Ethan wants only one thing and it’s for the gorgeous bartender to look his way and want him. He needs a quick one off with the guy and he is determined to make it happen. Ethan has always been sought after, never had a hard time finding someone interested in him, so why is this guy seemingly flirting with everyone but him? With the encouragement of his best friends, Ethan makes his play and is turned down flat. Sure, he was a bit tipsy and, yes, it was nice of the guy to get him home and make sure he was all tucked in safely, but that was it? No sexy fun times? No lusty encounter? Ethan just can’t figure the guy out.
Alex has been burned one too many times to ever let himself get involved with the pretty college boy who never seems to stop talking. Sure, the guy is cute and, yes, he is appealing in a quirky kind of way, but Alex knows he will never really measure up—not with his lack of education and background. So why bother even trying just to get his heart burnt in the end? Still, the guy is so persistent and cute, really obnoxiously cute, so maybe…just maybe this all won’t end as badly as Alex knows it will.
Last Call by Kate Sherwood is a story that explores just how much a person who has never had an easy life can expect something like a great potential relationship to really work out and last. Alex, with his homophobic and abusive father who threw him out of the house at the age of sixteen, has very little faith in anything ever really going well, despite his best friend always telling him to relax. That same best friend is busy getting money from a loan shark to keep the very bar Alex works at afloat and that isn’t working out so well either. So why trust that Ethan, who can’t seem to stem the flow of consciousness that is his constant patter, will really stick around after he gets what he wants—a night in bed with Alex.
With all those conflicted thoughts running through his head, Alex tries his best to take Ethan at his word and work on just being happy in the moment, knowing full well it will all end. But that’s the problem—Alex is so busy waiting for the end that he often runs away at the slightest hint of a problem, with Ethan chasing him trying to explain that it doesn’t have to be that way; he is determined to be friends and, yes, that might mean boyfriends if Ethan gets his way.
This is the crux of Last Call—Ethan chasing and Alex running. While all that is happening, Alex’s best friend, Leo, has moved from trying to pay back a loan shark to working for the guy laundering his money through the bar. It’s all woven into a love story that nearly ends before it begins. It’s a frustrating never ending circle of Ethan reassuring Alex and Alex waiting for the next shoe to drop—often forcing it to happen.
Initially, I was going to write how I got a little fed up with Alex being so determined to stick with Leo despite the guy essentially selling him down the river legally. But then I thought more about their friendship. They were really like brothers, particularly since it was Leo and his mom who saved Alex and took him into their home many years before. This wasn’t just a mindless sense of loyalty to Leo; Alex understood that what the man was doing was wrong and didn’t like it, but he also knew that when everyone else abandoned him, Leo never did. Even though siding with Leo meant potentially giving up Ethan, whom he had learned to love, Alex couldn’t have it any other way and that made a great deal of sense if you followed the story to the end.
Was it the way I would have wanted Alex to act? Definitely not, but I can’t fault the author for staying true to the character she created. What I did have less enthusiasm for was the amount of page time spent on Alex going through the angst of accepting that just maybe he could be happy with Ethan. After a while, it all felt a bit labored. Alex was a smart guy and surely he had enough wherewithal to see that Ethan wasn’t going anywhere. I mean, the guy talked him to death about how much he liked him and wanted them to try and be a couple. After a while, I thought there should have been less doubt on Alex’s part, but that never really seemed to happen until near the very end of the novel.
Last Call is a hard fought love story. It is also the journey of one man coming to realize that what has been pounded into him both physically and mentally most of his life is untrue. He is not just the sum of all the hateful things his father told him he was and that is a lesson that is long in coming and hard for Alex to learn, but through the love of another man, he finally can see the truth and that makes this story one that ends much more happily than it began.