Rating: 4 stars
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Six years ago, college roommates and best friends Grady and Mateo spent a weekend together that changed everything. Although there had been some sexual tension between them for a while (including lots of hand jobs in each other’s company), they had always kept things at friends until they finally acted on their feelings. But the experience was too overwhelming for Grady, still just coming to understand his own sexuality. And after swearing to Mateo nothing would change between them, Grady fled and was out of Mateo’s life.
Now Grady has come to accept that he is gay and knows he wants nothing more than to reconnect with Mateo. When he spots Mateo on the street, Grady is willing to do whatever it takes to track him down, including outing himself on Facebook, placing an ad on craigslist, and getting his police deputy brother to help. It seems that Mateo has completely disappeared and is totally off the grid.
Grady is determined to find Mateo and show him how much he has changed and how much he wants them to be together. Mateo is still clearly angry and upset, but he agrees to hear Grady out and spend a couple of days with him. Things have not been easy during their separation. Mateo was badly hurt by Grady’s rejection and both men have been miserable without one another. Mateo also got mixed up in trouble that is still following him, risking his safety. Even as the men begin to accept that they may have a future together, their pasts continue to threaten their happiness.
Sloan Parker takes an interesting approach to this friends to lovers story by slowly unveiling the history between these two men. The Prologue shares their encounter years before, but it stops before we get details on what happened that night or what led to their separation. So the story slowly unveils what happened and I enjoyed learning a bit at a time about the history between Grady and Mateo and what led to things falling apart.
In a story like this it can be tricky to find the balance between Mateo’s anger and resentment towards Grady, and then his eventual forgiveness. I do think Parker does a nice job giving us the realism about how betrayed Mateo feels and the pain he went through after Grady left him. We also can really feel Grady’s remorse for what he did, and how deeply both men care for one another even before they can really open up and show it. And over the timeline of the book, it does take some time for Mateo to really trust Grady again and to believe it when he says he is committed this time and won’t freak out. But the story does take place over basically a few days from the time the guys reconnect. While we see Grady really having to work for the forgiveness and the men don’t jump right into bed, on a pure timeline things do resolve pretty fast given how much pain Mateo was still feeling. Still, it felt hard earned and I appreciated seeing the men work through things before anything sexual happened, even if it does go somewhat quickly.
The book also has a side plot about Mateo’s past. This is another element that sort of slowly develops, as we get hints he is hiding from something and very skittish. It becomes clear that he has both physical and emotional scars and there is something pretty bad that happened to him and is still putting him in danger. On one hand, I liked that we get little hints of this along the way, but on the other, the pacing felt off here for me. Mateo doesn’t share what is going on until about 75% of the way through the book. Then we jump into a suspense plot that sort of comes in at the last minute. It is not exactly out of nowhere, but it just felt a little out of place given the tone and direction of the rest of the story. I mean, we know something is coming, but I feel like we spent so long on the reconciliation that by the time this plot comes to the forefront it is already almost at the end of the book.
Overall I think there is a lot here that is appealing, especially to fans the lovers reunited trope. We can really feel how keenly each of these men have missed one another and how scared they are that they won’t be able to move on from their past. They are sweet together and likable guys and I was rooting for them to make things work. I think the pacing was a little off, both in the time it takes for the guys to get back together as well as the timing of the suspense plot. But overall I enjoyed this story.