Brian “Brin” Schubert’s condo flooded and now he has to find a place to live while it is repaired. Fortunately, his good friend and co-worker offers to let Brin crash at his apartment. When Brin shows up, he is shocked to find Elijah’s roommate is none other than Nicholas Dell, the guy Brin crushed on in high school and who broke his heart. Brin still hates Nick for what he did ten years ago and has no desire to share an apartment with him, but he doesn’t have a lot of options, nor does he want to explain to Elijah why he can’t temporarily move in.
Nick deeply regrets what happened between him and Brin in high school. Unfortunately, Brin doesn’t want anything to do with him and won’t even let Nick explain why he behaved the way he did. That remorse is nothing compared to the pain he feels from another big mistake in life, one that haunts him to this day and affects everything about his life. Nick’s guilt has left him living not for himself, but for his family. He runs a business he doesn’t like, keeps himself in the closet, and pretty much does whatever he thinks is necessary to live for what others want and never himself. So while Nick still finds himself hot for Brin, he knows he doesn’t deserve a man like him in his life.
Despite Brin’s anger toward Nick, he can’t help the attraction either. Being in close proximity means the guys find it hard to stay away from one another and eventually act on their attraction. But Brin can’t stop being angry at Nick, nor does he have any desire to hear Nick’s explanation for what happened way back when. And Nick is so full of guilt and remorse for many things in his life, and as much as he cares for Brin, he can’t let himself believe he deserves any happiness. Now that the men are starting to fall for each other once again, they must be able to put aside the past if they have any hope of a future together.
Regret is the first book in the new Under My Skin series by Christina Lee. I liked the lovers reunited and enemies to lovers vibe we get here and enjoyed seeing Brin and Nick come back together after their years apart. Nick is dealing with some pretty intense issues and Lee does a nice job really showing us how deeply rooted his feelings of regret and remorse are, and how much they affect everything about his life. Nick is really living for everyone else, feeling like he doesn’t deserve his own happiness, and as I reader I couldn’t help but feel for him, even if he frustrated me at times. There is a nice ensemble cast here and I think this book nicely sets up the series, introducing a variety of characters but still keeping the focus on Nick and Brin. The book is smooth and easy to read and I enjoy Lee’s writing.
I think the problem I had here is that this story really is one giant lack of communication. The entire conflict could have been resolved from the beginning if Brin would have just listened to Nick and given him a chance to talk. Instead, Brin is still so angry so many years later that he won’t listen to Nick, and so the wall between them continues to stand. Similarly, if Nick’s mother had only talked to him sooner, perhaps he could have been on the road to healing much earlier, rather than mired in guilt for so many years of his life. I couldn’t understand why she sees him hurting for years and doesn’t talk to him sooner. So unfortunately, this story hung almost completely on one of my least favorite plot devices.
I also found myself somewhat frustrated with both of these guys. Ok, so yes, Nick does something pretty jerky back in high school. He was closeted and afraid and reacted in panic and it wasn’t right. But boy, ten years later Brin’s fury over this just seemed way over the top. Pure hatred for something that happened when they were teenagers. Not only is he still furious, he also absolutely refuses to even discuss it with Nick despite Nick’s clear remorse and apologies. It made me kind of crazy because poor Nick is such a mess, it is like kicking a puppy, yet Brin doesn’t let him have even the tiniest bit of room to help them move past it. At the same time, Brin seems to have no problems taking advantage of Nick’s hospitality by living in his apartment, nor does he seem to have trouble taking advantage of Nick’s blow jobs. So the guy is ok to get off with and share his home, but Brin still treats him like he is this horrible person. It made me lose some respect for Brin, and while I understood why he was upset, his reaction seemed way out of proportion given what happened and how much time had passed. Even once Brin comes around, I still didn’t feel like he totally deserves a guy like Nick.
For Nick’s part, you can’t help but feel for him because boy is this guy miserable. He carries so much pain and guilt, feels he is not deserving of the smallest bit of happiness, and is willing to take crumbs of affection he doesn’t even believe he should be allowed. We know from early on in the most general terms why Nick feels this guilt, but we don’t find out the specifics until the end of the book. So while I understand why this was not revealed earlier on from a plot standpoint, I did find it made me at times frustrated with Nick for his extreme self loathing because I didn’t understand what had really happened. Once we learn the truth, I can totally understand why he is a mess. Not that I think he deserves the disdain he has for himself, but I can at least understand why he has it. But while reading the story, there were times were I felt overwhelmed by Nick’s extreme guilt. I have to also say, as much as I really liked Nick, he does not seem like a guy at all ready for a real relationship, even at the end of the book. After years of literally just existing, all while hating himself, I had a hard time believing that one conversation with his mom is enough to put him on the right track. This seems to be a guy who needs some major therapy (or at least better therapy than he has apparently been getting) before I feel like he can be ready for a relationship with someone else.
So I did have a bit of a hard time with these guys together, but I still found I enjoyed the story. Lee’s writing is smooth and easy and she creates a nice set up here for the larger series. I am intrigued by several of the characters and looking forward to reading their stories. So even with my issues, I feel like this is a nice start to the new series and I am looking forward to more.