Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Thomas Stone travels across the country to Asheville, North Carolina for a job, only to find out once he arrives that some legal red tape is keeping the project from going forward. With hardly any money left, Thom needs to find a temporary job and fast. When he walks past The Happy Onion restaurant and sees the help wanted sign, he figures why not and goes inside. The owner is taking some time off, but the woman managing the place offers him a job. Elated, he decides to go out and find a hookup. Almost immediately, he finds a man, Drake, who catches his interest. The two men spend a wickedly hot night together and go their separate ways.
Almost two weeks later, Phil Sorrell is finally back at his beloved Happy Onion. Though he enjoyed the time off working on his home, he’s glad to be back at his restaurant. Then he meets the new bartender, and he’s stunned. Though he thought the man’s name was James, Phil isn’t surprised that they both used their middle names when they hooked up. After the shock wears off for both Phil and Thom, the attraction rages full force. Despite the fact that they are now boss and employee, they hook up again. But Phil wants more from the fiery Thom, and Thom eventually decides he does too.
Shortly after they decide to try a relationship, Phil finds out Thom actually came to town to work for Bradford & Lehrer. Phil is appalled; the rumors surrounding the company are bad. It’s possible they use bribery to get their way, and the location where they are building their new condos, which will house the high end night club Thom has come to manage, was earmarked for a park. Phil is a bit of a hippie, but more than that, he believes in doing what is right and is a proponent of keeping the charm of Asheville intact. Phil knows he can’t keep Thom from taking the job, but he worries that Thom will get caught in the fallout when Bradford & Lehrer’s dirty dealings are brought to light.
When an argument leads to both men saying some pretty hurtful things, anger forces them apart. Both men realize that they want to be together, and try to patch things up. They know that open communication is the key, but it takes them a while to be able to open up to each other. Once they do, they begin to try finding information that will bring down Bradford & Lehrer. Thom’s position at the nightclub affords him the opportunity to find incriminating information. Now it’s clear just what lengths Bradford & Lehrer have gone to in order to cover up the truth of what they’ve done. And because of what Thom knows, his life is one more thing Bradford & Lehrer are willing to take to keep their secrets.
Back when I first started reading M/M romance about five years ago, this book was one of the first I read. It’s stuck with me all this time. I’m one of those people that can always remember the larger plot points of the books that I’ve read, but rarely do I remember the finer details once years have passed. The Happy Onion is one that I remember down to details, and have reread several times over the years. And that’s the reason I wanted to share it with you for Throwback Thursday.
The characters, in particular, have stuck with me. Thom is a smaller guy, but he has a huge personality and an even bigger temper. He doesn’t let anyone intimidate him, he knows what he wants, and he goes after it like a bulldog. He’s powerful and confident, and that follows him into the bedroom as well. He’s the kind of in control top that stereotypically is portrayed by bigger men. I loved this about him. I love that he was a bit of a dichotomy. He’s small with angelic features, but he doesn’t back down from what he wants. And when that personality trait causes him not to listen to those around him, he is aware of this flaw, and works to correct it. Thom has several interesting layers, and I think Blue does a fantastic job of showing them all to us.
Phil is a wonderfully developed character as well. In fact, I think that he’s my favorite part of the book. He’s a big guy, with long hair he wears in a braid. He owns a vegan restaurant and is ultra-liberal. And yet, there are things about him that break from the status quo. He prefers to bottom, and he thinks Thom is especially hot when the man is angry. He gives Thom a lot of sweet, and sometimes ridiculous, nicknames and I absolutely loved that about him. Every time a new one came out of his mouth, I couldn’t help but smile. I loved his laid back attitude. But he has a fierceness underneath when it comes to his beliefs that just made him feel real. Together, these guys just work. Their chemistry leaps off the page, and I was wholly invested in their relationship from the start. These guys are so hot together. And there is a certain sex scene that will always be stuck in my memory.
Another thing I loved about this book is the way the author balanced the external and internal conflicts that were working against Thom and Phil’s relationship. They got in their own way a bit, and clashes of temper and anger led to some hurtful things being said. But they both knew they had to work it out, and they did have those hard conversations. Once they did, it was easier to see that they were stronger. I loved that development.
If I were to say I had an issue with the story, it would be with the external conflict. I thought it was fitting for the plot and these two characters. Putting them on opposite sides of a moral issue like this gave the whole book a kind of Romeo and Juliet feel that I think really worked. My problem, small as it might be, came from the fact that it was a huge issue and then the resolution came kind of quickly. Once Phil shared what he knew about the big bad company, Thom almost immediately jumped on board with trying to bring them down. And then everything came to a head rather quickly. The attack on Thom seemed just a tad too extreme for the circumstances. I was willing to take that jump, but I had to just kind of roll with it and not think too much about it. One other thing that bothered me a little was that we didn’t get to see the resolution first hand, only hear about it in the epilogue as the characters discussed it.
But oh, yes, this one is one of my favorites. The writing is great, the characters wonderful and memorable, and the plot is well executed, even if I found it a little farfetched at some points. Guys, if you haven’t read this one, I highly suggest you do.