Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
For as long as he can remember, only child Dylan has been best friends with brothers Shane and Reid. It’s been the three of them hanging out and playing baseball for years, even while Dylan silently comes to the terms with the fact that he is gay and in love with Shane.
Life for Shane and Reid is so far from perfect. Their father is both verbally and physically abusive and their mother is so paralyzed by fear that she can’t help them or protect them. When Shane reads Dylan’s journal and learns he is gay, Shane cuts Dylan off completely. Shane doesn’t know how to deal with Dylan’s admission or his own truth, that he is gay as well.
Ten months pass until a stolen moment and a kiss changes Dylan’s and Shane’s lives. They don’t just become something to each other, they become everything to each other. But life remains difficult. They keep their relationship a secret and Dylan feels that Shane is not as invested. Shane’s home life and depression has his grades slipping and he loses his college scholarship.
When Dylan goes to college, Shane feels left behind, lost, and alone as the violence at home escalates. When a misunderstanding has Dylan hurt and questioning their entire relationship, he lashes out at Shane with words and actions he can never take back. The consequences are unimaginable, tragic, and final.
Eight years later, Dylan is barely getting by. Although working with Reid at the Gay Straight Alliance counseling center offers him some comfort, Dylan walks around with more guilt and pain then he can possibly deal with. He has dated, but nothing really feels right, until he meets Conner.
Conner is an ex-MMA fighter, complete with the bad boy persona of tattoos and a motorcycle. After an injury leaves him unable to fight, he opens a gym near Dylan’s apartment. Although instantly attracted to each other, they both have so many demons to battle before they can give love a chance to live.
Let Love Live can be read as a stand alone novel, although it is book five in The Love Series. It is the only M/M book in the series and Reid is the focus in several of the books. What happened to Shane is known in the books, but not the why. I have not read any of the other books and had no issue with following along on what is primarily Dylan’s story.
The book is told predominantly in two parts and really has to be reviewed that way. Part One-Before is a flashback, but we are in the story, it’s not being told to us. It’s the story of Dylan and Shane and their friendship, their love, their struggles, and their pain. Collins does a nice job getting into the heads of the characters and developing their feelings of first love and self discovery. There is also pain, fear, depression, hate, and final desperation. It’s truly emotional and if you are known to cry while reading (while I’m not a book crier), this one will quite possibly get you.
Part Two-After has a very different feel and it was a little hard to move on and leave Shane behind, so I could really understand Dylan’s inability to move on. Conner lightens the mood right away as he sees Dylan and Reid together with Reid’s son and thinks they are a couple (Reid has a wife). Conner has had to deal with a lot regarding his injuries and with a family tragedy, and his sister, Rachel, is the only family he has left.
Part Two attempts to accomplish a lot and it went off in too many directions for me. The overall focus is on Dylan and Conner trying to work on a relationship to go with their intense attraction to each other. The scenes with the two of them connecting are what make this part work. But, there are a lot of side plot lines that detracted from the two of them. Conner’s sister has a health crisis and is rushed to the hospital. Some of Dylan’s and Conner’s bonding time is spent there and, while I did get what the author was trying to do, a lot of the focus became on Rachel’s issues. It is a possibility that Rachel will be the focus of the next book and that was being set up, but I was interested in Dylan’s and Conner’s story. Then, there was an issue with Conner’s ex and Conner winds up injured. When Dylan sees the ex, without knowing anything about what is going on, his first thought was to walk away from Conner before listening to him, in what was a similar fashion to how he walked away from Shane, and I struggled when I saw that.
This was the book that I enjoyed while I was reading it, but then wound up with a lot of questions. The best part of the writing was how a lot of the early time with Dylan and Shane felt realistic. So, if some of the book was realistic, I was then looking for all of it to be realistic, but it just wasn’t at some points. There was not one person that stepped in for Shane. He goes to school with visible bruises and his grades drop so much that he loses his baseball scholarship. There is not one coach, teacher, or parent that says anything–no one? And when Dylan goes off to college and then sees the drastic changes in Shane, isn’t it time to say something? And when Dylan’s parents do become aware of the abuse, Dylan and his father pick up an underage, drunk Reid from a party and bring him back home to his abusive father? When Dylan finally goes to see a therapist, the therapist is so saddened and overwhelmed by Dylan’s story that she tears up (twice) and then offers sweeping, profound statements at the end of the sessions that are supposed to make Dylan pull it all together?
I liked all of the MCs in this book and it was easy to get immersed in their world. It was a truly emotional story and some parts were steeped in reality so it was then difficult to make some leaps and take some other parts at face value. Both Dylan and Conner are able to move forward and their connection is hot and intense and palpable. I just was not able to fully see the forgiveness that Dylan needed for himself and that left me with a lot of mixed feelings on the book as a whole.
So what’s the bottom line then? I did feel a substantial difference between Part One and Part Two and some issues still remain unresolved for me. I liked the writing style, I liked the MCs, I liked the overall story that was on the pages and the real life feelings that were lifted off the pages, and those are the parts I would recommend.