Michael Reeves came screaming out of the closet at fourteen. His best friend, Simon Newell, took a few more years to admit his sexuality. Together, they had all their firsts. But while Michael was seeing them as a forever kind of love, Simon wanted to experience all life had to offer. He loved Michael, but wasn’t in love with him, and though it hurt Michael terribly, Simon dated other guys.
But the two best friends were still inseparable, though their relationship was strained, and several years later, after they graduated college, Simon realized that he was, in fact, in love with Michael. They tried to make the relationship work again, but Michael just couldn’t trust that Simon was for real. Because Simon constantly pushed away his deeper affections before, Michael was too wary to be completely committed. Michael cheated, and Simon decided to move out, thinking they both needed some space. But while they were apart, Michael fell in love with someone else. Joan may have been a woman, and Michael is definitely gay, but he was drawn to her spirit and her soul. When he finally admits this to Simon, Simon is so heartbroken he accepts a promotion that will send him to Dubai for a year.
After Dubai, Simon spent time in other locales around the globe, and is gone from New York City and Michael for six years. Though they still remain friends, their relationship is strained. Michael finally convinces Simon to come home, and it seems like finally they are in the same place mentally and emotionally and can begin the relationship they should have had all along. But when tragedy strikes, and Michael is left as the sole guardian of his son, it may prove to be too much for Simon, just when it seems that the planets have finally aligned.
I’m struggling with this review, because as much as I liked this story, I had a trouble with the telling of it. I’m a sucker for a good friends to lovers story, and Michael and Simon have one hell of a relationship. Friends since they were small, knowing each other inside and out, these two men totally have to work for what they’ve always wanted. My issue came with the fact that it was told in a non-linear fashion, and it really put a damper on things for me.
Here we have two characters who have both made a lot of mistakes. Each man has played a role in the discord in their relationship. Part of it comes down to timing, but it’s also about the choices they make. Simon and Michael were both incredibly well drawn, engaging characters. We spend time with each of them, so we get to understand what they are thinking and what their motivations are. For the most part, things make sense. But I’ll be honest and say that sometimes I couldn’t quite understand what kept them together, except for their history. There were times when it seemed like it would be better for both of them if they just walked away from each other. But there love was deep enough that, in the end, they made sense, and really, there was no other way it could have turned out. I liked that they both took responsibility for the hurt they caused, and that they were both willing and able to make amends. Michael and Simon were meant to be together, and they’ve had a lot of life experience to get them to that point. So despite the hurt they’ve caused each other, and the curve balls life throws them, their relationship at the end was completely and totally satisfying.
But I still had a tough time with this story. We jumped from the present day to the past with regularity, and though it was always clearly marked so we knew what time period we were in, it always pulled me out of the story. Part of that was because in addition to having scenes from the past, they were out of order as well. Because of that, I had to constantly remind myself if something we’d previously seen as a flashback had happened yet or not, or if it even mattered at all to the information we were getting at the time. It was easier in the beginning half of the book, when the scenes were split fairly evenly between the past and the present, and there was a bit of a rhythm. But as the story progressed, we spent more time in the present. And that’s when a jump to the past really pulled me from the story. I found myself really invested in the now storyline, and to have that interrupted actually irritated me. So while I really appreciated the information we got from the flashback scenes, as well as getting to see the characters at that time in their lives, I cared more about the present and them working through their issues to find a solid relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a good book with great writing, even if the method of flashbacks didn’t work for me. If you don’t have an issue with that kind of storytelling, then I can definitely recommend this book to you. And if you like a good friend to lovers story, where past hurts have caused a lot of strife and the characters are now fully committing to making the relationship work, then When the Planets Align should definitely go on your list.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.