Mick Flanagan lives with a ghost. It’s been three years since Alfie died, the man who, like the hero in a story, whisked Mick away from the control of his overbearing mother and showed him what love between two men could be. For three years, they were lovers. Three years where Mick was cared for, wanted, comfortable, and safe until Alfie died. Now Mick lives in their flat, merely existing. Waking, dressing, going to work and coming home, and waiting until it’s time to wake up again. All of that changes when Ceri Llewellyn saunters his way into Mick’s life.
Ceri’s wandered through life following a dream he isn’t sure is even his any more. For so long, he’s wanted to be a professional skateboarder, but it’s time to face the facts. He isn’t going to make it. There’s no big break for him just around the corner, no super-stardom. But maybe, just maybe, there’s still a chance for a great love affair? The night guard at one of the buildings he services filling up vending machines has a befuddled charm that Ceri can’t help but respond to.
It’s a love triangle, and a love tangle, that will require patience and understanding as Ceri and Mick have to face Alfie and the fact that, maybe, Mick isn’t yet ready to move on.
Mick was raised by a mother with severe emotional and mental issues. She home schooled him, restricted him, controlled him, and tried to scare him into obedience, citing a great big world of threats and dangers. When shy, insecure, naive Mick met Alfie at age 18, it was as if the sun came out of the clouds. Alfie freed him from his mother and showed him a life worth living. Unfortunately, Alfie was just another person who wanted to control him, to dictate his life into a pattern that fit Alfie’s desires, and Mick, not knowing any better, went along with it. What else could he have done? He went from his mother — who told him to never darken her doorstop again once he came out to her as gay — to doing what Alfie wanted, to being a broken shell of a man with no one to take care of him.
Ceri is a free spirit, with his ever changing hair and a history of past lovers — and one night stands — that have left him with pleasant memories but not much else. Mick, though, is something different. He’s not as tall, dark, and handsome as Ceri’s own first lover; he’s not bold and dashing, and he’s not Ceri’s usual flavor of the night. But as Ceri is getting older and realizing that he’s not going to be much more than a talented hobbyist as he watches kids younger and better than he is at the skate park, he can’t help but think maybe it’s time for a change. To step outside his own well-worn rut and look into something different.
This book started out so well, for me, as Ceri and Mick struck up a friendship based on their favorite show, favorite episodes, Mick’s love of a man in a flashy coat, and Ceri’s natural charm. Their cautious steps into dating, into a relationship, worked and worked well. The friends who played matchmaker did so to see their friends make new friends. They knew the two would get along, if only they’d give each other a chance, and that very natural and easy introduction and supportive relationship between friends was so well and so lightly done. Even the brief moment of conflict flowed naturally and believably.
And then with a wave of a magic pen, Mick, who has been told what to do by a caretaker figure (mother, Alfie, older work friend, more mature and bossy childhood friend) gets over his problems because he’s told to. He has no agency and makes no decisions for himself; someone simply tells him to get over Alfie and, obediently, he does. And because he obeyed the right people, people who honestly cared about him, it all went well. Which is a shame, because I really liked the first half of this book.
At the end, everything’s coming up roses with an amusing and charming happily ever after for Mick. Ceri, though, seems to exist only to be there for Mick, to be the right partner, the right boyfriend, and the security blanket for Mick’s growth. All in all, I’m left with mixed feelings because the writing is good, the pacing is good, but the story itself left me with such a ‘meh,’ disquieted feeling that I’m going to suggest you pass on this one and maybe, instead, look to one of author’s other works.