Sloan Driscoll is a 23-year-old man who’s battled an opioid addiction. He is the eldest child of a former Major League baseball player, and his younger brother currently pitches in the Bigs in their hometown of San Francisco. Sloan has a lot of body issues, as he’s tall and thin, having never “filled out” like his father or brother, no matter what his diet regimen. Sloan suffers anxiety and depression, and has been a cutter for years, though therapy has helped him to stop self-harming. Sloan has recently accepted a small scholarship for a masters program in graphic design at a school in New York City. His father has reached out to his long-time friend to set Sloan up with a roommate, a boy who was once a childhood friend, Cole.
Cole Fujikawa is half-Japanese and 25 years old. He mysteriously retired from baseball about a year ago because his eyesight is progressively degenerating—he is nearly legally blind, yet hiding this from nearly everyone. Cole’s been dating Juliana for the past three years, but she’s not supporting him the way he needs to become an independent blind man. Also, Cole’s a bit frustrated with Juliana’s penchant for capitulating to whatever Cole wants. He thinks he should cut her loose, but he’s afraid to be alone, too. He’s not really excited about Sloan coming to live with him, and he’s not that accommodating, hiding his disability and coming off as a prissy jerk.
Sloan is immediately attracted to Cole, but he’s put off by Cole’s attitude. It’s not long before Cole’s antagonism triggers Sloan’s darker instincts. And, their tension also leads to sexual contact that Cole initially welcomes, but later abuses Sloan for—because Cole has been hiding his attraction to men for his whole live. His father is a serious homophobe and Cole has internalized this homophobia. He has had sexual contact with other boys while at boarding school, but he felt that was natural, and Sloan’s gayness is not. So, he’s pretty toxic about his own sexuality and his deteriorating eyesight. Cole’s offer to keep Sloan as a sidepiece isn’t met with the reaction he expects. His counselor has been urging Cole to take bolder steps to be more independent and Cole’s reticence to let anyone close is counterproductive.
Cutting Cords is the first book in a series of the same name, and this is the second edition of the book. Sloan is getting triggered on the regular, but he keeps fighting to take care of Cole, physically and sexually. And, I struggled to understand why. Sloan is making more friends, one who is a model and tries to get him into modeling. Sloan’s body image issues make him unwilling to try, but a hotshot photographer insists he will be successful—plus the sexy man really seems to have a way to help Sloan mitigate his psychoses—though BDSM. If only Sloan could forget his attraction to Cole.
This is more a New Adult coming of age/coming out story than a romance. At its essence, this story is about Sloan and Cole trying to prove that they can make their lives work independent of the concerned (and occasionally hostile) parents meddling in their day-to-day. That they inevitably fall for one another is not a guarantee, and may not be the positive experience one might expect with a romance. For ninety percent of the story, the main characters are in opposition, with big struggles about their sexuality and interpersonal relationships. In general, Cole is not a nice person and I couldn’t understand why Sloan was so captivated by him. I got that Sloan’s self-esteem was nearly zero, but his continued attraction and desire to appease and placate Cole didn’t feel authentic. The discomfort was real and each moment of Sloan pining for Cole, who was a complete jerk to him, felt forced. I was rooting for literally ANYONE to just love Sloan and treat him right and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think that Cole could be that man.
Because Cole and Sloan have such a personal disconnect, I couldn’t connect to their growing attraction. Added to that are Cole’s truly toxic ideas about his own sexuality, homosexuality, his developing disease, as well as how to manage life as a blind man. I definitely had some sympathy for his plight of losing his eyesight, yet wanting so desperately to be seen as whole, capable, independent, and worthy, but his lashing out and using of both Juliana and Sloan reduced the emotional credit I’d granted him on that score. The end seemed very rushed, and this reflected the timeline being unnecessarily abbreviated. There’s ONE statement in the end about how Sloan has been in New York for three months, but that was news to me; it seemed like three weeks from the lack of setting description. I was a little despondent after reading this one, having had so many emotional ups and downs and so little true connection.
The story wraps with a rushed happy ending. There’s a lot going on, however, there was enough foreshadowing to make the epilogue both relevant and realistic.