is really the first he has lived for himself in a long time. Being in the new town and having all these new experiences help to find that piece of himself that he has hidden down for so long, to let that less controlled and disciplined part of his personality out and live for himself. I liked that we see these men on similar journeys, just at different stages. They are both sweet guys and are fun and sexy together. They do fall in love a little fast for me, basically after two days together. But it didn’t bother me so much and I really liked the two of them together.
I did find the pacing a little off here though. The first portion of the book has a lot of description and narration about Provincetown, and a lot of internal reflection by both men. Although they meet very briefly early on, they then have basically no contact until around the halfway point of the book. All the thinking and analyzing became a bit repetitive for me, and I was anxious to see these guys start moving forward. Once they connect again, things pick up and the story progresses nicely. I just think maybe the front half could have been tightened up to keep things moving along.
So I enjoyed this first book in the series and am looking forward to more. The second book features Zach’s dad, a source of much of his emotional baggage in this book, who gets together with Zach’s best friend. And apparently these is a story coming for Nino, Van’s obnoxious but good hearted best friend who we meet in this book. So I am really looking forward to continuing on and following the rest of the stories.
Cover Review: I just adore this cover by Michael Breyette. He is an amazing artist and the covers for this series are just amazing. If you haven’t checked out his web site, definitely do because he has amazing (and very sexy) artwork (some of which is NSFW).