Parker has not been home in 20 years. He left his hometown days after his high school graduation after years of abuse and bullying, both from classmates, as well as his own father. He has made a name for himself as a TV personality and rarely looks back. When his mother dies, Parker feels compelled to pay his respects, but sometimes you should not go home again. Parker has never dealt with any of the trauma inflicted upon him and stepping back into town, and his father’s house, makes him feel like a scared teen again. His sister, Laura, is somewhat welcoming, as long as Parker doesn’t talk about being gay too much. And it’s not long before Parker learns that there are secrets and lies in his own family that are not staying buried.
In the middle of all of this, Parker meets Bryce. Bryce is a local rancher with unexpected ties to Parker’s extended family. While Bryce is confident, he also has a colorful past, but people gravitate to him and friendship and attraction sparks between him and Parker. But secrets can most certainly divide people and while Parker and Bryce have great chemistry together, the way their worlds are about to collide may be what makes Parker leave town for good.
The Road Between is a debut book by author Patrick Benjamin and I like to find new authors that spark my interest. The book is told solely from Parker’s POV and we join him as he is returning home for his mother’s funeral. Parker is successful now, but his childhood was filled with bullying and abuse and the small town he grew up in did nothing to help him.
Parker’s family is completely dysfunctional and, as each scene goes by, we learn a little more about Parker and about them. Parker’s father is a horribly abusive man, but Parker is still trying to make peace with him. His sister, Laura, has kept in sporadic touch with Parker over the years, but isn’t exactly as supportive as she seems, and their deceased mother allowed Parker to be abused for years without stepping in to stop it. The book is deeply a family drama with the beginnings of a romance mixed in. Bryce is introduced early in the book, but Parker thinks he’s straight and it takes a while for the narrative to move in the direction where a closer relationship seems even possible for them. Bryce is known to be someone that never falls in love, although all of his past relationships still cling to the hope they can rekindle what they had with him. The chemistry is subdued purposely for the first portion of the book, but once they make their move, the men act first and speak later.
There are a lot of difficult aspects in this book to read, from details of Parker’s abuse and bullying, to the dysfunctional family dynamics that are unraveled as the story goes on. A lot of the characters aren’t supposed to be likable, from the bully Parker meets again as an adult, to his father, to the memories of his mother, and then his sister, which made the story heavier to wade through. Parker himself is a survivor, but his background made it so difficult for him to stand up for himself and that was another layer added to the mix. We are also not given Bryce’s POV and then for most of the book he came off as selfish and more from him might have balanced the fine line he walked for most of the book.
The ending leaves the men on the cusp of a HFN and there were a few areas that weren’t fully finished for me. When this story gets broken down in pieces, it does appear one way, but when all of this is added up together, the book does offer a layered family drama with two men trying to find a place where they can belong. Patrick Benjamin brings a new voice into a book about uncovering secrets and lies within a family while starting a new relationship and I would be interested to see what he writes next.