I fear I may again be in the minority with my thoughts on Always Forward! Never Straight by Charley Descoteaux. The idea of two older main characters, both at a point in their lives where some change has to take place in order for them to move forward personally, is a good one. Bryan is still struggling with the emotional and mental effects of having escaped an abusive ex nearly four years ago. When he decides to get out of the house and do a half marathon in order to promote his start up business, he never expects to meet someone—particularly not a handsome, fit man who is instantly attracted to him.
Cay is stuck in a dead end job so that he can have health benefits to cover his teenage daughter. He longs to be in the same band her mother plays in, but he has to be practical and it’s killing his spirit slowly. When sparks fly after meeting Bryan, Cay does the unusual thing and becomes the one to pursue the man. Both men decide to take a risk and slowly begin to open up to each other, but not fast enough to head off a disaster that will leave one of them jobless and their fragile relationship on unsteady ground.
I had so many questions as I read this novella. With very little background on Cay and a thin premise for Bryan’s lack of mental recovery after ending his abusive relationship, I was left with a fairly shallow romance that moved rather too swiftly to be believable on any level. I couldn’t understand why Cay’s ex was so mean. I think she was a lawyer or worked for lawyers, so I was unclear why she didn’t have the health benefits needed to cover her daughter who lived with her. It seems she had them for herself because it’s never mentioned that Cay was covering her costs, only his daughter’s. Also, I never really clued in to their relationship—had they been married? He was bisexual, but was she as well? (I think she was a lesbian, but I’m not sure and this was confusing.) Also, I didn’t understand why she was such a drill sergeant when it came to questioning who Cay was seeing, or how it was her business anyway. Bryan also had a woman in his life, his partner in the business who was way too invested in his personal life and bossy as well. I get there was a bit more justification for her to be concerned considering the abusive ex Bryan still feared, but still, why was every female in this novella the stereotypical nosey she-bitch?
There were huge gaps of time—weeks, sometimes, where these two men didn’t communicate, and yet they managed to fall in love fairly quickly despite not knowing anything about each other or spending much time together. There was an inordinate amount of concern about Bryan not being fit and apparently more worry that by dating Bryan, Cay would somehow get fat again after having lost weight (this a concern of his daughter’s mother more than his). Yet that side plot point never really went anywhere either.
I could go on and on in this vein with more questions than answers, but you get the gist, and besides, to do anymore would give too much of the meager plot away. Suffice it to say that the idea behind this story was a good one, but the execution was flawed. Between an unfinished story that lacked the depth it needed to support it and give it needed plausibility and the rather unsavory side characters who were just too demanding and mean spirited, I have to say I was disappointed with the final outcome. This is a book that needed more—more plot, more depth, and more time for the two guys to really develop the love they were so desperate to create between them.