Holden is having a perfectly pleasant evening, with some guy’s tongue down his throat and about to get laid. And then comes the phone call. His brother, his twin brother, a police officer back in their home town, has been shot and he’s not expected to live. Holden drops everything to fly back, to be by his brother’s side if — no, when Hendrix wakes up. Because Drix is going to wake up. He has to.
When Drix was shot, his partner James had no choice but to fire shots in return, killing the suspect. Now James can only wait, helpless, as his best friend — his only friend — is in surgery. The only bright spot in this dark time is that Holden is back in town. Holden, his partner’s twin brother, on whom he’d had a not-so-small crush on back in high school.
As they wait through the endless days and nights for Drix to wake up from the medical coma the hospital was forced to put him in, the two men become closer, until one horrible night when all emotions break lose and all the walls come tumbling down. Holden needs someone to lean on, someone to keep his mind away from the despair and the hopelessness, and James needs something to cling to, something to ground him in case the impossible happens.
Holden knew he was gay from an early age, and … well, he wasn’t exactly able to keep it a secret. Not that he tried. His time in school was hell as he was bullied and shunned, hiding in his brother’s shadow and hoping to simply survive. Holden was told to get along, to not rock the boat, and to not do anything to risk Drix’s chances at happiness. Is it any wonder he left as soon as he could? Without a backwards look, Holden shook the dust of his hometown off his shoes and found himself and his happiness elsewhere. With his parents dead, Drix is his only family, and seeing his twin in such a state hurts him in a way he hadn’t expected. And seeing his old crush, James, only adds complications, but the other man, with his strength of and warmth, is a welcome distraction.
James, too, grew up with a troubled home life. His father was never truly welcomed in in his wife’s family, which led to his two sons — James and his older brother — having to make a choice. Their mother, uncle, and cousins … or their father. James’s brother chose his uncle; James chose his father, and his uncle has never forgiven him for it. Now, with his father in prison and James out as a gay man, it only gets worse, leaving him isolated and completely alone with only his partner, Drix, to lean on for support. Without Drix, he has nothing … or so he thought, until Holden came back home.
As there are two sides to every argument, so there are two sides to every relationship. For Holden, when he looks at James, he can’t help but see the physical strength and beauty of the man. The line of his jaw, the breadth of his shoulders; he wonders what he’ll be like in bed, what it will be like to kiss him. James, on the other hand, spends time lost in determining the myriad shades of blue in Holden’s eyes. He ponders each flicker of expression on his face, each different laugh. Holden doesn’t normally date, but for James he’ll make an exception.
The problem is… James isn’t really good for Holden. When reading James’ sections of the book (and parts of Holden’s), it’s clear that James has some very strong issues. He’s possessive, he’s jealous, and Holden — knowing this — changes the way he does things to please James. Before the two men have even so much as flirted, Holden’s best friend Gavin comes to stay with him and to comfort him, and James gets very, very angry, noticeably so, at the thought that Holden has a boyfriend. He’s angry that Holden’s best friend calls him by a nickname (the same nickname his brother calls him.) Ever after, whenever Gavin is in the picture, James is jealous, possessive, and physically demonstrative to Holden and ignores Gavin.
Holden, knowing this, doesn’t comfort his best friend by holding him after he’s cried himself to sleep because it would upset James. He calls James, wanting some comfort, to hear his boyfriend’s voice, and James instantly demands to know if Holden slept with Gavin. Holden ends up almost tiptoeing around Jame’s anger and jealousy, metaphorically speaking. This is not the sign of a healthy relationship, to me. While obsessing over Holden, James is also disturbingly codependent on Drix. Yes, the man is his only friend, but he won’t go to the gym without him because he doesn’t want to be alone. He’s uninterested in the aftermath of having shot and killed a man because he’d rather be with Drix’s brother who, let’s remember, looks a great deal like Drix, being his twin.
Speaking of the shooting, this book shows no interest in dealing with the event. Other than serving as the impetus to start the story going — getting Holden into the town and removing his brother from the conversation so he and James can start a relationship — it doesn’t factor into the story. All of the character building happens in lengthy exposition as they tell one another about their pasts, but they went to school together, and James was Drix’s best friend, and Holden is Drix’s twin brother who constantly tagged along with them so, why don’t either of them know any of these stories? It’s also strange that the resolution between Holden and Drix regarding Holden leaving home takes place between James, who lectures Holden about how much he hurt his brother, and Holden being quiet and apologetic.
There is so much talking about and no dealing with. James might have been an accountant or a janitor for all the police work was involved. James tells the story of his childhood with all the emotion with which he might read the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. Rinse, reverse, and repeat. There is also a great deal of repetition, such as it being mentioned three times, by two different characters, that Drix is Holden’s only living family, or that James thinks a blue shirt complements Holden’s eyes.
The writing is decent, but the pacing is off balance. Some scenes move along at a fast clip, others linger over absolutely nothing. The tension between the chief of police — James’s uncle — and James about the shooting seems like it’s going to lead somewhere, but it’s feels forgotten as soon as the sex scenes start up.
All in all, this is an uneven book with an unpleasant and unlikable love interest in James. With all the telling, this felt more like a cliff’s notes version of a story, to me. Holden might have been an interesting character, but because everything was wrapped up in James rather than having any conversation or moments with his brother, or dealing with facing the demons of his past, I really can’t do more than regret all of the what might have beens in this book.