Jed Carter is following in his brother’s footsteps because that’s what his brother wants. Kent has a master plan, and Jed is going along with it. But Jed hasn’t told Kent that he’s gay, and fears the way his brother will react. But starting his first year at the University of Virginia gives Jed some confidence and he really starts to come into his own. Even though he’s still following along with this brother’s plan, he eventually comes out, and starts a friends with benefits relationship with the cousin of a friend. But Jed feels like something is missing. He wants more.
Charlie Ambrose had a hard time in school and he has no aspirations of going to college. He’s an amazing artist, but even the thought of pursuing art as a degree doesn’t hold much appeal. He’s also firmly in the closet, knowing that his family probably won’t accept it. Black and Baptists, being gay is not something they will embrace. Even though his cousin Morocco is transgender and living her life out loud, her personality makes all the difference as Charlie is shy and introverted.
Jed and Charlie’s lives intersect ever so slightly, and they catch glimpses of one another, until finally Charlie strikes up a short conversation. That piques Jed’s interest even more, and he goes to Charlie’s work to track him down. They start a tentative relationship, which quickly builds into more. At first they have trouble communicating about their feelings for each other, but once they get that out of the way, things look solid. But Jed is seriously considering transferring to another college, which just so happens to be where his best friend and Morocco go to school. With their relationship just getting off the ground, and Charlie not having a job if he moves, he doesn’t know how he can go with them. But this is a set of four that cannot be broken up, and if they can just accept the help given to them, then Jed and Charlie will be able to truly start their life together.
First off, this is the third book in The Serpentine Series. It absolutely works as a standalone. I haven’t read the other two, and I had no trouble following along with this book. I went looking and can tell you that there are some cameos from characters from other books
Okay, I’m going to be honest here and say that I have super mixed feeling about this book. See, I went into it thinking I was going to be reading a romance. I thought there would be hurdles having to with race and upbringing, personality differences, and clashing interests. What I got was something…not exactly that. And so I find I had some trouble with this book. But let me start with the good stuff.
Elliott has a fantastic style. The words flowed smoothly and painted an awesome picture. I was invested and involved in these characters lives. And truly, the characterization here was phenomenal. Jed was a wonderful mix of introverted, closeted jock, and confident, well-adjusted young man. He showed growth and depth, and I loved being with him as we learned his story. I loved watching him grow, to come into his own, to find acceptance of himself, and to go after what he wanted. Charlie, too, was perfectly drawn. He had his own traits. He was incredibly shy and introverted, and he learned and expanded throughout the story. I felt like I got to know him incredibly well. The consistency with the characters was amazing and so appreciated. To have both of the MCs really grow and change, for it to be so believable, was great to see.
And it wasn’t just the main characters who were so well drawn. The secondary characters each felt fully developed and truly added to the story. Morocco in particular was incredibly well done. Transgender is never easy, and can be a difficult kind of character to tackle. But I loved the way Elliott wrote Morocco, and the character’s thoughts and actions seemed to stem from a real place. The author makes note of the research she did, and it really shows. Morocco gives a voice to trans people that we are only recently coming to see with any regularity. And this character just added to the depth of the story.
What I loved about the plot lines were that they felt real, as if I was reading about something that could be happening to any young man in the South. And that was really great. This is a journey story, about two young men as they grow into themselves. But sadly, the structure is also where I had my problems. And here it is, point blank: we follow along with Jed’s story and with Charlie’s story, and what is going on in their respective lives, for more than 60% of the book separately. In that time, there are two small glimpses of Jed and Charlie kind of, sort of meeting. And both times, I thought that would be the start of things for them. But it wasn’t, and their respective stories drag out longer and longer until, finally, finally, they meet and start talking. And then it’s like, bam! Instalust, verging on instalove.
So yeah, unfortunately, that’s my issue with this story. We spend too much time with these guys a part, and I got to the point where I was just waiting for them to finally get together. It really started to drag for me. And it was also frustrating, because it was clear they had a spark, just from their barely there meetings, and when they finally meet their chemistry is off the page. But there was just not enough of it. By the time they are finally together, the book is almost done, and then their relationship feels rushed. Or more I didn’t get to spend enough time with them, to really feel their relationship and see how it could get to the HEA stage. I loved these guys, I loved them together, and I just wanted to see so much more, that it felt like I missed out by not seeing more of them.
And that’s why I have total mixed feelings about this story. It was so good in so many respects, and then to not have more from the romance, left me feeling unsatisfied. I loved reading about these guys, and Jed and Charlie were fantastic to get to know. If any two guys deserve their happily ever after, it is them. But getting short-changed on the romance, especially when it had the potential to be truly epic, really left me feeling unsatisfied. What I loved about this book, I really loved, and I certainly don’t regret my time spent with it. If this book sounds like something you’d like, then I’d definitely say you should give it a read.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.