After an overdose that almost killed him, Dell Greenwood has spent the last 18 months living with his uncle, Chet. He has managed to turn his life around and now works with Chet as a cameraman at his Mean Green porn studio. Dell has come a long way since his days as an addict, but he still has a lot of doubts and insecurities about his past. It is so much baggage he never quite feels “normal,” and his lack of interest in guys and sex is only making it worse.
When Dell meets Taro Ichikawa, the two hit it off right away. Taro has a lot of his own issues with OCD and the need for strict routines. But he is kind and gentle and really seems to understand Dell without judgement. When Taro tells Dell that he is asexual (demisexual to be specific), Dell suddenly sees answers in front of him to questions about his own sexuality he has been struggling with.
Dell and Taro both need to take things slow. Dell is still recovering emotionally, both from his overdose, as well as some past sexual experiences that left him really confused and uncertain. And Taro is not a guy who can just jump into bed with anyone; he needs to get to know someone first before the sexual attraction can develop. As the men spend more time together, their romantic and sexual relationship begins to build and the guys are falling for each other. But Dell has some aspects of his past that he has not completely shared, issues that have deep emotional impact for Taro as well. Now the men have to figure out if they can move on from the past without letting it ruin the relationship they have built.
Dell and Taro were prominent side characters in the first two books of the Us series, and so I was thrilled to hear they were getting their own story. Both men were fascinating in earlier books, especially because we got hints of their relationship but didn’t see most of it on page. So Uniquely Us was a great chance to see them again and get into much more detail on their story.
What I loved here is the way Arthur showcases these two men in a way that lets us really get to know them, but at the same time accepts them for exactly who they are. Taro suffered the traumatic loss of his parents and copes with it by having very strict routines that control his life and what he is comfortable doing when (things like last minute invitations can be overwhelming for him, for example). For his part, Dell is still recovering emotionally from his overdose, his kidney transplant, and from a sexual encounter that left him very upset and uncertain. I wouldn’t say this book is overly heavy with these topics, but it makes these guys both need to take things slowly emotionally, as well as be particularly sensitive to the other’s needs. On top of that, Dell is struggling with his sexuality, never before having been able to really identify to himself how he feels. Learning about Taro being demisexual suddenly opens up this whole new language for Dell that helps him figure out his own feelings and interests.
I think Arthur does a really nice job here walking the line between showing growth from both of these men as they work through things, but also not having them suddenly being “cured” of their issues. I loved the slow and careful way these guys interact. They are so tender and loving toward one another, so easily understandingly and willing to take things slowly and at the other’s pace.
I think at times the overall pacing of the book was a bit slow, however. Mostly this is because the book plot rests almost exclusively on the developing relationship between the men. Given their natures, these guys take baby steps in a lot of areas, needing time to really get comfortable before taking new steps in their relationship. I am not just talking sexually, but in other ways too, like making phone calls to each other or going out of the house together. So without something else driving the plot, we get multiple scenes of these guys have dinner and watching an movie, for example. So I think some tightening of this story would have helped move the pace along.
My bigger issue is one that I also encountered in the first two books in the series, and that is what felt like an overemphasis on side characters. Just to clarify, this series is a spin off of sorts from the Perspective series, and the three MCs from the first two books here, along with Dell, appear in that series. In the first Us series book, I felt like the story focused too much on the guys from Perspectives. Many of them appear here too, which seemed a little too far removed from the current characters to be necessary. But more than that, we spend so much time here with Chet, Cris, and Jake from the first two books as to overwhelm this story for me at times.
On the plus side, the timelines for this book and those first two overlap, so it is definitely useful to check in with what is happening with the triad so we can orient ourselves in the timeline. I also think it makes sense to touch on their activities in terms of how they affect Dell and Taro, especially since Dell lives with them for part of the book. But to me, it was just way too much focus. We seem to revisit virtually everything that happens in their story, often in ways that aren’t related to Dell and Taro at all. It kept pulling me out of this book to have the focus suddenly shift to these other three side characters. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that this story doesn’t have as much of an outside plot, so it really pulled the focus away from Dell and Taro for me.
All that said, I really did like this book and enjoyed getting to know Dell and Taro in much more depth. This story is just sweet and lovely (and yes, also sexy), and I appreciated seeing two men who really care for one another and protect each other so well. So if you are a fan of the series, I would definitely recommend picking this one up.
P.S. Holy smokes, Taro is hot on that cover!