Eight years ago, Joshua said goodbye to the boy he loved, breaking both their hearts. Eight long years in which he has lived as a hermit in his small cottage, convincing himself he’s fine. He has a few friends, two jobs that keep him busy, and his music. But when his family home is sold to Sean Callaghan, Joshua’s fragile hold on his well-ordered world slips away from him, no matter how tightly he clutches at it. Callaghan. As in Finn Callaghan, the television star. Finn Callaghan who, for a summer, was Joshua’s everything. Finn Callaghan, the man Joshua still can’t help loving, if only a little.
Eight years ago, Finn and Joshua had a plan: to run away from home and head to L.A. where Finn would become a movie star and Joshua would be a musician. Joshua’s aunt, who had looked after Joshua and his brother since the death of her sister, convinced him it was better to stay behind and let Finn go. Finn would have a better chance of success without a boyfriend, even in the liberal world of California. After all, their relationship was based on the passions of young men and might not even last that long. What if they broke up? What if they hated each other? What if Joshua cost Finn his career?
It was reasonable, it was rational, and Joshua allowed himself to be persuaded. It was the worst mistake he ever made, and now with Finn coming back to New Milton to see his brother, it is time to face the consequences. How can Joshua face him? What will he say? What will Finn do when he see him? What will he feel? But Finn wants nothing to do with the man who broke his heart, and Joshua can’t blame him. But it doesn’t stop the pain.
Now they’re stuck, two men all but strangers in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Sean is trying to befriend everyone, inviting Joshua to visit his old home as often as he likes and making certain to invite Joshua to dinners, to parties, to Christmas, and each time Joshua comes, once more face to face with Finn. Finn who can’t look at him, or talk to him. Even though it’s been eight years, neither of them can forget that one summer where they were very much in love. As Josh says, love stays. Whether it’s wanted or not.
Like it’s inspiration, Persuasion, Perfect Day is a story about second chances. Eight years is a long time to hold a grudge or to nurse a flame, and in eight years both Finn and Josh have grown and matured. What’s between them isn’t the easy, hormone-driven love of a summer romance. It’s something deeper, darker, and more intricate.Finn was hurt, terribly, by Joshua’s betrayal and abandonment for all that he was the one asking Joshua to give up everything for him. He wanted Joshua to give up his family, his education, his life to follow Finn to the west coast. Finn was always a little mroe footloose, having come to Hanworth Hall for a summer job.
Finn had lost his mother at a young age and been abandoned by his father. His only family was his younger brother, Sean, over whom he obsessed, ordered, and bullied — even now he calls to make certain Sean has the snow chains on his car or to find out if he needs anything — which has given him a sense of entitlement. He knows what’s best, he knows what to do and how to do it, and he knows that the struggle to be an actor isn’t an easy one. But, knowing the risks and knowing himself, he’s confident that he can make it work. That’s not to say he was controlling (unless it’s about poor Sean), just confident. Joshua’s lack of faith in him, in them, was an unforgivable blow and the sense of betrayal still hasn’t healed, eight years later. When he comes back to New Milton, he does his best to cut Joshua down, to remove him completely from his life. Easier said than done as his much-loved brother has taken a liking to Joshua. To get past the memories and the small flame still flickering between them, Finn picks a local woman to flirt with and romance. He does it both to cover his own unhappiness as well as to punish Joshua, something which backfires as the more he sees of Joshua, the more he has to admit to himself that what he wants, who he wants, is the man in front of him.
For Joshua, Finn leaving destroyed his world. Shortly after his father discovered he was gay and disowned him. If it weren’t for his friends in town letting him rent one of their cottages, he would have nowhere to stay. He was even able to get a pair of jobs to pay for the suspiciously low rent, but he had no choice but to take their sympathy and their friendship. Joshua tried to get word to Finn years ago, but with no reply he let it go. Seeing Finn again is both a balm and a curse; Finn is doing well, he looks good, he looks happy. But he’s also having to see Finn look happy without him. To see the way Finn ignores him, tries not to see him, the way Finn avoids him. The more he’s in Finn’s company, though, the… well, not easier, but the more doable it is. He can be in the same room with him and not despair. And, if Finn can move on, move past their broken past, so can he. Joshua is, for the first time in a long time, thinking about moving on. He isn’t content to be an occasional music teacher and seasonal barista. He wants more for himself, even if he has to accept that his new life might not have Finn in it.
The small ways in which Finn and Joshua watch each other, each trying desperately to not be caught, are charming and sweet. If you’re familiar with the source inspiration at all, you’ll see each of the beats hit, measure perfect. It’s helped that this story is told both from Joshua and Finn’s points of view as they see one another, to see why Finn says the words he does, to see how he views the new Joshua even as Joshua has to deal with the reality of a Finn eight years away from the young man he fell in love with.
I only have two small, very small nitpicks since, overall, I enjoyed this book. The epilogue is longer than most chapters and goes on, and on, and on. I understand the desire to show us the happily ever after for a couple who have gone through such drama and turmoil, but the epilogue, in my opinion, took out some of the perfectly balanced joy of the story and capped it off with so much sugar that it became saccharine. It was almost as if the author couldn’t figure out which of four epilogues to put in, and so gave us all of them.
The other nitpick is the note scene.
In Austen’s book Wentworth puts his heart on his sleeve in one of the most romantic letters, letting her know that a single nod or look or word from her would have him rushing to her side. Here, Finn also writes a letter… but makes a point of leaving his phone behind so he can point it out. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to send a text? It’s a small thing, but it felt a bit much, to me, to have Finn pause in the middle of a party to write a letter to Joshua. Not that it wasn’t sweet, I just question the method of delivery
I felt Joshua’s pain and understood Finn’s anger. I also really liked Sean, who might have come across as a little clueless, but ended up being one of the smarter characters in the book. This was a fun homage, giving us a love letter to Austen’s Persuasion wrapped up in a sweet romantic story between two men who deserved every bit of happiness they received. Do give this book a try. I highly recommend it.