Rating: 4.25 stars
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Every day Zach Driscoll takes the express elevator from his penthouse apartment down to the lobby on his way to work. Despite a beautiful apartment and lots of family money, Zach’s life is pretty bleak. He has no friends, no joy in life, pays for sex, and has no passion for anything but his work as a union lawyer. His family is cold and distant and only cares for the impression he can make and how they can shape him into the person they want him to be.
One day when the express elevator breaks down, Zach ends up riding the regular elevator downstairs. Along the way he meets substitute teacher Sean Mallory. Something about Sean just sparks with life, and even their very short interaction on the elevator leaves a lasting impression on Zach. From then on, Zach tries to time his trips downstairs with when he may run into Sean on the elevator. Slowly Zach begins to open up, talking to Sean and learning more about him. That joy begins to spread to the rest of his life, and Zach starts interacting more with his coworkers, talking more to his neighbors, and seeking out pleasures in life. He decides to stop being a pawn to his parents and to stand up for himself. And all the while, he falls harder and harder for the man he sees only a few minutes a day on the elevator. Now that Zach has finally taken steps to find some happiness in his life, he must work up the courage to take a chance on the man for whom he has quietly fallen.
One of the things I love most about Amy Lane is that on one hand she can write books full of angst and intensity and pain that move us all deeply. And at the same time, she can write sweet, lovely confections that are fun and light and relatively angst free. And the latter is what best describes this story. It is just adorable, from the plot to the characters, and so much fun to read.
First off, I loved how Lane incorporates a bit of a fairy tale vibe. Zach imagines himself the prince locked in the tower, wishing he could be rescued by a handsome knight. Zach has wealth and a powerful family, but he is so incredibly sad and lonely. He really is fairly socially awkward, and, even when he meets Sean, can barely figure out how to interact with him. But his encounters with Sean are what helps Zach open up, not just with Sean, but in other areas of his life. They give him the confidence to let loose a little at work, helping him build a friendship with his secretary and her good friend. He begins to talk to his neighbors, making friends with two men who live on his floor (for Gambling Men fans, this is a shout out to Jase and Quentin). Sean even jokes at one point that Zach is like Rapunzel, and there is definitely an element of that as Zach starts off hidden away and slowly finds his way out into the light. It is done subtly, but very clever and a lot of fun.
The structure of this story is also quite clever and original. For most of the book, all the interaction between Zach and Sean takes place in the elevator. They talk on their short ride down (or occasionally up) and then part ways. Since Zach is our POV character, we follow him throughout the rest of his days, but the two men’s contact is very limited to these short bursts of time. What is amazing is how Lane makes their developing relationship work so well and be totally believable, despite the limited time they have together. I could feel the relationship build, the growing connection between the men, and even the emotional bond that they had by the end of the story. It is a really unique set up and I think it worked quite well.
My only small issues here do come back to this set up though. As I said, for most of the book these guys don’t interact beyond the elevator. When one or the other is busy or adjusts his schedule, they may even go long periods without seeing each other (the book takes place over about a year). But there is a point at which it is clear these guys are both interested in each other, yet they never actually make a real effort to connect. Zach is pretty socially awkward so I see why it may not come from him. But Sean is a normal guy, and yet they never even exchange cell numbers? Or try to set up a date? I guess maybe there was a point at which the structure of the story may have been a bit too confining for realism. Along the same lines, the book ends shortly after these guys have their first real out-of-elevator interaction. Then we get sort of a fast forward recap of their lives and how it leads to an HEA over a few pages. I would have loved to see these guys interacting when they were together and happy, rather than have that told to us as sort of a recap instead. So while I loved the structure of this book, I do think it had some limitations.
But once again Amy Lane delivers with another wonderful story. Going Up is sweet and endearing with characters I really loved and a clever and fun set up. I love the chance to get some frothy fun from Lane and this one really is a treat.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.