Erik Keston has been in love with his best friend, Monroe Wellman, for years. But after Monroe lost his parents suddenly, he has been spiraling out of control and his alcohol addiction is taking over his life. Erik wants to be there for Monroe and finds himself bailing out his friend and smoothing things over for him constantly, and it is all taking its toll. Erik realizes that as much as he loves Monroe, things can’t continue as they are. Monroe is going to kill himself or someone else, and Erik’s life has become consumed by trying to take care of him.
As much as it hurts them both, Erik finally gives Monroe an ultimatum: stop drinking and get himself under control, or Erik can no longer be a part of Monroe’s life. It is not easy for either of them, but this is the incentive Monroe needs to finally take a hard look at what his life has become. With the help of a good therapist, Monroe is willing to put in the work to bring his life back from the brink and accept that he is an alcoholic. This means he must begin mourning his parents’ death for the first time so he can move past the crushing sense of pain and guilt. As he gets better, Monroe also begins to see his life in a new perspective, and that means realizing that the person he wants most has been by his side all along.
The Hate You Drink is an intense story, but also one filled with so much love and obvious caring between Monroe and Erik that it helps to balance out the more painful elements. N.R. Walker doesn’t shy away from showing Monroe hitting rock bottom with his drinking, nor from the pain his behavior inflicts on Erik. I could really feel Erik’s anguish as he loves Monroe and wants so much to take care of him, but he realizes that Monroe will never get better if he keeps protecting him. Not to mention that Erik’s own life is derailing as all his focus is on Monroe. He knows he needs to force a change, but hurting Monroe is also killing him.
The pacing is nicely handled here as we see Monroe falling apart and then accepting that he must take action, so the majority of the story deals with his recovery and the subsequent romantic development between the men. Even as both Erik and Monroe must have some time apart to focus on their own mental health and independence, they are never out of each other’s minds, and we can still feel their intense connection even when they are apart. I enjoyed watching Monroe gain control over his life and really be able to reflect on what he wants and needs. He grows so much over the story, and it is clear how important Erik is to him.
This isn’t always an easy story, but there is an incredible warmth and tenderness between Monroe and Erik that really makes it all work. Monroe doesn’t have an easy journey, but it is really rewarding to see him find himself again, and for the two men to transition from friendship into love. Once again, N.R. Walker has crafted a really lovely story and I found myself completely absorbed in Erik and Monroe’s journey.