After falling in love in college only to lose it at the bottom of a bottle, Josh McPhee has been stuck living between a rock and a hard place. The rock is a gallery he can barely keep open. The hard place is the fact that he’s an equal partner in owning that gallery with the very man whose love he lost, Kris Cerny.
Kris survived a traumatic childhood experience and found love with Josh at college. Out in the real world, they realized a mutual dream of opening a gallery in west Texas. Despite their auspicious beginning and the love they share, Kris needs something that Josh isn’t prepared to give. The love story seemingly ends there with Josh focusing on the gallery, with Kris in absentia to pursue real estate opportunities.
Things make a catastrophic shift when Kris announces his desire to sell their joint-owned gallery. Josh is dead set against the sale and hopes one last buying trip, one last showing, will prove he’s not the man he was. A change of scenery may be enough to help both men see how far they’ve come, but how could it ever be enough to erase the pain they’ve inflicted on each other and even on themselves?
The premise of Refired is a tried and true, quasi enemies to lovers trope. It’s got the added twist that these enemies were lovers before they were enemies and the question is: will they make it back to being friends, let alone lovers? The angst is set to 11 and just about every single character brings a load of it to the table at one point or another–the saving grace being that the supporting characters don’t exist solely for the purpose of purveying more angst.
Despite the delectable setup and a setting the author is clearly both enamored and well aware of, the writing is a huge detractor in the book for me. One of the biggest criticisms I have for the book is the lack of distinct voice for even the main characters. It’s one thing for former lovers to adopt similar phrases, it’s quite another for the reader to have to reread passages just to figure out who is speaking on several occasions. When the 80-odd-year-old waitress at a diner sounds indistinguishable from one of your male leads, that’s a flaw in my book. The writing also lacks style. It comes off sounding more like someone giving a verbal from-the-hip retelling of something rather than well thought-out prose. Unless it’s a physical intimacy, in which case things are likely to turn violently purple.
For all that the telling of the story leaves much to be desired, the characters are not as flat as one might fear. True, Josh spends as much time flogging himself for being an apparent failure as Kris does on blaming Josh for being a failure, but the constant presence of friends Zack and Cypress weave a little more credibility into the characterization.
I would recommend this book for anyone who can put aside questionable prose for the sake of reading a story full of relationships running from blazing hot to arctic vortex cold and that have at least as much angst as they have sex.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.