Luke is about to be evicted because he hasn’t paid rent. He barely gets enough hours at the florist shop where he works to make ends meet. Since he’s a full time art college student, Luke doesn’t want to get another job. Plus, his meddling aunts are always in his business. Luke doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
Cooper made a pass at Luke one night while he was drunk when he went into the flower shop to buy his weekly bouquet. When he sees Luke is in trouble, he offers the perfect solution. He will give Luke a free place to stay if Luke will have sex with him. Luke isn’t gay, and doesn’t want to do it. In fact, he’s disgusted by the thought. But he sees no other choice and agrees.
After Luke moves in, he’s downright terrified about having sex with Cooper. When Cooper realizes this, he backs off immediately and tells Luke that he can live in his apartment anyway. The two men become friends, and Luke realizes there is much more to Cooper than he first thought. Cooper is truly hurting because he is no longer a tattoo artist (though it takes him a long while to confess the reason). The closer the men get, the more confidence Luke has in himself. He’s able to admit the truth that he’s been denying even to himself. Luke is gay, and he wants Cooper. But Cooper has a long way to heal before he can be anything more than Luke’s friend and protector.
This is a tough one for me to review because I came away having very mixed feelings about it. It took me a long while to settle into the story. There were parts that really worked, but there were other scenes and situations that felt too contrived to be believable.
Admittedly, Luke confused me at first. He was so staunchly sure that he wasn’t gay, and in fact disgusted by the thought, that I just didn’t understand why he would agree to the arrangement Cooper proposed. I know he was desperate, but it seemed that even were that the case, he could have found other options. It wasn’t until about a third of the way through, when we finally got to see that Luke had been denying that he was gay, that he began to make sense. From there, he really flourished. By the end, Luke had completely grown on me. Watching him accept himself and stand up for himself, seeing him grow, was really satisfying.
Cooper was a bit easier to relate to, at least for me. Yes, in the beginning he seemed like a jerk. But that was because it was all colored by Luke’s perceptions. That moment when he backs off when he sees how truly upset Luke is by the prospect of having sex is when I really began to understand him. Cooper is lonely. And he is haunted by an event in his not too distant past. Cooper has a huge heart, and he is a caretaker. He tries to block those parts of himself. He thinks it’ll be easier to face the world. But he can’t help who he is, and his character really shined through. I really liked him, once I understood his motivation, and I wanted him to heal.
As I said, it was hard to get into the book. The beginning just seemed way too farfetched. Not only was Luke vehemently against anything sexual, but he thought that Cooper was a complete jerk. It just didn’t make any sense to me that he would agree to move in with Cooper. There were other times where the plot seemed to stray as well. More than once, I found myself shaking my head and wondering where the author was going with the story. I had to take a leap of faith and just keep pressing on.
But I was glad that I did. Together, these men are wonderful. Cooper really helped Luke accept himself. And he gave Luke solid support when dealing with his meddlesome and overbearing aunts. In turn, once Luke was solid, he really helped Cooper come to terms with what happened. He was there for Cooper as the man struggled. The trust they developed was wonderful. And when Cooper went back to tattooing, Luke lets Cooper tattoo him. I really liked the two of them together, and thought they complimented each other well.
In the end, it was their relationship and their growth that saved this book for me. If it had been any less, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it very much. The characters are the heart of this book, and they allowed me to accept a plot that a bit contrived and over the top.