Rating: 4.25 stars
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College students Kane and Levi are returning to school after having lost both their parents in a car accident. The twins are still mourning the loss and coping with their grief. While Levi has always been Kane’s rock, the leader among the two of them, now he seems more out of control. He is keeping Kane at a distance, hooking up all over campus, and not as focused on school.
Kane is worried about Levi and hurt at his behavior, but when Levi asks Kane to meet him at a Halloween party, Kane can’t refuse. When Kane wakes up after a night of way too much to drink to realize he is in his brother’s bed — and worse, that the hot and sexy night he had was actually with his twin — Kane is appalled and scared. But part of him also can’t help but feeling how right it all was. Levi has always been the person Kane has relied upon and that sense of comfort and rightness isn’t going away. Kane is determined to keep his feelings from Levi, knowing they can never truly be together the way he is growing to want more and more. But keeping his feelings a secret is killing him. With Levi spiraling more out of control, the brothers need each other more than ever. But the truth just may destroy the bond between them.
Our Gentle Sin was really a lovely, moving story. That may sound strange for a book about incest among college-aged twins, but I have to say I am really impressed with what Lyra Evans did with this story. Yes, it is ultimately about twins who fall for one another, but it is surprisingly not salacious for all of that. In fact, there is very little actual sex in this story (though quite a bit of longing and some masturbatory fantasies). This is really a book more about two brothers coping with the devastating loss of their parents and the way that they work through their grief, as well as their deep connection to one another.
The book starts out with the aftermath of Kane and Levi’s night together. We are in Kane’s POV throughout the story, so we see his shock and devastation when he realizes he accidentally slept with his brother. Then the story jumps back to the start of the school year so we can see how things unfold. We get glimpses of the funeral and and the start of school and it is clear just how hard the twins are taking their parents’ loss. On one hand, they are leaning on one another for support. But on the other, we can see that Levi is acting out of character, sleeping around, not focusing on school, and pulling away from Kane at times. We can see how hurt Kane is, how much he is struggling without his brother as closely by his side as before, especially as he is still dealing with his parents’ death. Then suddenly these guys have a night together and Kane is completely thrown. He wants Levi, can’t stop thinking about him, but he knows he shouldn’t. At the same time, there is part of Kane that doesn’t care. He knows it is wrong, but that is less important to him than the feelings he has for Levi.
I think what Evans does so well is make it possible to understand Kane’s feelings and to see how he got to this place. We can feel his grief, understand why he is reaching out to Levi even more than normal, and feel the connection between the men. But at the same time, it never feels like the death of their parents is some sort of excuse or justification for what is going on. Things are much more nuanced than that, much more interesting and well developed. Evans does a great job putting us in Kane’s head and really giving us a sense of what he is going through and how he is feeling.
I did have a few small issues here. One is that I feel like the big conversation where the guys work through their feelings happens way late in the story. Things are winding down and I kept waiting for this to all be addressed, but it feels little a too tacked on after other issues are resolved. So I wished the discussion about their relationship had been given more focus. I’ll also say, you are just going to have to go with the idea that somehow between the alcohol and the costumes, these guys sleep together without realizing they are having sex with their twin. I’ll admit, I couldn’t quite get there. I will say that Evans does just about everything she can to make it plausible. But I still couldn’t help but finding it kind of impossible to believe. But like I said, this is a linchpin of the story, so you need to just go with it. And finally, a small thing, but I found it strange that for guys that must be at least in their second or third year of school, they come into the school year as if they have no friends. Kane becomes close with his roommate, and Levi meets tons of guys on the hall, but it is as if neither of them knew a soul before they started the year. Where are all their friends from the past years at school? It was just a weird thing that twitched me a little because it allows the men to be very isolated (and in Levi’s case, to be all meeting new people outside of his connection with Kane), but it just seemed so strange that I couldn’t get it out of my head once I noticed.
All of these things are just small quibbles, however. I found this one overall really engaging and nicely intense. There is still obviously that taboo element here, so you have to be down with that. But Evans has done a great job really taking this story to a deeper level. I found her writing to be excellent and I would really look forward to reading more by the author.