This is the second book in a series, and told from Noah’s point of view—as opposed to The Troll Whisperer, which was narrated by Oscar. This book isn’t so much a romance as a family drama.
Oscar and Noah are a married couple living in San Diego. Oscar works for the sanitation department and Noah is an oncology nurse. They live near Oscar’s loving family, the extended Lozada clan, and are expecting a daughter with a surrogate who’s a dear friend. It seems like their lives are going great, in fact, but Noah’s a worrier. He is consumed by the idea that something bad could happen to baby Bette, and hurt their fledgling family.
Noah was raised Jehovah’s Witness, and he left the faith at age eighteen, running from his family’s home in New Hampshire to his disfellowshipped Uncle Zeke in California. Noah knew he was gay, and he knew there was no hope for him to live a Witness life and still be true to himself. He felt bad about leaving behind his younger sister, Rebecca, but he was happy to welcome her when she also ran away. Their parents were typical Witness parents, according to Noah, and he describes them as having a cold, Jehovah-devoted demeanor. While Noah was close to his mother, his father was often emotionally and occasionally physically abusive. They do not speak to Noah following his disfellowshipment for leaving the faith and being openly gay. Also, they do not recognize his marriage to Oscar.
Rebecca’s time in San Diego has been fraught with depression, alcohol, and drug addiction though she’s currently sober. Noah—the worrier—is concerned that she’ll go back to using drugs, and fears he isn’t spending enough time building a better relationship with her. He’s also a new father, and he’s worried about Bette constantly. And, he’s worried that his relationship with Oscar is suffering since they are both pretty tired and their sex life is waning. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Noah for a while, because he seems like a great guy, but his lack of communication and constantly spinning brain had me feeling he was neurotic and obstructively non-confrontational. He refused to stand up for himself, or his husband, at times, to save face with people who didn’t matter so much, like his abusive parents.
Rebecca becomes critically ill—to the point of emergency surgery and an extended coma. Oscar and the rest of the Lozada clan come to the rescue, helping out with the care of Bette, and managing the legal aspects of Noah’s temporary guardianship of Rebecca. He’s required to notify their parents that he is seeking such guardianship, due to their estrangement, and this prompts Noah and Rebecca’s parents to rush out to San Diego to stay for an extended period. They learn about Bette, and it seems Noah’s mother wants to try to build a relationship. She also wants to be a part of Rebecca’s care, but Noah is standing firm on that. And Oscar is standing firm on presenting their family unapologetically. He’s a total hero in this story, going well out of his way to take care of Noah, Bette, and Rebecca. The longer Noah’s parents remain, the more the tension rachets up—and it bursts in ways I did NOT expect from the blurb.
When I say this is a family drama, I mean it. There are excruciating moments where Noah’s worst fears and worries come true, and it’s harrowing. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I was long past tired of Noah’s doomsday scenarios by this point, wishing Noah would just “settle down” already. Yet in those late chapters I was finally able to see Noah grow beyond his fears. Noah has many emotional scars from his upbringing in the Witness faith, and his deep understanding of its mindset might come off as complacent, if the reader didn’t understand the extent and depth of his concerns. Up to the climax, Noah seemed really soft, and I wasn’t really into him as a narrator, however the mettle he demonstrated to keep his family together was thrilling and rewarding. He never could have saved the day if he didn’t have the support of Oscar, the Lozadas, and intimate knowledge of Witness customs.
In the climax and resolution, Noah leans on Oscar in a way that a spouse should, and their relationship finally showed growth, for Noah. Oscar is rock-solid throughout and I couldn’t have loved him more. Likewise, the Lozadas are amazing family of characters—people I’d want to know and be a part of. There is never a doubt of the love Noah experiences, and he recognizes that his worries that the Lozadas might find him too much trouble to bear are completely unfounded. Don’t expect much more than some reaffirmations of love in the romance department. This is a family under trial, and they leave the story being more tightly bonded than they entered.
Note: Potential trigger warning behind the spoiler: