Five years ago Tom Worthington managed to overcome his fear, anxiety, and pain about his father’s imprisonment. Being the son of a man who unrepentantly stole from so many was horrifying to Tom, and he felt guilt by association that almost crippled him. Only the love of his roommate and boyfriend Reese Anders helped pull Tom out of it. Now the two live together and their relationship seems solid. Until word comes that Tom’s father is being released from prison.
Tom knows he is supposed to talk about this kind of stuff with Reese. But he finds himself reverting back to his old ways, keeping his fears and doubts to himself. Tom begins to worry once again that people are talking about him, hating being in the spotlight. He knows he is hurting things with Reese by not sharing how he feels, but he can’t help himself.
For his part, Reese knows something is up with Tom, and it doesn’t even take him that long to figure out what. But getting Tom to open up to him is not easy and Reese is frustrated that after five years they face the same problems once again. Things aren’t helped by the fact that Reese has a new boss at work, one who has made his interest in him clear. Reese and Tom are so happy together, but Tom’s withdrawal is making it tough. He will have to figure out a way to open himself up to Reese, to be honest about how he feels no matter how painful, if they want to keep their relationship going strong.
Real World is the fifth book in Amy Jo Cousins fabulous Bend or Break series, and reunites us with my favorite couple who started things off with the first book, Tom and Reese. We have seen them make appearances in subsequent books, but here we get to really catch up with them again. I liked how Cousins brings these guys full circle here. They are grown and have jobs and are living on their own. They have been together five years and are happy in their lives together. Yet the ghosts of their past returns with news of Tom’s father, and we see that Tom still faces those old anxieties that nearly ruined their relationship the first time around. As the guys work through things, we really feel like we are leaving them in a better place, one were they have learned to communicate with each other and where they understand the importance of opening up in order to keep their relationship strong.
The book starts off a little rough as we see Tom and Reese pulling away from each other. Well really, Tom is hiding away and Reese is trying to get through to him but it is not working. The sexual connection is enough to put a patch on things, but it is clear that something has to change for things to work between them. I’ll admit that this kind of story line isn’t always the best for me. I have trouble watching guys I love who seemed settled together then turn around and face real trouble, and the first portion of the book I found it hard to watch them struggle. But Cousins roots their issues in something real. It doesn’t feel like a manufactured conflict, but rather one that makes perfect sense based on what we know about these guys. I loved seeing them finally work through their issues and the intensity of the bond that comes as a result.
This story also has a nice holiday angle as the guys celebrate Christmas together. We get to see some of our favorites from the series, including Cash and Steph (both of whom I adore), along with Denny, Rafi, and even Reese’s dad. We get banter and silliness, as well as lots of sweet mushiness as the gang gets together. (And OMG the food porn. Thank you Amy Jo Cousins for including that rigatoni recipe at the end of the book, or I would have been stalking you for it.) The ending here is so lovely, so sweet and sexy and heartwarming that I think fans of these guys and the series will feel very rewarded.
So I was so happy to reunite with Tom and Reese and continue to love this series. I highly recommend all of the books, but you definitely will want to have read Off Campus to get the start of Tom and Reese’s story before reading this one.