Rating: 4.25 stars
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Skylar is 18 years old, and he’s trying to take care of his 16-year-old sister, Evie. Their mother abandoned them, and to keep Evie out of foster care, Skylar assumes guardianship. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options out there for a high school drop out, so he winds up with an older man, Tate, exchanging sex for money and a roof over his and Evie’s heads. Tate is the stereotypical abuser…sweet and kind, then enraged and violent, and apologetic and contrite afterward. Skylar feels like he has no choice to endure this, at least until Evie graduates high school.
Dexter is Evie’s math teacher. He’s called a meeting with Skylar because Evie is failing his class. He feels a connection with Skylar right away, despite the age difference and Skylar’s mention of having a boyfriend. In fact, he can’t stop thinking about Skylar, even though he knows he shouldn’t. Skylar feels that connection as well, but he’s caught between wanting to keep Evie safe and wanting to escape the horrible situation he’s in. Also, in his own way, Skylar cares for Tate, and doesn’t want to see him hurt.
Too Close is the story of two men and their need for each other, and whether that need can overcome Skylar’s desperate situation.
This is a good book. It’s not the kind of book I can say I enjoyed because it was not a fluffy romance. Instead, it’s a very real, heartbreaking, but hopeful story about overcoming almost unsurpassable obstacles.
Skylar feels trapped. He wants to keep Evie out of foster care, so he puts himself in danger by living with an abuser. He thinks it’s an even trade, even though he has been beaten down, and his self esteem is completely shot. When he meets Dexter, he starts rethinking his position, but it’s just so difficult for him to move on. There is fear and confusion. Sklylar wonders how he can have any sort of feelings for a man who treats him like a punching bag. Dexter also feels trapped. He is so drawn to Skylar, and he wants to help him so much. He knows the statistics about domestic violence victims. He’s also concerned about the age difference in that he’s twice Skylar’s age.
This story broke my heart. Phoenix didn’t spare the details here. She laid Skylar bare and portrayed Tate, in all his cruelty, in a very realistic way. It was hard to read and made me cry more than once. There was hope, though, I just had to wait for it. Too Close is not a quickie read, so there was time to explore all the characters…Tate’s uncontrollable rage, Evie’s guilt, Skylar’s sense of loyalty, and Dexter’s need to be Skylar’s savior, coupled with his growing romantic feelings for him as well.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you when everything comes to a head, it’s horrifying, but I can’t help but call it exciting. It struck me as a little unusual this happened about 2/3 of the way through. The final 1/3 is about Skylar’s…I don’t think redemption is the word I’m looking for, but recovery doesn’t seem right either. It’s his journey back from the brink. He’s not ready to jump into a romantic relationship with Dexter right away, and that’s perfectly fine. I think it would have been unrealistic for that to happen. Skylar had to find himself and his strength.
When the men do get together, it’s wonderful. Their chemistry is perfect. They almost dance around each other. Dexter doesn’t want to hurt Skylar, and Skylar is nervous about being touched by another man…almost skittish. Their one love scene is at the end, and that was exactly as it should have been. It’s sexy but tender, and there’s even some humor. I loved it.
I am going to recommend this book. I am offering a trigger warning, however. The domestic violence is portrayed in a very real manner. It’s disturbing, but it is a necessary evil for the story. If you can get past that, I think you’ll find this to be a worthwhile read.
Whoa, this does sound good though dark. Thanks for your review, Kenna.