Frankie is a dancer at a men’s strip club called Man Up. He makes decent money, but he’s got big dreams and is using it as a stepping stone. Last year, Frankie’s boyfriend, Aaron, in a drunken rage, fought with him and was responsible for Frankie taking a nasty tumble down some stairs. Aaron then got into a bar fight and wound up going to prison. Frankie tried to forget Aaron, but he just couldn’t, and now Aaron’s out of prison, and they’re trying to make their relationship work.
Aaron used to have a problem with alcohol and anger (well the anger still lingers), but with the help of a therapist and his beloved Frankie, he’s trying to get that under control. All he wants is a second chance, but it’s difficult. He’s having trouble finding a job, he has no friends, and then there are the nights he spends at Man Up watching Frankie dance and be touched by other men. However, Aaron is determined to change and be the man Frankie sees when he looks at him.
Fighting their way through therapy, disappointed friends and family, and the stigma of prison, Frankie and Aaron have a you and me against the world attitude, and they’re committed to making their relationship work.
Once again, Felice Stevens blows me away. She always delivers stories that grab my heart and runs with it. Frankie is no different. On the surface, the story is pretty straightforward. Frankie wants to prove everybody wrong when they tell him Aaron’s bad news, and he should stay away. Aaron wants to leave his alcoholic and violent past behind and be the caring man Frankie needs. It’s that simple, but it’s most definitely not simple. This is a deep exploration of two men who are so in love, they’re willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means leaving friends and family behind, to be together. Frankie and Aaron are multi-layered characters with depth to spare. They were compelling and made me feel as if I had as much of a stake in whether they make it or not.
Frankie was featured in the first two books of the Man Up series as the best friend of the main character. My impression of him was one of fun and flirtiness, but that was just a projection to cover intense pain. Here, I discovered I was right. However, he surprised me as well. Frankie has a head for business (I refuse to make that old Working Girl reference) and wants to become a respected businessman in the entertainment business.
I have to admit I was wary of Aaron. In the first two books, he was portrayed as almost a monster. Frankie had a restraining order, and was afraid of him. However, the man who returned from prison is not the same man as when he went in. He realizes Frankie is the best thing to ever happen to him and wants nothing more than to prove to him (Frankie’s family and friends) he’s changing. I was glad to see he was willingly participating in his therapy and receptive to the therapist’s suggestions. A lot of characters in stories like this are resistant to therapy, claiming it’s useless. I liked seeing Aaron stopping and thinking about the consequences of any bad thing he may do…even if that means not beating a man to a pulp when he becomes too handsy with Frankie at Man Up.
I become completely invested in the love between the men. I really wanted then to succeed. I wanted Frankie’s friends and family realize Aaron was inherently a good man who made some terrible life choices. Their story grabbed me by the heart in the very best way. This is why I read romance. The sex was amazing, and that was another interesting choice by the author. Frankie and Aaron had decided to wait to have sex until they felt they were ready. Yes, there were some awesome handjobs and blowjobs, but when the penetrative sex begins, it was equal parts tender and loving, and old fashioned down and dirty.
There are quite a few background characters that were important to the story. Frankie’s mom and dad, his BFF Austin and Austin’s significant other, Rhoades (from books 1 and 2 of the series and incredible stories of their own). James is the owner of Man Up. There are three other dancers, coworkers at Aaron’s jobs, and a brief but adorable appearance by the little neighbor boy who loves to help Aaron plant flowers. All of these people are important parts of Frankie and Aaron’s lives, but make no mistake, this book is all Frankie and Aaron.
Even though Frankie could be read as a stand alone and there is some exposition there, I think you should definitely start at the beginning. It will help you grasp the bigger picture and get the feel for characters that will eventually have their own stories. Also, they’re just fantastic!
The end tied up neatly, and it was exactly as I expected. It was wonderful, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It left me with a feeling of hope and happiness. Frankie and Aaron are a couple who will stay in my heart for a very long time.
I most definitely recommend this one (and the others). Do yourself a favor and pick them up.