A childhood accident left Noah Dixon physically scarred over much of his chest and it has left him feeling very isolated. It is hard to find men who will look past his appearance and he is lonely and self conscious. When his long-time friend invites him to a party on Fire Island, where the man plans to propose to his boyfriend, Noah knows he can’t miss the event. Yet the idea of being there alone as the odd man out, especially amidst the beautiful party goers, has Noah anxious and sad. When he accidentally learns that his coworker, Will Crossen, works as an escort, Noah considers that hiring a date may be a way to go to the party without all the discomfort of being there alone.
Will is working two jobs to help support his mom and her medical bills, including his retail job with Will. He had to give up on his dream of acting for now as it just doesn’t bring in enough money. So escorting is a way to help them pay down their bills, and Will mostly enjoys it as it is a bit like acting. When Noah inadvertently ends up hiring Will as his escort for the weekend, Will expects it to be super awkward. Noah seems like this perky go getter, putting the other sales associates to shame. But it is good money and the chance to get away to a gorgeous house at the beach has a lot of appeal.
The guys don’t expect the weekend to be anything but a business deal, and Will plays the part of the dutiful boyfriend well. But as it turns out, the men have a connection neither anticipated. Will realizes he quite likes Noah, who is nothing like he seems at work. And Noah finds himself falling for Will, though he has trouble believing Will’s interest is anything more than professional. The guys open up to each other, sharing their fears and vulnerabilities. And they connect, both emotionally and sexually over the course of the weekend.
When it is time to go home, however, Will and Noah must face the reality of their situation. Will isn’t in a position for a serious relationship with his responsibilities to his mom. The men are coworkers and officially shouldn’t be dating. And even more, neither man is really sure what the other wants. Yet the connection they have forged is very strong and if the guys are willing to take a chance, they may just be able to turn their weekend together into something more.
Oh I really liked this one! I found it really sweet and moving with some great character development and a lot of depth. This is a very character-driven story and Lee does a really nice job showing us how these guys each have their own vulnerabilities and issues that have affected their outlook on life. Noah is still haunted in many ways by his accident and he has a lot of insecurities about how others see him. Even as Will shows him affection and tells him he is attracted to Noah, he can’t always let himself believe it. It is so rewarding to see him slowly realize that Will does really like him, that he sees Noah as a person and not the man with the scars. For his part, Will carries a heavy burden of responsiblitiy in taking care of his mom. He worries about her health and their finances, as well as what her condition may mean for his own health. Noah is someone who takes a bit of that burden from him, who gives him support and is there for him in ways that Will really needs. These guys just fit together so well, each taking care of one another. There is a lovely tenderness here to their interactions that really made the story have some emotional weight I appreciated.
The pacing works nicely here as well. Much of the story takes place over the weekend in Fire Island where the guys really start falling for one another. But Lee smartly doesn’t try to pull the whole story together in two days. Instead, we see that weekend become the foundation upon which the guys build their relationship and it helped it all feel much more real to me. I could believe in these guys and I was rooting for them because it was clear how good they are for one another.
I will note that there were times where when I felt Lee overused the he/him pronouns, often to the point where I couldn’t tell who was doing the action. There were several points where I had to stop to re-read and determine what was happening. So this is an editorial issue that threw things off a bit.
However, I really found this story engaging and romantic. There is a bit of a hurt/comfort vibe here to both of these guys, particularly Noah, and I enjoyed seeing how the two men supported one another and gave each other strength. Love Me Louder is a nicely developed story and I definitely recommend it.