Dante is in his last year of college and his life remains the same. After an uncomfortable experience with a girl in high school left him confused and with little self esteem, he has not dated men or women. His first crush was a boy and he is too scared to even think about what it would mean for his life if he were attracted to men. He tries again when he’s approached by gorgeous Serena. She is the first girl that Dante has been attracted to in quite some time and a date with her has Dante’s nerves acting crazy.
When Dante loses a bet, his best friend dares him to attend the campus LGBT meeting. He starts to panic, but gets himself to the meeting. There he meets James, who introduces him to Sven. Sven, whose sexy looks, bad boy persona, leather jacket, and spiked blonde hair catches Dante’s attention. But there is a whole lot more to Sven than his looks. Sven is holding onto a secret and Dante is about to find out all about Sven.
There are a few things about Dante and Sven to like: Once they find each other, they support each other, accept each other, and are good for each other. A good portion of this story, however, left me struggling and frustrated. The book opens with a prologue where Dante is in bed with a girl and he is not aroused. He is mortified and his inner dialogue is this: “I couldn’t tell anyone about this….I definitely couldn’t tell my parents. Even if they weren’t mad–which they totally would be–they’d tell me I had my whole life ahead of me or some stupid crap like that.” I read this sentence over several times in context and I could not relate to why Dante would be considering his parents’ reaction to his lack of an erection, as that is what he is specifically talking about. So my initial footing was off with him from the start.
When Dante loses a bet, he is tasked with going to the campus LGBT meeting. This just didn’t sit well with me as is it done as a mockery of the group. From there, Dante meets Sven and Sven has a secret. I figured out Sven’s secret very early in the story, perhaps earlier than the author intended. I have absolutely no issue with what Sven’s secret is, it is just not something I personally am interested in reading about. His secret is not listed in the published blurb, as it would lose a lot the intended impact, so there is no choice of the subject matter to be made. The secret does not get carried out through the entire book, there is an attempt to deal with it, and even though I was then frustrated with the story, I was able to evaluate it on the basis of what is being offered.
Dante is nervous and so unsure of himself much of the time. Sven was used and treated horribly by the first guy he was with. This resulted in Sven being bullied and beaten up for years. The bullying is off page and, because of this, I was never able to get a real handle on it all and it impacts Sven tremendously. Sven has an entire roster of emotional issues to deal with, he has really deep emotional scars, and they are not handled in a substantial manner. I felt his issues went a lot deeper and simply finding the right person to have a relationship with is not the end all cure. The way in which the characters are presented made it difficult for me to become attached to either of them.
Once the guys do begin a relationship, they don’t talk much about it, which leaves Dante continually unsure of himself. Their intimate encounters do progress at a realistic pace for their characters. Dante is completely freaked out about everything sexual, and in keeping with his character, he does not become an amazing and confident lover overnight. These guys both just have so many issues and the story split its focus between too many serious areas at once. As a noticeable mannerism, the author chose to have many of the guys either scratching their neck or the back of their head when they are nervous. These guys are nervous often and it gets lost as an individual characteristic and just makes the guys seem itchy.
As a total story, it was not the most enjoyable for me. Besides the areas of personal preference, I felt there was too much going on with both characters to be handled effectively given the style and tone of the story. The characters are damaged and flawed and although their issues are not handled in depth, if this is one you are considering, there is some character growth to be had toward the end.