As meet-cutes go, it wasn’t all that cute. Reporter in disgrace Reed hadn’t meant to be a nuisance, and he hadn’t meant for the little shrimp boat he was on to nearly get flattened by Justin’s giant container ship… it just, ah, happened. At least Reed didn’t get arrested this time, and that’s a good thing, right? Not that Justin’s interested in having anything to do with him, now or ever again. Unfortunately for Justin, Reed is on the hunt for a story — something nice and juicy that will get him his job back — and Justin is his newest target (in more ways than one).
For a book with a lot happening and a lot of action, there’s not much of the plot I can talk about without talking about the entire book. It’s not that there’s a twist ending or a dramatic reveal; instead, this book is a slow burn of a story about two men who fall into bed one night only to realize they’re very slowly falling in love with one another.
As Reed thinks to himself while getting to know Justin, “lonely knows lonely.” The two men are both driven and focused, both are stubborn, both are quick to give help and uncomfortable receiving it, and both are so very, very lonely. Reed may know a lot of people and have more than a few friends, but even after being released from jail or the hospital, he always comes home to an empty apartment. He’s used to being charming, to getting along, and to getting the subjects of his interviews to open up to him, but no one seems to care enough to ask Reed what’s on his mind or what he’s feeling beneath the blithe smile and careless words. Until Justin does.
Due to an abusive father, Justin left home as soon as he could, joining the Marines to get away. Ever since then, he’s had troubles with his father figures vanishing, one right after the other. Scott, who nearly fell to his death, left for Florida to recover from his injuries and to retire, leaving a shaken Justin behind. Justin who had been able to save him, but not spare him. Marty, who taught him about this job and under whom he served his apprenticeship, is struggling with Alzheimer’s, his memories and his health being taken from him while Justin can only watch.
Justin and Reed need one another, not just for the brief physical contact of another human being, but for the emotional support of a kindred spirit who knows how much it hurts to be alone. And while there are the typical moments of misunderstandings and overheard conversations leading to hurt feelings, this book also has adult conversations, patience, and the realization that sometimes a relationship takes a bit of work from both people. There’s a reality to this story and a humanity to it that appealed very much to me.
One highlight for me was that first moment when, after a heady night of adrenaline and alcohol, I expected Reed and Justin to fall into bed (and I think they expected it, too), but Reed regretfully pulls away. It’s not that he doesn’t want to — that they both don’t want to –but not like that, which I admire and appreciated. Reed wants Justin’s trust and friendship, not just a tryst. Reed doesn’t want either of them to regret anything more than a hangover the next morning. Also, being in town for a limited period of time, Reed doesn’t want to hurt either Justin or himself.
This book involves sailing and boats — two things I have zero experience with, and little (if any) frame of reference for, but the characters were both in love with sailing. The story never paused for a lengthy explanation of what rope was what or why a sail did this or that; the author was there to tell Reed and Justin’s story, not to teach me about boats. It also helps that the writing was smooth and effortless and the plot was kept tight and focused. I never felt as if any moment was drawn on too long or raced through too quickly, and I kind of wished the story had gone on just a little longer.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.