Bradley has never quite gotten his footing in life. Growing up with a single mom after his father left them, he has never felt good enough. At 30 years old, he has started and stopped college many times without finishing a degree. He works as a school custodian as he attempts to makes his way through college classes yet again. Everyone thinks Bradley is good looking and he is not at a loss for sexual partners, both male and female, but some emotional connection is always missing. After extricating himself from his last hookup, Bradley’s truck breaks down in the upscale part of town, and preppy Caleb offers his help.
Caleb is everything that Bradley finds attractive. He’s good looking and seemingly has his life together. When Caleb invites Bradley out, Bradley cannot understand why Caleb would be interested and declines his offer. Having second thoughts, Bradley reaches out to Caleb and they set a date.
Caleb is still mourning the unexpected death of his long time partner and Bradley is the first man he has dated in years. The men begin a tentative and hesitant relationship with Caleb setting the pace and Bradley basking in all things Caleb. Their relationship starts with a random act of kindness and is then threatened when Caleb is attacked in a seemingly random act of violence. Bradley, who has never taken responsibility for anyone, must step up and rescue Caleb from drowning in his own despair.
This story starts out as mentioned with a random act of kindness as Caleb stops to help Bradley out with his truck. We see Bradley not being emotionally connected to his hookups and not really understanding why that is. The story is told solely from Bradley’s POV and it takes a little longer to get a handle on Caleb.
Caleb is well educated and comes from a wealthy family. His manner of speaking is incredibly formal, even when he is being genuine. As the men grow closer, the formality remains even when they are intimate. Bradley has no self esteem and has lived that way for most of his life. Caleb sees all the good things that make up Bradley and Bradley changes his way of thinking very quickly. Sure, when someone finally gets you and respects it can do a lot for your self confidence, but Bradley’s changes come about within days.
Bradley is described as being hot, but is compared specifically to a contemporary actor. If you do not find this particular actor attractive it may further lessen the attraction to Bradley. And that’s what I had issues with. I could not specifically connect to either character. Caleb is 40, his manner is much younger, and what exactly attracts him to Bradley is not clearly defined.
The first portion of the book deals with the men slowly growing closer and Caleb coming to terms with moving on with a new relationship. The story then shifts to the aftermath of a violent attack. While the actual attack is off page, Caleb is brutally beaten. The men have only known each other for a few months and there is a slow build up to their relationship. Then, they are redefining everything before it had been defined in the first place. And, we then see a whole new side of how Caleb processes trauma.
There attempts to be a slight mystery element of who attacked Caleb, but it is very clear almost before it happens who is involved. Several things that happen after the attack did not sit well with me. Caleb is very adamant about not having visitors while he is recuperating, yet no one is able to stop an unwanted guest from just barging in and then the visitor demands refreshments. Caleb is also terrified that his attackers will come to his home as they had seen his ID. It is made very clear that Caleb’s family is wealthy and even when it is proven that there were unwanted visitors near the house, they still don’t just get a security system for the poor guy. The ending then tries to take on a moral, equality issue when an object is stolen and way more credit is given to the “wild eyed,” rambling, and shouting attacker.
The writing here is well done, but overall this was just a hard one for me to connect with for both the story and the characters.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.