Oliver Tunstead is a 25-year-old mixologist with a beachfront cottage on Gillamour Island and a hankering for a yellow convertible VW. With his limited funds, the only way Oliver can afford it is to take in a tenant for his empty guest room, and the rent would cover a good faith downpayment to his dad who would buy the car and allow him to make installments. Oliver is an introvert, however, and struggles with people in his personal space. The quirky ad he finds for a man seeking a room to rent on the island for the summer makes this big personal move seem ideal.
Bodie is willing to share snacks and pay cash to be a tenant, with the stipulation that he only plans to stay from the Memorial Day to Labor Day holidays. That’s perfect for Oliver, who doesn’t plan to make friends with this “man in a Stetson.” Oliver likes his solitude, and he protects it fiercely from his overbearing and snooping mother and his inappropriate and lurking ex, Jack, who happens to be his do-nothing boss at the beach bar Surf’s Up. Right now, because their last bouncer got fired for being lewd, Oliver is manning the bar and tossing out the drunk and surly, allowing Jack to either ogle patrons, make innuendoes Oliver heartily rebuffs, or hide in his office to pout and play Candy Crush. Oliver catches the ire of a particularly beefy drunk one night, and a tall, strong, sexy man in a cowboy hat ends up helping him boot the guy out. He’s only a customer that night, but Oliver’s rescuer is soon revealed to be Bodie, the new bar bouncer and Oliver’s new roommate.
There’s a lot of chemistry between ‘Ollie,’ as only Bodie calls him, and Bodie, but it’s like lightning in a bottle—immediate and dangerous. Jack picks up on their mutually protective behavior, while pressuring both Oliver and Bodie for sex in the bar’s employee lounge—either alone or together. Jack’s a creep, but Oliver has an even worse menace being kept at bay by Bodie’s strong fists and eagle eyes. Their friendship develops quickly, due to proximity at work and home, and aided by mutual care for Oliver’s aging Labrador. Intimacy, both emotional and physical, is new for Bodie, who’s survived childhood molestation and abandonment. Oliver’s own reticence for pushy people enables him to be a quiet and compassionate friend, and a caring outlet for the kind of physical intimacy that Bodie has never previously sought.
This story has a lot of trauma, both current and historical, for these characters. The trigger warning is real. Expect frank discussion of child rape, and some brutal moments for both Oliver and Bodie that end in more sexual trauma—both on and off the page. They struggle to find peace because of their wariness that anyone they let close might/will hurt them. For Oliver, he knows that Bodie’s time on Gillamour is finite, so he doesn’t want to be shattered when then most compassionate and passionate man he’s ever known disappears. For Bodie, no one’s ever wanted him to stick around, not his mom or his aunt, and he’s never had a lover or even a true friend in his adolescent or adult life. He’s twenty-eight, and he’s hardly lived in the same place for more than 6 months since he graduated high school and walked away from his hideous family. Even if Ollie wants him to stay, Jack’s machinations are making that a difficult prospect. It seems that Ollie is repairing the damage of years of his mom’s prying surveillance, yet it’s Jack’s malice that temporarily derails Ollie’s dreams of a healthy relationship with a good man.
This story does a lot of emotional work on its characters, who are the kindest, more generous folks. I loved every moment of Ollie and Bodie and how they supported each other, even when it seems they are making bad decisions. They mutual confidences in Ollie’s dog are sweet, and their tentative and tender forays into physical intimacy have a gravitas, even as they are a revelation for both men. I really enjoyed this story, and was thoroughly gratified that there are happy endings in abundance.