Jesse lives in a small town where he has been friends with the same group of guys forever. The group is tight and everyone knows Jesse and his crew. On the outside, he’s a straight guy with a string of one-night stands, but his friends don’t know, can’t know, the truth that Jesse also hooks up with guys. Jesse has no interest in labeling himself since he says he’s not gay and believes that bisexuality is clearly a myth. However, Jesse is internally unraveling and his binge drinking is becoming his downfall.
Chuck gave up a high-profile career as a professional sports photographer to come to the small town and document a local boxing club working with at-risk teens. His family disowned him when he came out and Chuck has no interest in living in the closet. He does have an interest in Jesse, but Chuck may also have a history of choosing men who can’t fully commit. The men can’t stay away from each other, but Jesse is terrified of losing his friends and family if he comes out and his internal battle is hard fought. Chuck and Jesse may be perfect for each other in the bedroom, but if Jesse can’t face his demons, there is no hope of a future.
At the core, this book is a coming out story. Jesse grew up in the Midwest and his group of friends is tight. They are there for each other, but Jesse doesn’t feel like he can show all of himself to even his closest friends. The guys in the group all have a strong masculine vibe and they live in their own bubble of sorts as their wives buffer a lot of issues for them and make their lives easier.
Jesse doesn’t even know how to describe himself as he likes women and he likes men and his greatest wish most of the time is to be “normal.” He hasn’t had a real relationship with a man and he has no idea how to do that without losing his friends and family. When he meets Chuck, Jesse wants the man immediately and then realizes he wants more from Chuck than just time in the bedroom (or on the couch or the shower). Jesse has a lot of rage and his storyline involves a drinking issue and violent outbursts. He has a lot to deal with protecting his sister and living in the closet has done more damage to him than he even realizes. Chuck also has demons to deal with although his are wrapped in different packaging.
This was the book, however, where the characters said they wanted each other so much, but the execution of that didn’t come off the page for me with the same intensity and I really didn’t feel the chemistry between these guys. The guys hook up in the first chapter and I didn’t feel that spark with them needing to be together, although the characters said it was so. Then, when they start working out their issues that was the focus on the book and while they were working on their own issues separately, I didn’t feel that we were shown them working on their issues together.
The author states this book was personal to her as she grew up in a similar environment to where the book takes place and the importance of coming out stories. I also feel the message here is important, but I would have liked to see more balance between Jesse’s fears and what actually happened when he came out. This is my first book by this author and while it didn’t fully capture me, if you know you like her style, this could work better for you.