Will and Patrick are still living together in the Tallgrass Hotel in Healing, SD. Their loving marriage is still a sham, but at least the guys are starting to really like one another. Patrick is back to work seeing patients at the hospital and Will continues work for his charitable organization. The emotions between them are starting to grow deeper as they share more about their pasts with each other. But although things are going well between the two of them, there are many others who aren’t so happy about their relationship, including Will’s ex-boyfriend Ryan and Will’s family, and they have no problems making their feelings clear. With the holidays coming, the guys are forced out of their little bubble and must deal with their disapproval as they make it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Despite what everyone else thinks, however, Will and Patrick find that the sexual spark between them from their wedding night is still there, and they can’t deny it much longer.
I really enjoyed the third installment of this serial. Everything I liked about the first two episodes — the humor, Patrick’s snark, Will’s sweetness, and the playfulness of the story — are still here, but with it we also get the deepening of the relationship between the two men. I think the authors are doing a nice job with the pacing here as we hit the halfway point for the serial. The sexual tension that has been building finally lets loose, but we also see a growing emotional bond between them. Patrick opens up a lot more about his past, making him a lot more sympathetic. We also see how much he really cares for Will, boosting his confidence and refusing to let others make Will feel bad about himself.
Will’s ex Ryan continues to be a villain here, even more nasty and unpleasant in his never ending jealousy. Despite the fact that he broke up with Will and moved on, he clearly doesn’t want to let Will go and treats him incredibly badly. Somehow Ryan has convinced everyone, including Will, that Will can’t function without him. He has torn down Will’s esteem for so many years that Will feels guilt for everything and no real sense of self worth. So I got him as the bad guy and I liked the juxtaposition between Ryan, who is nasty but whom everything thinks is a good guy, and Patrick, who is publicly rude and obnoxious, but truly cares for and supports Will.
What bugged me here was Will’s family, his mother in particular. Somehow she has drank Ryan’s Kool-aid and she too seems to think Will can’t function without him. She desperately wants them back together, telling Will how much he needs Ryan to keep him under control. She undermines Will at every turn and I just couldn’t stand her. I think the problem I had mostly here is that the story doesn’t seem to acknowledge her as the bad guy. I almost feel like she is worse than Ryan in that Will puts so much stock in what she says. I see the roots of her feelings in concerns about a “wild gay lifestyle” due to her brother’s partner’s death. But she still is cruel to her son, oblivious to how awful Ryan is, and she never takes Will’s side or supports him. And of course is totally unreasonable about the dangers Will faces being a gay man, especially given his very conservative lifestyle. I guess I was just frustrated because while Ryan is painted as the villain very clearly, Will’s mom is not, and it made me frustrated as a reader. But if nothing else, I liked how her behavior was a chance for Patrick to show his caring side and help Will through it.
I think as the story continues, we need to expand the conflict a bit beyond the nasty ex-boyfriend, but I assume that will come in future episodes as the state of their marriage moves center stage again. In the meantime, I am continuing to enjoy the humor and fun of this story and am finding it totally addicting. And oh yeah, the sexy times are finally here and it is awesome.