Two major events reshaped Jesse Grace-Martin’s life forever and now, five years later, he lives a half life scared to even look out the window of his apartment for more than a glancing view. Trapped in a cycle of fear complete with nausea and paralyzing immobility that takes over as soon as Jesse even contemplates stepping outside his door, he has a companion who runs his errands and helps him keep track of the work deadlines he has online. His mother escaped the city and remarried and rarely even speaks to her son since the death of his father whom they both loved. Jesse is terribly lonely and determined that something must change, but a trip to the courtyard of his building ends in his near complete physical breakdown that is only averted when one of the building workers comes to his aid.
Dash works at the Dakota building for two reasons, first to earn enough to complete his online courses and get his accounting degree, and secondly to support his mother financially. The tips he earns, along with his salary, give him just enough to pursue his dream to one day work as a CPA and live a life that is not mired down in poverty. He is a good son, a compassionate man, and very hard working so it is second nature to Dash to help the pale man who appears to be terribly ill in the courtyard where Dash is working that day. Little does either man realize that this would be the moment when both their lives will change. Dash will fight the pull toward Jesse, thinking there is no way he can ever measure up to the wealth and ease Jesse is used to when he himself lives paycheck to paycheck. Jesse will decide to continue down the path of taking risks and stepping out into a world that had hurt him so very badly, but now lures him again to take a chance, if only Dash stays at his side.
Felice Stevens’ new novel, His Uptown Guy, is a beautiful story of healing and love. Both Jesse and Dash deserve something better in life. For Jesse, his first foray outside his home in five years was done on his will alone, but after meeting Dash he has even more reason to push his crippling fears aside and learn how to live again. While Jesse can understand that Dash feels there is a wealth gap between them, he doesn’t view his wealth as a stumbling block, but rather a way to help Dash and his family. For Dash, the idea of taking charity is a no go from the start. He fears falling too hard for Jesse because he knows that their economic disparities will always be a third presence in their relationship threatening to break them apart.
Both men have issues–Jesse’s stem from such great loss and a fear of being hurt again, while Dash grapples with feelings of inferiority due to his financial status. With infinite patience and incredibly sweet interactions, the author weaves a story of these two slowly breaking down the walls that keep them apart. This is no insta-love trope, no implausible tale, but one where both main characters work through the issues they face and gently care for each other, building a relationship that is fueled by compassion, kindness, and just a touch of lust.
I so appreciated that Felice Stevens opted to take her time with this story. It must have been tempting to give Jesse a quick fix—such as an overwhelming need to push himself to go outside just to keep Dash in his life. Instead, the author made it clear that Jesse was doing this for himself first and foremost. His desire to return to the land of the living came from within and while Dash was certainly incentive and gave Jesse a great deal of support, it was a growing determination and awareness that life was passing him by that compelled Jesse forward. This decision on the author’s part set up the many delightful moments Jesse and Dash would share as they got to know each other. For Dash, it allowed him time to realize that accepting help was not the same as charity and there was no shame in leaning on a partner both financially and emotionally.
His Uptown Guy is a slow burning romance that reminds us all that taking risks can mean great reward. If you are looking for a low angst happy ever after, then this is the novel for you.