A.M. Arthur adds a standalone novel to her Belonging series in her latest, What You Make It. The story highlights Ezra’s brother, Micah, and his rapid fall from grace due to their loathsome, homophobic, racist father . Those who follow this series will remember Ezra being disowned by his and Micah’s father for coming out to the family. It all went down at Micah’s high school graduation party and, just a few short years later, Micah finds himself a father to a biracial baby whose mother has passed away from cancer, and he is virtually homeless to boot. Being thrown out by their father, Micah goes to the one place he has left, Ezra and Donner’s home, in the hopes that his brother will take in him and his infant daughter while he figures out what to do with this life.
One of the lovely elements to this novel is the relationship between Micah and Ezra. Both men realize there is a great deal of past baggage they have not discussed, and that includes Micah’s misplaced jealousy after Ezra returned home from the “conversion therapy” camp he had been sent to by his parents. Added to that was the fact that Micah’s graduation party was where Ezra chose to introduce his boyfriend, Donner, making his bastard of a father go over the edge and resulting in a restraining order taken out against Ezra and a financial payoff so that Ezra would never contact the family again. It is an intense mess that Micah and Ezra find themselves in and the fact that a biracial baby would make their father cut off his only other son is just reprehensible. But the brothers love each other and that is what the author chooses to focus on as she relates Micah’s story.
The chemistry that evolves between David and Micah is more of a slow burn and we are often reminded that Micah is bisexual and experiencing sex with a man for the first time. While there have been drunken kisses and gropes in college, Micah has never really been involved with a man and David is constantly reminding himself of that fact. His own grief over the loss of his husband/submissive has kept him from any kind of real relationship for a while and so he, like Micah, is tentative in exploring any kind of commitment. When their lives are further complicated by Micah’s job choice, attempting to be anything more than occasional sex buddies becomes a hard reality. But both men find themselves wanting more. Micah is determined to make his baby his first priority and with the help of a legion of friends and relatives, he finds all the care he needs for her so that he can work full time.
While I really enjoyed visiting this world the author creates with its tight knit community and support system, I did find it a bit unrealistic. Micah not only adapts to the bisexual life and sex with a man seamlessly, but neither he nor David have any qualms about the fairly large age gap and the slightly kinky BDSM elements that are introduced to Micah for the first time. It all seemed to flow a bit too easily and Micah’s reservations have more to do with whether he can raise his daughter, rather than whether he can embrace the idea his potential lover is a Dom and that feeling he is developing for the man may be just because the guy is his first experience in a male/male relationship. I understood the fantasy aspect to the romance, but I guess I wanted to see Micah grapple a bit more truthfully with his new found bisexuality, or at least his acting on his feelings for the first time.
What You Make It will no doubt be a home run for fans of this series and is a sweet romance for sure. While I may think it tied up a bit too neatly for all the new territory it explored for its main character, I cannot fault the genuine emotions displayed in the story.