Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Stuck in limbo between figuring out what to do with his life and still cleaning up his ex-boyfriend’s messes, Greg Moorehouse gets pulled into investing in a strip club, a tittie bar, by his best friend. It’s nothing Greg can’t handle, at least. The brightest spot to his day is the new janitor, Carlos. The man is married, so obviously, he’s straight, but it can’t hurt to look.
At seventeen, Carlos O’Shea was grieving the tragic loss of the first boy he ever loved when a drunken night with his best friend, Lacey, led to her getting pregnant. In hopes of being the man his father wanted him to be, Carlos married Lacey. After washing out of the basic training due to an injury and Lacey’s miscarriage, Carlos is stuck in a loveless marriage with the woman who used to be his best friend. His attraction to his new boss is strong, but Carlos is married. And even though he only ever slept with Lacey that one time and is sure that she has not remained celibate, Carlos has remained faithful to his wife for six years.
Spending day in and day out with one another does nothing to alleviate the growing attraction between Carlos and Greg. Greg can’t tolerate a cheater, and Carlos refuses to be a cheater. But as the friendship grows between both men so does their attraction. When circumstances give them the opportunity, both men have to learn to reign in their jealousy and learn to trust one another if they can ever have a relationship.
As I sat down to write this review, I started thinking about all that this book is and all that it isn’t. Frist and foremost, Stripped Clean is a great book that drew me in with its amazing characters and their complex, emotional histories. And kept me wanting until the very last page. This is the first book I’ve read that Ellis Carrington has written and I look forward to reading more of her books if this is the quality I have to look forward to.
Stripped Clean is the first book in Ellis Carrington’s new series The Escapades.
This book is not a out-for-your story. And we all know how I love my OFY stories. In fact, sometimes I prefer them, depending on the day. No, Stripped Clean is about a gay man whose life played out because of the actions and circumstances of his past. I can appreciate that Carlos took the crap life gave him and still became a respectable, strong man. A kind, honest, moral man.
This book is a friends-to-lovers story. Greg and Carlos kind of dance around one another in the beginning, unsure how to play their attraction to one another. But once the friendship blooms, Greg and Carlos can’t seem to get enough of one another. Greg with his abandonment and trust issues. And Carlos with his family and closeted issues. I enjoyed the delicate journey of their friendship. They wanted one another for so long, yet they refused to cross that line until the issues that stood in their way were taken care of. Greg and Carlos heal each other, or at least they are patient enough with one another to begin a healing process.
This book is about forgiveness and moving on. Carlos and Lacey. Carlos and his father. Greg and Sammy. Greg and Ricky. Greg and his father. Carlos and Greg. There are so many levels of emotional drama in this book, so many imperfect relationships, so many near unforgivable actions. Yet through each situation, this author highlights the power of forgiveness and its healing properties. Carlos is a man of forgiveness, an optimistic man. But Greg is the pessimist of the two, jaded. He learns and grows by Carlos’ example. And in turn both men progress into amazing, strong characters.
This book does not include cheating. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Carlos is unhappy in his marriage. Has been for the last six years. But in those six years, he never once thought about sleeping with anyone outside of his marriage. I love that about him. I hate that Carlos is trapped in this pit of a marriage, but I love his heart. And on the flipside, I love that Greg hates cheaters. That’s not to say that Greg and Carlos don’t want/imagine/dream of kissing one another and more, but they don’t act on it. And the one almost time ended in shame and apologies. I love their integrity.
This story is about finding a new purpose. Carlos’ life was a life of circumstance. But once he met Greg and began work at The Escapades, so many doors opened up for him. He found purpose outside of his loveless marriage. He found hope for the first time since his childhood boyfriend died. And he found all of it outside a relationship. He found himself before he found his love for Greg. I absolutely adore Carlos and his growth in this book. His life is difficult and rough, yet he kept his head up and his heart open and eventually found his happy ending. Beautiful.
So, as you can tell, I adore this story of healing and hope. I love Gary and Carlos (especially Carlos). Their story is sweet and passionate and sometimes painful, but oh-so perfect. I highly recommend Stripped Clean by Ellis Carrington.