Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Author Brandon Reece lost 200 lbs due to bariatric surgery and still suffers from self-esteem issues stemming from years of ridicule over his weight. Brandon writes characters that are diametrically opposite to himself, where the fat and the ugly are nowhere to be found. Rhine Walken may be a gorgeous specimen of a man, with a criminology and psychology degree to his name, but he suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident that leaves him unpredictable and prone to episodes.
Tired of watching Rhine suffer the indignities of cruel co-workers at the grocery store, Brandon comes up with a plan. Highly educated and an avid reader, Rhine could try his hand at writing. Brandon and Rhine build up a solid friendship over the course of a few months and, although Rhine wants to move their relationship from friends to boyfriends, Brandon’s hang-ups won’t let him consider Rhine as more than just a friend, regardless of his growing feelings.
Rhine makes the first move and point by point he tells Brandon why they can try to be together instead of fearing the reasons why the cannot. Brandon’s fears and insecurities have many layers: the extra skin left after his bariatric surgery and Rhine’s episodes, which cause Rhine to act like a child. They declare their love for each other but until they can meet with the doctor and social worker, a physical relationship will be on the sidelines, as Brandon cannot risk Rhine having an episode while being intimate and he still has a fear of being rejected by Rhine once he sees what Brandon looked like under the clothes. Can Brandon let go of his fears and be the man Rhine needs or will Rhine give up on Brandon in frustration?
This book caught my eye immediately simply because of the premise, which is certainly not run-of-the-mill. I have never read a story where the character had been morbidly obese and undergone bariatric surgery and then to add in a character with a traumatic brain injury? All I could say was “wow,” what a concept!
I found it devastating to read of Brandon’s low self-esteem, and yet he took his pain and translated it into books that could help teens get through those difficult high school years. Couple that with Rhine’s issues and you have a recipe for how they could help each other to heal psychologically. I did like that the relationship grows slowly, naturally, and as Brandon says, they love each other and just need to work out the problems themselves. This was a refreshing change to the page 3 sex scenes, which would not have made sense contextually.
Yes, Rhine is an adult, but he acts like a child during his episodes and even a little bit when just unhappy or disappointed, but I can give Rhine a break because of his injury. Can Rhine’s quick acceptance of Brandon be justified? I never did answer that question. I could understand how Brandon would feel at least lust for Rhine, but at the crucial beginning of their relationship, Rhine was all over the place and all I could think was that he was not used to kindness and latched on the Brandon for that reason.
I asked myself early on “why does Rhine all of a sudden have verbal diarrhea?” He went from reserved to all out in seconds. I then noticed that Brandon and his editor Cammie also has verbal diarrhea, and realized that hell, everybody has it! This made the writing sound stiff, with an unnatural flow, like an information dump.
Rhine’s style of speech is too similar to Brandon’s, and I would expect it to be more casual, considering that Rhine himself commented on Brandon’s “proper” speech. I also noticed some “tell” in the story as well as a few obvious spelling errors, but overall the narration was consistent and easy to follow.
My rating has been based on the fact that Miles has taken on a tough subject, and even if I did not find the execution to be my liking, I still enjoyed the book and the characters, and sometimes saccharine sweet is just the ticket. Another bright spot was Rhine’s cat’s name which took me back to my childhood and made me chuckle every time I read it.