It’s been three months since Romy Myers was saved from the prison his abusive ex-boyfriend kept him in. Trying to rebuild his life has not been an easy road, not that Romy ever had a real life to begin with. Not one to make real connections or real friendships, Romy finds himself leaning heavily on his former occasional hook-up turned sort of friend/secret crush, Ezra, and Ezra’s live-in boyfriend, Donner. Romy doesn’t trust easily and flinches at the slightest sound or shadow, but the sight of former college football star Brendan Walker, Donner’s best friend, calms Romy like he never expected. And Romy likes it, likes having Brendan around and when he’s not around, likes the texts he gets from Brendan. It’s like Brendan gets him and knows when Romy needs a kind word.
Brendan has known or at least suspected he’s gay for a while, but he’s never acted on it, mostly because he’s never found anyone worth taking the chance on, but also because he’s pretty sure his super religious mother and judgmental family would never understand. So Brendan has lived with the pleas from his mama to find a nice girl and bring her home and suffered through the many blind dates his sisters have set him up on. Then Brendan got a phone call from his friend Donner telling him that someone was in trouble and needed help. It was the first time he ever saw Romy. And Romy’s all he’s seen since. Brendan feels a need to protect Romy, so much so that he’s done something he’s sure would frighten Romy, but he doesn’t regret it—not really. He just doesn’t know how to tell Romy, so he doesn’t.
Spending time with Romy is the best part of Brendan’s day, especially when he starts training Romy at his apartment. Being so close to Brendan is enough for Romy. Romy has a hard time with being around people now, but with Brendan it’s easy. Fighting his attraction to Brendan, especially when he thinks Brendan is straight, is another thing. When they finally get on the same page, life has a way of creeping in on them. The secret Brendan was keeping comes out and threatens to tear apart not only the new relationship their building, but the safe place Romy has found in Brendan.
Stand By You is the third book in A.M. Arthur’s Belonging series.
Can we get a round of applause for Romy and Brendan? I mean seriously, these guys are everything I hoped and then some. By the end of Maybe This Time, I had already hopped on the Romy-Brendan train and was ready for this ride. I love their story. It’s one of healing. And I’ve said that about several stories (obviously there are so many levels of healing and moving on), but this story is also about the empowerment that comes from that healing. You see, with Romy’s healing process, he not only finds the new him, but he also finds Brendan, and because of Romy, Brendan finds a voice—his own voice. Stand By You is the perfect title for this story, because yes, Brendan will stand by Romy no matter what, good or bad, but what happens when fear throws a wrench in Romy’s starry-eyed picture of Brendan? Will he stand by Brendan?
Both of these guys are old faces in this series. Romy was introduced in No Such Thing as Ezra’s occasional hook up. When I first read Romy there, I thought of him as a bit flighty. Then in Maybe This Time he gets in to an unhealthy relationship (that’s putting it lightly, but that’s how he makes it seem throughout most of the book) with Carlos. Turns out the guy had imprisoned him and controlled every single part of his life. Then along comes his heroes—Ezra, Donner, and Brendan. Brendan was introduced in book two as Donner’s BFF and fellow partner in Street Feed. What I like about these guys is that neither is what they first seem when you meet them early on. Well, that’s not exactly true, Brendan really is the nicest guy ever, unless you hurt someone he cares about, then watch out. But Romy, he was never flighty. He was crafty. He’d been alone for so long. He was only looking for a way to survive. That led him down a path that changed his life. It sucks and it was hard, but I like the man it made Romy. He’s quieter now, more introspective. He thinks before he acts, mostly. And Brendan, his life before Romy revolves around his family and what they think and would think of him. It takes Romy storming quietly into his life to turn that upside down. They’re a great pair.
Their story is a slow build type of story, and it has to be, especially after Romy’s trauma. But in it we get to see their friendship evolve into a smoldering attraction that turns into a fiery relationship. I like the path the author chose with these guys, because it wouldn’t have been believable to just throw them in bed and call it a day. Romy and Brendan had to work for it, which probably doesn’t seem fair after all they’ve been through, but it’s a wonderful journey. Romy’s nightmares and PTSD are a big part of the story in which therapy takes a major role in his life. Therapy that starts with Brendan’s prodding. Their relationship is their friendship multiplied and it takes many steps and ups and downs to get to that point. But it’s totally worth it.
The one thing that had me scratching my head was the surprise appearance of Topher, Romy’s ex from Philly. It was just so odd. So Brendan and Romy have this big blow up fight and suddenly the one guy Romy has ever loved shows up? It’s too much of a coincidence to be even remotely believable. So much so that I’m not sure if the author wanted me to like Topher or not, but I immediately hated him and continued to do so until he left Wilmington. And as suddenly as Topher is there, he’s gone. His presence was… well, odd is the best word I can come up with for it. It didn’t make that much sense in the full circle of the story.
Overall, I loved Romy and Brendan’s story. It has its definite ups and downs and is full of drama, which is always a must in Arthur’s books. It was so good and I can’t help but hope there will be more to these guys and their friends in the future. I highly recommend Stand By You by A.M. Arthur.