For the last four years, Jake has been in love with Quentin, except Quentin never knew because Jake was too afraid to approach him. When Jake is outed to Quentin, Quentin tells him that he too is gay, but must stay in the closet until he is finished with graduate school as his parents are very politically conservative and would cut him off without a dime.
After their one night together, Quentin tells Jake that he would like to continue seeing him – except that it has to be in secret. Jake agrees. So for the remainder of the summer, these two spend every waking moment – unless Quentin’s family is in town – together. As their glorious summer winds down, Jake is attacked for a second time. As the two find themselves struggling to cope with the aftermath, Jake sends Quentin off to graduate school while remaining behind to complete his education closer to home. Then Quentin returns and the two must reveal the secrets that drove them apart if they want to have a life worth living.
This story starts off with a bang as Jake is outed by his roommate on the eve of college graduation. For four years, Jake has lusted after a “straight” guy who doesn’t even know he exists – despite the fact that the two of them have taken nearly the same classes all four years. Readers get to watch Jake downward spiral as he deals with Quentin leaving, even though he pretty much told Quentin to go. With the help of his friends, Jake realizes that he had put Quentin on a pedestal where he only saw what he wanted to see. Jake starts to rebuild his life, one away from the depression. When Quentin returns, the two have to face the reasons why their relationship ended the way that it did, and figure out how to make a new relationship work by building on the love they had for one another.
This story has a lot of sex scenes. Some of it is off the charts with the heat index. I should warn readers, though, that there are two scenes in the story in which Jake is attacked, and while these aren’t graphic scenes, they may pose a trigger for some readers.
I really liked the secondary characters, particularly Steve and Cora. While I didn’t like how Steve had outed Jake, I did like seeing how he pushed Jake into realizing that what he was doing to himself in the aftermath of Quentin leaving wasn’t healthy. As for Cora, she started out as Steve’s girlfriend, but quickly became someone who Jake could really consider a friend himself. When Jake is attacked, Cora steps up to the plate and helps him deal with the aftermath. When Quentin leaves, it is Cora that tries to help him get back on his feet.
I am going to be honest with readers here, this isn’t a bad story. If anything, this is a story that reads like true life. It isn’t pretty. It is raw at times. It isn’t your typical light-n-fluffy romance story because it focuses on some really tough issues: low self-esteem; homophobic parents; rape; and depression, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, this story didn’t fully work for me for a couple of reasons. The first is that Jake came across to me as someone who had such low self-esteem of himself that he was willing to do and say things that I felt were completely out of character for him. For instance, engaging in a threesome just because if he was only going to have one chance to be with Quentin and this was the only way, he was going to take it. Or, that Jake was willing to forgo being his out and proud self for the purpose of being able to be with Quentin – something I might have understood if the two had been “chummy” with one another beforehand, but all they had was Jake’s four years of lusting after someone he didn’t really even know. Jake’s low self-esteem wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I, as a reader, saw that by the end of the story that Jake had conquered these feelings…except I didn’t see it. Granted, Quentin was out of the closet, but I still saw signs that Jake was willing to do whatever it took in order to have Quentin in his life.
The second problem I had with this story was when Quentin returned and within what seemed like record-breaking time, everything was fine between these two. I’m sorry; I don’t think that four years of being away from someone – anyone – results in that immediate return to the way things were. Especially when we know what happened with Jake over the last four years, to think that he was ready, willing, and able to jump back into a relationship that had left him in a tailspin when it disintegrated four years earlier, really made me wonder about his state of mind.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad story. It tackles some serious issues and it doesn’t sugar coat any of it. It has a darker feel to it than most romance stories. Much like the title, it’s a story about Jake finding a place where life is worth living. If you like stories where the characters aren’t perfect, where the relationship isn’t perfect, you are going to love this story.