Story Rating: 3.25 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Austin Jay
Length: 9 hours, 58 minutes
Charlie King has a brilliant idea, one that may well be his best idea yet — and boy, oh boy does he need something good in his life, right now. His daughter is going to be heading off to college, soon; the daughter who has become his whole world, especially since her mother died, and his main character is going to be retiring with this last book. Charlie just needs a little bit of something new, something special to make this book perfect … and he finds it in the gorgeous blue eyes of his neighbor. But in giving his beloved character a lover — a male lover — Charlie finds himself examining his own sexuality for the first time in a long time.
Simon is getting over the getting over of a relationship. Moving past the what ifs, the anger, and the doubt and focusing on the new house, the new job, the new state, the new town … and a chance to be himself without having to be anyone’s ex-anything. So when Charlie smiles, offers a hand and friendship, Simon is grateful to accept. When he realizes he’s got a bit of a crush on the other man, Simon accepts that, too. Crushes happen, and by indulging a bit, in getting to know Charlie better, maybe he’ll get a friend out of it.
Charlie and his wife got pregnant at 17. They were each other’s firsts, and each other’s everythings. When his wife got sick, she and Charlie moved in with his parents who helped him care for his wife and raise his daughter. When his wife died, they were there for both he and Olivia. Without their support, Charlie wouldn’t be able to say he’s half so good a father as people think he is, and now that they’ve been gone for nearly a year, moving away to have their own lives now that Olivia is getting older, Charlie is having to face a reality he’s not comfortable with. One where he isn’t the focus of attention.
Simon is reserved, quiet, and thoughtful. He broke up with his long-term lover (a decade’s worth of working together, living together, being cheated on again and again, forgiving again and again) and he’s now ready to put all of it behind him. Simon has moved to a new city in a new state where he can be himself. When he realizes Charlie is interested, Simon falls heart first into the relationship, knowing he shouldn’t move too fast, knowing he should be careful, but … between one kiss and the next, between Charlie leaving him ice cream because he looked unhappy to giving him a flower to cheer up him, Simon is lost.
Charlie is an inconstant character. He seems to be outgoing and relaxed, but it feels more a benign negligence to anything and everything that isn’t right in front of him. He loves his daughter and spins a narrative of them against the world, of how much he loves her, how much he’s been there for her — which may all be true, but ignores how much of a part her own grandparents were in her life (they lived in Charlie’s parents house, after all, while she was growing up), or her mother’s family who are very much present in her life. When something happens to Olivia, his daughter is afraid of upsetting him, of making him angry at her. Charlie’s whole focus becomes how will this affect him, how this will hurt him before looking at what this will do to his daughter.
For Charlie, things with Simon start with the physical. To be honest, he had more chemistry in a brief meeting at a sci-fi convention where a fan tried to pick him up than he did with Simon, no matter how much kissing, touching, or caressing the two of them shared. Charlie didn’t even ask Simon if he was gay, let alone interested, before kissing him because, well, Charlie wanted to kiss him. Charlie started out as okay, but whether it was his fear of abandonment, his need to be the star of the show, or the fact that, for him, his relationship with Simon was more a long-term hookup with the title and activities of boyfriend and none of the emotional strings, I ended up not liking him that much, if at all.
Simon was a bit more of a cypher. I could see where he was coming from, and it was clear he wanted to love and be loved, but
I failed to connect with the narration of the audio book by Austin Jay. His slow, deliberate pacing was too slow for me and I had to speed it up for a more comfortable listen. Even then, personally, the book dragged badly in parts — more due to the author’s exacting details and the small minutiae to show how Charlie lived, jogged, and walked — and I just wasn’t feeling it. The voices were not that distinct from one another, but the narrator put in a lot of effort to make certain the two main characters could be told apart. Nothing against Austin Jay, but I struggled with this audio book and the story.