I really loved this slow-burning, friends-to-lovers, contemporary romance.
Angus and Brad have been together ten years. As Angus agonizes over turning thirty, Brad is increasingly distant. It doesn’t help that he’s been living in another town several days a week while teaching a 6-month photography class. Angus’ best childhood friend, Reece, and Brad do not get along and Angus doesn’t fit in with Brad’s friends.
Reece hates the way Brad controls and demeans Angus. All of Angus’ family, and Reece’s family for that matter, have wanted Angus and Reece to be together. Reece is straight, but he loves Angus. A lot. And he’s hidden that his initially “brotherly” type of love has matured into attraction.
At Angus’ thirtieth birthday party, Brad shows up late, drunk, and stays only long enough to break up with Angus. The next day, Facebook explodes with the announcement of Brad’s engagement to a 22-year-old Angus lookalike. It destroys Angus, who has been body-shamed by Brad for years. While holding Reece and his family at bay with excuses, Angus slides into depression. For months, he drinks away his pain, misses work, forgets to pay his rent, and ends up being evicted and laid off.
Reece gets wind of Angus’ self-implosion and steps in. He can’t believe he let Angus lie to him so completely regarding his mental state, and he’s furious that Angus has suffered in silence so long. He cleans him up and bundles them into a rental car, road-trip necessary, destination unknown.
Over the course of roughly the next three weeks, Reece and Angus randomly choose locations in the U.S. to explore, no itinerary needed. Angus has no job, and Reece is a freelance editor, so they have plenty of time to reconnect, recharge, and reboot. Oh, and fall in love on what turns out to be a trip from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. By way of California, the southwest, New Orleans, Nashville, DC, and the east coast.
This book is really a tender read. I deeply identified with Angus and his utter humiliation. He’s mortified that his long-term, live-in boyfriend had cheated, but he’s equally shamed that Brad’s snooty friends must have known, and they looked him in the face and lied. That Brad had so little care for him after so many years together, years Angus now feels were wasted on a manipulative and mean partner, is devastating to his fragile self-esteem. Angus has age issues, feeling “used up” in his gay society, which he believes is youth-obsessed, and Brad’s proposal to such a younger man feeds that insecurity.
Reece is a dedicated friend. He’s a fixer, too. I loved how he didn’t push Angus, much, once they were in the car. Unlike Brad, Reece wants Angus to make his own, healthy, decisions. He wants Angus better. He also wants Angus, but he’s never made a move on a man. Reece’s anxiety over doing the wrong thing for Angus is endearing; taking advantage of his suffering friend is not his style. Taking care of Angus is, however, and he makes so many of Angus’ long-held desires come true. They hit Coachella—a huge music festival, they dance at gay bars on the Vegas strip, they talk, they sit in silence, they bond over Angus’ teary confessions of loss. It’s enough to break Angus from his funk, but it’s also enough to awaken Angus to Reece’s quiet affection. Brad had always been jealous of Reece’s friendship, and Reece is finally honest that he longs for more than just friendship with Angus.
It’s heady and terrifying. Angus has only just pulled himself together, and he absolutely cannot lose Reece. That would hurt worse than Brad’s spectacular exit from his life. But, can he live without the love that Reece is offering him?
I really enjoyed this slow burn. I also loved the many locales that Reece and Angus explore. After the first day, or so, there’s a bit of giddiness between them, an almost child-like excitement as they make up new plans on the fly. They nudge each other out of their comfort zones, and the progressive movement gives them each the courage to take the eventual and necessary step from friends to lovers. The book is an HEA, and even has the added bonus of coming full circle for Angus.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.