Matthias Harthorn is a mess. He’s been in pain his entire life and, without any way out, he took it out on the one person he should have protected, his younger brother, Jameson. Matthias now lives with so much self-loathing choking him that he drowns his fears in alcohol and bathroom hookups. Hookups with men. Matthias can’t stand himself because he can’t possibly want to be with men. His mother made sure to straighten that out of him during that one summer she sent Matthias and Jamie away. A different night, a different restroom, and Neil makes Matthias want all the things he knows he can’t have.
Neil knows Jamie. He works for the man and Jamie wants absolutely nothing to do with Matthias. Matthias understands this as the pain he caused Jamie and his husband, Alex, is too great to forgive. But Neil offers Matthias a lifeline and a friendship when Matthias has no place left to turn. The men grow closer and Neil is falling hard, despite knowing he could get his heart broken. Matthias has a lot of healing to do and a lot of amends to make and, with Neil at his side, he might just be able to finally make those steps to living the life he always wanted.
A Healing Story is book three in the Stories series. It is not meant to be read on its own and, while reading at least book one, A Love Story, would be recommended, book two, A Hate Story, builds off of book one and the series is more impactful reading in order. It has been over a year since I have read books one and two, but Matthias made enough of an impact on me to mention him in a previous review.
Matthias has no one in his corner. While he is successful in his career, he doesn’t have friends, his brother has cut him off completely (with good reason), his mother is manipulative and cruel, and his father has let it all happen. At 35, Matthias is spiraling lower and lower. Matthias knows deep down that he is bisexual, but his attraction to men was not tolerated and when he and Jamie were sent away that one summer, everything became worse and Matthias kept lashing out at anyone in his way. Jamie no longer speaks to him or wants anything to do with him or their parents and Jamie has a great support system to keep Matthias away.
Neil grew up in the foster care system, but has adjusted to life on his own. After a quick hookup, he sees that Matthias really needs a friend, but Matthias does not make to easy to want to be his friend. Neil lays some ground rules down to protect himself, but he knows early on he can get his heart broken easily.
Matthias doesn’t exactly get a redemption story here—some things are too great to come back from. But, like the title suggests, he does get to heal and attempt to move on while trying to make amends. And Neil sees the person beneath all of the fear and self-loathing and they make a good pair.
The parents here are what you would expect, mostly one dimensional and familiar to the genre. There is a new character in Kelly and, unless we see more of her in the next book, it was not clear what her purpose was.
I was excited to see that there would be more to this series. I enjoy these characters and the family they have made together, the style of writing, as well as the issues the characters have to overcome, and I will be interested to see what the next book brings.