Rating: 4.5 stars
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Reid is trying to start over. He packs up his car and heads to stay at his grandmother’s condo in Florida. He needs a break from his life and his family as his mental illness has consumed them for quite some time. Reid has never been on his own before, but he wants to move forward. To quell his restlessness, Reid signs up for scuba diving lessons and meets instructor Joaquim.
Joaquim is in Florida from Brazil and working hard at the dive shop. One look at Reid and he is interested and the feeling is mutual. One hookup isn’t enough and a relationship soon develops between them. But life with Reid can be challenging as they both try to navigate a relationship while making sure that Reid’s mental health stays on track.
I have read several books by Jude Sierra and her style remains consistent. This book offers a third-person narrative and the entire story is character driven and mostly driven by Reid. Reid hasn’t had an easy time. He was diagnosed as being cyclothymic, a mood disorder, and he’s really trying to get his life on track. He’s taking his meds and he’s going to therapy and he has carved out an online support system, but Reid still has setbacks. When he meets Joaquim and then gets to know him, he wants him in the worst way. But Reid is so happy that he can just be Reid in his new location and not Reid with the mental health issues.
The book takes us pretty deep into Reid’s mind and he has a strong character. For where he is in life, his mental health issues take over every aspect. And, as he begins a relationship with Joaquim, it raises questions about if he is truly ready for a relationship. It’s difficult for him to be open with Joaquim and tell him all about his issues, which include cutting. So, for a good portion of the time, Joaquim is left in the dark trying to figure out just what is going on with Reid as Reid moves from one mood cycle to the next. But, when things are good, Joaquim grounds Reid and the guys are sweet and soft and kind to each other. Sierra’s prose is lyrical and descriptive, and it read like a balm to Reid’s soul when he was in an even place with Joaquim.
Joaquim pulls Reid’s lower lip between his carefully, then kisses him in the same way, then again, like raindrops and promises.
Reid’s moods are the focus of the book and the story is really about how he can manage them and move forward to have a life. A life that he can adjust to on his own and then a life with Joaquim, but Reid struggles and being in a relationship with Reid involves learning how to navigate him. While Joaquim wants to be with Reid, Reid’s illness put his needs and his moods in sharper focus and Joaquim would have to adjust to being second a lot of the time. This is the nature of Reid’s illness, but also the reality of being involved with Reid. But, the guys truly want to be together and are better when they are together.
There were a few areas that seemed to drop off for me, as I did wonder where Reid’s grandmother was and if there was a plan for her to return. Reid’s ex, Felix, also makes an appearance, but his storyline felt dropped by the end as compared to how attention was called to him throughout the book. I will call their ending a HFN as the guys are young and are in love for the first time and nothing is quite settled between them at the end other than that they want to be together. I would certainly read a follow up to see how they were doing should one become available. Sierra does a good job of making Reid’s illness front and center, although for where he was currently in his life, there wasn’t time to explore much else about him. A Tiny Piece of Something Greater would be a good choice to dive into a story of a younger man living with mental illness, but also trying to just live.