Leo Mancini grew up in a big house with parents who were largely absent. His father, a judge, had big expectations for Leo. But Leo met Roman Cipriani, the son of a criminal, and at the age of sixteen fell hard and fast. Leo couldn’t believe that Roman felt the same way about him and often took the lead as they discovered themselves in the stolen moments they had together. They dreamed of a future together where it would be just the two of them against the world. But the world wasn’t in their favor and when violence found them, Roman left for good with no explanation, leaving a broken-hearted Leo behind. Now twelve years later, Roman has the memories of his past locked down tight. He went to college, has a great job, and has money in the bank, but Roman is living a lie.
Roman’s past comes crashing back when he sees Leo again and their connection lives on. Leo is now a bartender and lives his life fast and free. His relationship with his parents is strained and he carries years of anger over Roman’s betrayal. But, the pull between him and Roman is too strong to deny. Roman still wants to live hidden away from the world where it is just him and Leo, but Leo wants more. Roman still carries years of trauma that he has carefully hidden away, but he needs to be able to speak his truth to move forward with the life he and Leo always dreamed of.
I have read many books by Riley Hart and this was one of the better ones for me. I liked the intensity of the relationship between Leo and Roman and how they were inevitable. Both men have lots of issues. With Leo it was his family. His father expected Leo to follow in his footsteps no matter what it was that Leo wanted. He never would have permitted Leo to spend time with Roman, let alone accept that they were having a relationship. After the demise of that relationship, Leo decided he would live his life the way he wants.
Roman thinks he’s living his life on his own terms, but he’s locked himself down tight and is living with repressed trauma. When his family found out he was gay, they tried to beat it out of him, almost killing him, and Roman has been determined since then to not be gay.
The story is told present day with flashbacks to Leo and Roman as teenagers woven in. The flashback effect worked well here, and the events flow as smooth as recalled memories. The chemistry is intense between the two of them and while Roman begins to explore them, it costs him something to finally admit that he is gay. He decides he wants to be with Leo again and everything is a process for Roman to accept himself and who he is.
Some of it was maybe too easy for me. With side characters like Roman’s ex, Amy, who was came off as perhaps too good to be true, the coincidences of Roman meeting up with his brother again, although I was waiting for this to happen, and then the final outcome of their relationship was done with a brush stroke that was a little too broad for me given the circumstances.
The first half of the book was compelling and called to me to keep reading, but then the middle circled around a bit before moving forward again toward the end. If you enjoy the work of Riley Hart and also are looking for a second chance romance between best friends and first loves, His Truth would be a good choice.