Tim Ratliff is a newly minted college graduate, and can’t wait to start working as a chemist. Monument Pharma is his dream place to work, but his mother works in HR there, and he’s desperate to get as far away from her as possible. Lorraine is controlling to the extreme, and Tim knows she won’t like that he’s gay. But he’s having no luck getting responses to the dozens of resumes he’s sent out.
Carson Eddinger works at Monument Pharma, and he catches a glimpse of Tim and immediately thinks he’s cute. But he doesn’t realize Tim’s Lorraine’s son, and once he finds out, Carson knows he shouldn’t pursue the younger man. Lorraine is horrible, and crossing her would make his life even more difficult. And Carson has had more than enough difficult and horrible in his life.
But Carson and Tim’s paths keep crossing, and there’s no denying the attraction between them. Even with Lorraine causing trouble at every turn, they find a way to meet up and start exploring. But Lorraine starts getting dangerous, and Carson knows the warning signs. It’s hard for Tim to accept that his mother would go that far, but the truth can’t be denied. And with Carson at his side, Tim’s finally able to break free. But is there enough between the two men to start their happily ever after, or will they have to part ways?
I picked this book up because the blurb sounded promising and I’ve enjoyed this author in the past. What I ended up with was a whole lot of mixed feelings. As much as I adored Tim and Carson, Lorraine definitely worked against this story. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
These two guys work well together and a lot of that comes down to timing. Tim is finally getting to the point where he is pushing back against his mother’s controlling ways. And even though it’s not enough, he’s starting to stand on his own. I thought the author did a good job of showing how his mother’s actions have brainwashed Tim a bit, especially because she makes it seem like she just has his best interest at heart. But also I had a little trouble with his waffling, because Tim knew what his mother could be like, and he knew how horribly she’d treated his older brother and his wife. Even when the evidence was right in his face, Tim still though “mom can’t be that bad.” At the same time, I can understand how, at the end of the day, you want to give your mother the benefit of the doubt.
Carson had been through some pretty horrific things in his past, and he’s justifiably paranoid because of it. He’s obsessive about his safety and he sees Lorraine for what she is. But Carson can’t help the way he’s drawn to Tim, and he wants to help the younger man. His affection and attraction were genuine, and I could see how much he cared for Tim. I really liked how Carson always left the choice in Tim’s hands, whether it came to intimacy or what to do about his mother, except for in the few instances when Lorraine was a direct threat to Carson. These guys are good together and good for each other.
I also want to make mention of one thing that didn’t sit well with me, and made me uncomfortable. At a couple of points in the story, Tim camps it up, speaking with a lisp and using flamboyant gestures when speaking with his parents. He does this because they accuse him of being gay, and he says he is, but then puts on this affectation. The first time, I could kind of understand, but he does it multiple times. There’s a throwaway line of it being in poor taste, and the truth is, it really is. He’s using it as a way to get under his parents’ skin, while still not standing up to them. For some of you, this may not be an issue. But for me, it felt disrespectful and made me cringe every time he did it.
So that brings me to the two points that really brought down the book for me. The first is only a little quibble, and that was that I wanted more time for these guys to settle into their relationship and find themselves as a couple after all the drama before the I love yous came out. As it was, the ending in this regard felt a little rushed. While they had some really solid moments of relationship building throughout the book, the larger part was fraught with the drama and the danger, with Carson supporting Tim as he found his feet and broke away. So it felt, to me, as not an incredibly solid way to start a relationship. The bones were there, so I would have liked to see more of them just being a couple before they were declaring forever.
And the second issue was the big thing that really brought down the rating and my enjoyment of this book. And that’s Lorraine. It’s not just that she’s controlling and homophobic (as well as racist, but that doesn’t play into the MCs relationship). What didn’t work for me was how very over the top she was. Everything with her was screaming and vile, conniving beyond all conniving, controlling beyond all control. This book dialed her actions past 11 and shot them too the moon. And frankly, it made her comical. I don’t need characters in the books I read to act completely realistic, but this was so beyond believable I couldn’t even suspend disbelief. If even some of her actions had been played down, it would have worked a whole lot better. At least three of the things she did (and no spoilers will be given) could have been shown in a more subtle light, and for me, that would have made them all the more impactful. But instead, she showed her hand at every turn, screaming and demanding, and that took her from believable to ridiculous.
So, I liked large chunks of the romance, and I really loved the ending because it left me with all the good feels. But there were huge portions, in particular when it came to Lorraine, that didn’t work for me and made this story not work very well as a whole. I would only cautiously recommend this book if you’re a fan of this author, or if you are fine with a ridiculous villain.