Chris Allen is a psychiatrist who works with hospice and palliative patients and their families. He’s good at his job, but that doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his well-loved brother, Cal. Chris continues to be kept off balance when he meets Elliott Rawlings at Cal’s funeral and learns that the brother he knew to be straight was bisexual, was in a relationship with Elliot, and was hiding Elliott from the family. Chris is hurt that Cal didn’t share this with him, while Elliott is angry at being kept hidden, and a night of drinking after the funeral finds Chris and Elliott sharing a bed.
The men wake up worse than the night before and Chris is horrified and guilty over what happened. While the men go their separate ways the next morning, they later find themselves working together to clear out Cal’s apartment. Elliot doesn’t trust easily and is reluctant to help, but agrees to answer questions about the part of Cal’s life that Chris didn’t know about and, despite their circumstances, the men fall for each other.
But Chris’ family is shattered by Cal’s death, and Chris is struggling with where he now fits in. And, due to the circumstances, Chris is not ready to let people know that he is now with Elliot and Elliot has no patience to be yet another secret. The situation is complicated and Chris thinks he has time to figure it out, but both men know that life can be too short and they have to decide if the only thing between them is Cal’s ghost, or if they truly are a perfect fit.
This book packs a lot into it. Chris is devastated after the tragic and sudden death of his brother, Cal. Cal was everything to everyone and his absence leaves a hole in everyone’s lives, but also reveals secrets that Cal was hiding. Cal was not an on-page character as he is deceased as the book opens, but the author does a fantastic job of bringing him to life between the pages. Chris is further devastated that the brother he thought he was so close to didn’t confide in him and Chris is crushed and can’t let it go. Chris is a bit of a loner and his closest friends were Cal and Cal’s group of friends. His last relationship ended in a mess and Chris’ life currently revolves around his work. He is lonely and a night of comfort was what he was looking for, but he can’t handle the guilt when he wakes up next to Elliot.
Elliot was in love with Cal, but was tired of being his secret. Now, Elliot has to navigate his grief in the shadows and being with Chris was not in the plan. While Elliot resists at first, Chris might get him better than anyone ever has, including Cal.
This story is told entirely from Chris’ point of view and we get to know him well. We understand his relationship with Cal and Cal’s friends, his past relationship, his place in his close family, and his career. The career aspect may have gone too in depth for me as I didn’t need to meet as many of Chris’ patients as we did. But it all builds a strong character sketch for him. Elliott was an interesting character, but we barely get to know him and that part of the story was off balance for me and I really would have liked more from him. The men also bond over clearing out Cal’s apartment, which was said to have taken months, but with how the apartment was described and the short length of time Cal had lived there, it seemed like too long a long stretch of time.
The book takes us through Chris and Elliott’s grief and the difficulty they have in starting a relationship cloaked in secrets while trying to sideline their guilt. They truly care about each other and Vaughn does a great job of drawing us into their intimate moments, as well as their pain and Chris’ journey to make his life his own.
Brigham Vaughn continues to do a great job at the end with letting you believe in Chris and Elliott’s relationship outside of their connection to Cal. The wrap up became a little more predictable given the rest of the story, but their ending was happy and a little melancholy as Chris learns to live his life for himself. This is definitely a recommended book for those interested in a look into grief and finding love on the other side.