At age 17, Dominic Jacobsen has the night of his life when he hooks up with Lamar Franklin, a young man visiting Coda from out of town. It is just one night, but it is a night that stays with Dom for years, always a reminder of the time he got to act on his feelings for men. Soon after, Dom’s life changed, as he married his best friend and had a child, and since then he has had nothing but an occasional encounter with other men and kept his sexuality hidden from just about everyone.
Fifteen years after the hookup, Lamar finds himself back in Coda, this time having taken a job there as a teacher. He needed to get out of Texas, away from his ex who promised too many times he would leave his wife, but who Lamar finally realized was never going to commit to him. Lamar is suffering from a deep depression, seeing this as one more failure with a list of men who treat him poorly and don’t want to truly be with him. Things are made worse by a stalker who keeps calling in the middle of the night and who then escalates to vandalism.
When Lamar needs his car repaired, he is shocked to come face to face with Dominic. He had no idea Dom even still lived in town, but he is definitely interested in establishing a friendship and maybe something more. For Dom’s part, he can’t believe the man who has haunted his fantasies for years is actually back in Coda. He wants nothing more than to rekindle a relationship, but Dom isn’t out and he has his daughter to think about. Torn between his feelings for Lamar and his concerns about exposing his sexuality, Dom must figure out if he is brave enough to reach for what her really wants, or if he is going to stay hidden and lose the man he is growing to love.
We have another book in my beloved Coda series you guys. I about died when I heard this story was coming out, as this is one of my all time favorite series and I have reread these books so many times. I am not exaggerating to say that I recommend this series to just about everyone and would put it on the “must read” list for any m/m romance reader. So clearly, I was coming into this book with high expectations, as I am sure many other readers are as well.
So let’s start with the series itself, shall we? This story takes place in the same world as the original series, though as far as I can tell, these are totally new characters. The highlight of the book for me is that we get a chance to reunite with two of the couples from the series – Matt and Jared, and Zach and Angelo. I loved seeing these guys worked into the story and suddenly realizing, OMG, that’s Matt! Or hey, they are going to Angelo’s house! As I said, I can’t overstate how much I love these guys and I just adored getting to see them again and catch up on their lives. Reading the banter between Matt and Angelo, hanging out with the guys as they watch the Chiefs/Broncos game, checking out things at A to Z, it all brought back my warm fuzzies about the series and totally makes me want to read it again. Now if you haven’t read the other books, this one could probably work just fine. You may wonder why these side characters are getting so much page time, but nothing happens that relies on your knowledge of the other books. I loved the way Sexton worked these guys into the story and loved seeing them again.
I will admit that other aspects of this story didn’t work as well for me. Dominic is stuck in this never ending pattern of wanting to move forward with Lamar, but being too afraid to act on his feelings because it would mean being public about his attraction to men. The story goes back and forth and back and forth, over and over. Dom makes some progress, then pulls away. He says he will never abandon Lamar, but then does time and again. It just found it exhausting to go through this constant repetition with no real forward progress and it definitely made me frustrated with Dom. I get that there are many reasons why someone might not be ready to come out, but I needed him to just make a decision already. Either he needed to accept his feelings for Lamar and move forward, or decide he is not ready and stop seeing him. Instead Dom invites Lamar over, eye fucks him all over the place, clearly is interested in more, and then runs away whenever Lamar tries to move things forward. Dom just is in this endless spiral where he has a million reasons why he can’t come out, but often they feel like excuses more than anything. This just takes up so much of the book, the vast majority in fact, that it just dragged the story down without ever moving things forward or really developing the relationship between the men. I had trouble when the finally get together feeling much excitement.
The main focus here is on the relationship between Lamar and Dominic, but there is a suspense element thrown in with regard to Lamar’s stalker. This part fell a little flat for me as well. The ultimate culprit felt kind of random and through I get why this person might be hostile towards Lamar, it almost felt like it could have been just about anyone. Honestly, this side plot seems more a way to get Lamar and Dom to meet the original Coda guys (Matt is the cop who investigates the stalking and Lamar ends up hiding out a bit at Zach and Angelo’s). I wish there had been a bit more to this plot to give it some more dimension and a bit more urgency.
So I am kind of mixed here. As always, I really enjoy Marie Sexton’s writing and, of course, I was THRILLED to reunite with the Coda guys. If you are a fan of that series, I think you are going to want to read this book just to catch up with them. If you haven’t read the other books, I would send you to check them out immediately. Despite my reservations about this story, it still remains one of my all time favorite series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.