Hard Climb is the sequel to Treading Water and is a direct continuation of that book. Interestingly enough, I think they can be read in order or as standalones if you don’t mind doing a little catch up.
Still in the early stages of their relationship, Jesse and Sebastian seem to be getting along well, but a memory from the past and the fact that Sebastian is not out to his family cause him to back off. Being shunned by Sebastian leaves Jesse feeling the pain of losing his friend Caleb, of losing everyone who mattered to him.
Sebastian is busy navigating the treacherous waters of the corporate world where any misstep could lead to the loss of the family business. Sebastian isn’t truly interested in the top, but keeping the business intact for his sister and brother-in-law takes up all of Sebastian’s time.
Recovered from a bout of the flu that brought him and Sebastian closer together, Jesse is down in the dumps now that Sebastian has returned to “real life.” No more training sessions, runs, or bike rides, nothing. It isn’t that Sebastian doesn’t like Jesse, or want to be with him, but rather that his position as heir apparent at his family’s ice cream empire, 6th element, is at risk if he gives in to what he truly wants…Jesse.
I found that Sebastian and Jesse’s almost storybook friendship turned relationship in Treading Water took a far more realistic path in Hard Climb. The adage that money doesn’t buy happiness is exemplified here as Sebastian’s wealth creates challenges for both men as they figure out their lives together.
Pavelle did a great job of giving many of the characters a complexity and depth that felt real, but in other areas, the characters were a little too two-dimensional, such as Sebastian’s homophobic bible-spouting family. Other secondary characters, though really came through for me, making me wonder if a third book is in the works, or at least a spin-off featuring Jesse’s boss Tyler.
So I mentioned that the book was a direct continuation of the first, but I need to add that the storyline arc was superbly planned, and my ability to immerse myself into the book so many months after having read Treading Water was so easy that Pavelle deserves a hearty thank you. So often when months have gone by between books, I am forced to return to the previous book, if only for the last few chapters, and here there was no need.
In fact, I liked the overall story a bit better than the first, but that does not mean I did not have some concerns. Sometimes the colloquialisms didn’t feel right for the character, and Sebastian’s formal speech or occasional lack of contractions made some of the dialogue sound stiff. I also noticed some editing issues that surprised me, but fortunately they were few and far between, and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story too much.
Good story, great characters, and a plausible storyline that kept me interested from beginning to end. I heartily recommend both Treading Water and Hard Climb.