Over the past year, Jonathan Lemke has felt the spark slowly bleed out from his ten-year relationship with Paul. In an effort to focus on the man who is supposed to be the love of his life, Jonathan books a two week get-away to Jonathan’s hometown—a tiny island off the coast of Georgia and the same place where Jonathan himself grew up. Ready to put their relationship first, Jonathan is stoked about the vacation. Except as the hours turn into days with little more than terse phone calls from his in absentia lover, Jonathan starts having serious doubts about how compatible he and Paul really are.
Alone in paradise, Jonathan decides to make the best of it by enjoying the beach—until he suddenly encounters his boyhood crush, Lucius, one night while walking the surf. The attraction is as powerful as it is instantaneous…but Jonathan is reluctant to acknowledge that delicious spark. There’s Paul to consider, not to mention the fact that Jonathan is only on the island for a short period of time. Nevertheless, the more Paul makes excuses to stay away, the more time Jonathan has to reconnect with Lucius. All the while, the tingle that shivers through Jonathan’s body undeniably draws them closer.
Things come to a head when a deranged local is determined to snuff out Lucius out of rank fear of the man. When the drama hits a little too close to home, Jonathan will have to make some tough choices…but will they be the right ones, or will he spend the rest of his days regretting the path not taken?
Wow. I had such godamned high hopes for this little story! As you can probably tell from the rating, it disappointed horribly. BUT most of that stems from the way it disintegrated heading into the final third of the book and an ending that left me scoffing AND rolling my eyes is abject disgust.
Here’s what worked for me about this book: the set up is prime angst-fest worthy drama. Jonathan’s in a committed relationship that seems to be dying, so it’s a big thrill to go through the “will he or won’t he” game watching Jonathan try to balance is long-time partner with the fierce attraction he feels for Lucius. There wasn’t much about this aspect of the story that disappointed, so this book works well if you like a slow boil with someone waffling between two choices (admittedly, one is a lot more appealing than the other so far as this reader is concerned, but it wasn’t nearly so clear cut for Jonathan).
I also thought it was interesting and ALMOST worth the wait to not get introduced to Lucius until a full third or so of the book had elapsed. The tension builds up and there’s nothing I can complain about there. I was pretty turned off by Lucius’s stilted mode of speech, but it was nothing if not consistent and when you consider Lucius as a whole, I guess it makes sense.
The deranged local adds a bit of fun to the plot, too. Actually, he adds a whole lot of melodrama. He has a personal vendetta against Lucius and his whole family, so there were a few tense moments as you see him preparing his attacks on Lucius. And some of those attacks can be pretty brutal…and super clandestine. The first time he really “lands a hit” against Lucius, it’s so jarring, I reread that passage to make sure I didn’t misread anything (in part due to Jonathan’s handling of the situation, which probably violates EVERY SINGLE DAMN THING you’re supposed to do when someone gets super injured, but whatevs. This is pure fantasy fiction-y writing.)
As, dare I say it, intriguing as the set-up for this story was…it starts to fall apart under its own weight a little before Paul actually shows up in person. In fact, I might go ahead and blame a lot of the what-the-fuckery on his character since I think he’s the instigator for a lot of the egregiously bad plot twists and non-starters. But it’s not like I can ignore him, so…virtually from page one, it’s clear to the reader that the good ship Jon/Paul is riddled with holes and sinking fast, but after 10 years, it’s understandably hard to just end it. Yet that’s exactly what I wished had happened. There didn’t seem to be anything to salvage, yet no one made for a clean break, either…Jon sort of wanted to try to work things out and Paul seemed to want to inflict as much pain on Jon as possible once it is clear Lucius wanted to be more than just a friend. So theirs was a lingering, tenuous relationship that was, for all intents and purposes, DOA yet the author kept beating that dead horse.
Another irritating aspect of the book is that after a great build up to the FANTASY aspect of the book, I thought there was dreadfully little FOLLOW UP on it. I mean, this is a central aspect to one of the characters from the word GO, but it’s so clumsily executed, it definitely feels like the author just did a stream of consciousness thing for anything that pertained to the fantasy end of things. Plus, there were allusions to Jonathan’s being sort of mythical, too…but there was zero explanation/exploration there.
Finally, the ending. Sometimes, ending are amazing because they are soul-crushingly unfair, or smug-as-fuck satisfying, or fraught with bittersweetness. Maybe the ending sans epilogue was supposed to instill a feeling of The Mother of All Cliffhangers, but my takeaway was more like The Mother of All Why-the-fuck-didn’t-they-publish-the-last-chapter-ness. The epilogue absolves no crimes, but at least it gives you a modicum of closure so that you don’t put the book down in a fit of bewildered, unsatisfied rage.
On the whole, the first half of the book is a decent set-up to the action and most of the Jonathan/Lucius scenes are sort of sweet in a tweenagery kind of way despite their near absolute vanilla-ness. The ending ruins things, but at least you get some semblance of alls well that ends well.