When the executor of Brian’s grandfather’s will calls, Brian is skeptical to say the least. The lawyer reveals a family history unbeknownst to Brian and an astronomical inheritance that could Brian’s for the taking. All he has to do is live for one year in Alistair’s house. Since it is situated in the rich part of town, Brian is absolutely convinced he can satisfy that peculiar requirement. In fact, the biggest challenge won’t be taking care of his late grandfather’s mouthy macaw named Sir Kenith the Red, but the pushy man named Conley, who apparently has been tasked with cataloguing the works in Brian’s grandfather’s sizable library.
Conley owed Alistair a deep debt of gratitude. The elderly man helped Conley escape a group that was chasing him for their own dark purposes and offered Conley true friendship. Conley offered to repay Alistair’s kindness with an unfathomably precious gift, but the man refused, knowing such a gift would be wasted on a man of his years. Instead, Alistair urged Conley to befriend his grandson, Brian. Though Alistair had never made contact with Brian, he kept close tabs on his grandson. Alistair was convinced Brian could be a true companion for Alistair—if only they could survive a year together under the same roof…and if Brian could accept Conley’s true nature.
This is most certainly a paranormal-y type story. I thought it was pretty clear early on that there was something special about Conley, based on his sort of ominous narration. Conley often made cryptic mental comments about how Brian may resent all the lies Conley’s been feeding Brian. That said, I didn’t know exactly what type of being until relatively late. Also, Brian never knew about Alistair—this whole thing is hashed out rather perfunctorily in the beginning of the book. The man figures into several key decisions that make the events in the book happen, though. Alistair befriends Conley, making it possible for Conley to find a more or less permanent home. Alistair, though he intentionally cut himself out of his ex-wife’s (and their son/Brian’s father’s) life, kept tabs on Brian and orchestrates his will to bring Conley and Brian together. Yet the man is dead before the book even begins.
One thing I noticed about Brian is how…bland he seems to be. At twenty-five, he’s finally decided to settle down in Denver, Colorado and makes a living off his wages as a barista at a coffee shop. When he gets word of the inheritance, he’s confident he can make sure his parents won’t find out. Even after Brian accepts the conditions of the will and moves into his late grandfather’s house, Brian continues his humdrum life. Even when it annoys him or draws him away from art, a hobby he never serious indulged until his grandfather’s house conveniently provided all the necessary paraphernalia. There were some mentions of friends at the coffee shop, but once Conley and Brian meet, there seems to be zero interaction with anyone else (save the conversation-in-passing with the guy who comes to clean Sir Kenith’s rooms).
Rather than focusing on the “I have a grandparent I knew nothing about” or “I’m suddenly filthy rich” aspects, Kendrick pours all efforts into the romance developing between Brian and Conley. Kendrick tries to set them up as “enemies to lovers” but the effect fizzled for me because Conley’s narration makes it patently clear that Conley wants/needs Brian to like him. Part of the caveat is that Conley does not want to fall in love (so of course, this starts to happen as Brian starts warming to Conley). Then Conley is conflicted about all the lies he has to maintain to satisfy his boyfriend’s natural curiosity while not revealing his true nature. The fact that Conley needs Brian either as a friend or lover ties into some aspects of Conley’s abilities, we later find out. I think the enemies to lovers aspect works for Brian’s side, but Conley’s frequent litany of self-doubt and warnings diminishes the overall effect.
There is a flurry of activity toward the end where Brian finally learns, in spectacular fashion, what exactly Conley is. Although I think this was supposed to be the “meat and potatoes” of the love story, where Conley and Brian learn that what they have is real, I felt a little let down by Kendrick’s handling of it all. The world as presented in the book does not include any paranormal anything, so Brian’s got to make a huge leap of faith with accepting Conley’s abilities—one that comes with some pretty significant extras, like eternal life and healing powers. Brian doesn’t seem to just take all this in stride, he seems to blindly accept whatever Conley is and has to offer. On the one hand, yeah, it’s schmaltzy feel good twue wuve. On the other hand, how could they really avoid having significant discussion about what those extras actually mean?
Overall, this was just a so-so read for me. Brian is too dull—his day consists of working at the coffee shop (even after coming into his inheritance) and, later on, hanging out with Conley. Conley is interesting in the “tortured by inner conflict” sort of way. The big reveal about Conley’s ability wasn’t resolved very satisfactorily, but I can understand that because Brian’s utterly in love with Conley at that point, no explanations really needed. Kudos to Kendrick for writing about such a flashy being, but the lack of any meaningful supporting cast or threads beyond the “I’m a barista” and “I’m lying to the man I love” made the overall reading experience somewhat bland.