Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
James lives in small town USA. Deacon, Oklahoma to be exact. He makes up the entire gay population, but it’s home to him. Years ago, when he was offered a college scholarship from his church and came out in front of the entire town, most of them accepted and embraced him. His main problem now is the lack of dating options.
James is a business owner and a volunteer firefighter. When James meets Mason at the fire house, he is immediately drawn to Mason’s good looks. The two become friends and James has to accept that he is crushing on the straight guy. He has a hard time not falling for Mason who is just perfect for him. Besides being gorgeous, Mason shares the same sense of humor with James, and even has a vulnerable side.
Mason is fairly quiet about himself. He moved from Texas and does not want to talk about his life at all. He says he is fine with James being gay, but James notices that Mason will never touch him even in the high fiving, back slapping guy way that he displays with everyone else.
After a set of stressful events, Mason’s past is brought into the spotlight. James finds it just may be possible to have what he craves with Mason, if he can be patient with a man wounded by his traumatic past.
The story opens up and immediately pulled me right in as James is bantering with his best friend. Everything is seen from James’ perspective and he is quick, witty, fun, and a good friend. His inner dialog is entertaining and there is an immediate connection to him. Being a volunteer fireman, he is the only gay man on the squad and the only gay man in the entire town. The story behind his coming out in the Bible Belt was brave and depicts him trying to stay true to himself the only way he knew how at the time. James is a really likable guy who just wants to live his life and find a man to share it with. Mason also had my interest as it was clear he was holding back in a lot of ways.
The story can sort of be described in two parts. The first half of the book we are having fun seeing James deal with his crush on Mason and the two of them starting a friendship. I was into getting to know James and his relationship, or lack of relationship at times, with the other residents of the town. The second half of the book changes dramatically and tries to take on a whole lot of issues and topics in a short amount of time.
When a tragic emergency call has Mason’s emotions in turmoil, he trusts James with his story. His confession was traumatic and violent and so this part had a completely different tone than the first part of the story. As Mason opens up to James, the two begin a relationship, and there is a lot of tenderness and caring between the two of them. Mason, however, wants to keep the relationship quiet.
From there, it was like a challenge to see how much more we could pile on to these guys. To even out the violence aspect, James is severely injured during a robbery. There is a too convenient transfer of power of attorney and the subject is now equal rights for partners, dealing with homophobic rednecks (as James calls them), as well as Mason outing himself. Not to mention dealing with hate crime and street crime. We are told about all of these major issues and do not get to see them firsthand (with the exception of the real time robbery). Also, from James’ hospital recovery bed, James and Mason discuss their topping and bottoming preferences because it needed to be discussed before the wrap up of the story. These are all issues I would be interested in hearing about, but it was just all too rushed and compacted together for a short book.
There are a couple of side characters thrown in and at the end of the book I was left wondering exactly what their purpose was other than to give the MCs someone else to talk to.
The writing pulled me in and out in equal measures. I would be fully invested in the conversation when it would take a turn and the words would become stilted and somewhat unnatural. I figured out, that for me, it had to do with the use of contractions in the conversation. One character would use contractions as is common in every day spoken language. The next character would not use contractions making their voice sound very formal in comparison. Maybe I will be one of the only ones to notice this, but it stopped the flow of the characters’ voices for me at times.
The recommendation for this book would come from the fun, witty tone of the first half of the book and the sweet wrap up as James and Mason both make it to a good place together.