When Julian Pedalino finds out his ex-husband is marrying Julian’s first cousin, he is weary, but resigned. He doesn’t care about Bryce anymore and certainly isn’t hurt he is remarrying. But Julian also knows his mother is going to guilt and badger him into attending the wedding where he will be the object of scrutiny at best, ridicule at worst. He knows the whole thing will be a disaster, and it is made even worse when his family notes that Julian won’t have anyone to bring as his plus one. In a fit of desperation, Julian invents a boyfriend, “Will,” who he claims will be attending the wedding with him. Of course, now Julian has to find such a man, or else admit that he made the whole thing up. Fortunately, Julian’s best friend, Ilan, is there for him and is determined he can find a way to help Julian save face.
Archer has returned home from Paris after eight years of school and working in his lab as an astrophysicist. He came back on the request of his brother, Rex, the state governor and the man who raised him after their parents died in a car accident. Rex has always been there for Archer, but his life is full of press and public events and a pressure to perform that Archer hates. He wants to be back at his lab with his research, and even though Archer is home temporarily, he knows he cannot stay. When Archer gets a text one night from someone looking to hire an escort, it is clearly a wrong number, but Archer is intrigued enough (and slightly drunk enough) to not immediately correct the mistake. When he learns about Julian and the wedding, Archer decides to play along and pretend to be the escort Ilan wants to hire. The next day, he knows it is crazy, but he also knows that Julian has intrigued him enough he is going to go through with it.
The situation is incredibly awkward, particularly since Julian and his immediate family are spending a week at the resort prior to the wedding with some of the other guests. But Archer is committed to playing his role as Julian’s boyfriend, and finds himself wanting to fiercely defend the sweet man who seems to bear the brunt of family jokes and cruelty. While Julian’s father is a lovely man, his mother is horrible and she treats Julian terribly. Between her behavior, and navigating Julian’s nasty ex, things are tense. But surprisingly, Archer and Julian find themselves getting along well. Both men have a similar sense of loneliness, of not quite fitting in with their family or the people around them. But even more, both men have sacrificed pieces of themselves to make others happy, and each man is finally coming to understand that it is time for that to stop.
As the week continues, Archer and Julian find themselves falling hard for one another. But not only are they keeping the secret that Archer is not really Julian’s boyfriend, Archer is also hiding the fact that he is the governor’s brother, and that he is not actually an escort. He knows he has to come clean with Julian, but he also knows that Julian is so raw right now, he doesn’t want to make it worse. But secrets have a way of coming out, and now Julian and Archer have to decide if their feelings for each other and what they have built is strong enough to handle the revelations.
Ok you guys, you know that feeling when you pick up a book and then realize the day has passed and you read it straight through because you can’t put it down? Yeah, that is what happened to me here, complete with the massive book hangover when I was done. I love E.M. Lindsey’s writing, but this book may be my very favorite of theirs so far. I love that Lindsey can take such a popular trope and give it a spin that takes it in new directions. The set up may be familiar, but the way Lindsey brings it to life feels unique.
As always with Lindsey’s writing, the character development is so rich and well done. I fell hard for both Julian and Archer right away. Julian has never been able to stand up to his mother; she has always made him feel less than for his failure to be perfect in her eyes — his scars from a cleft palate and his hearing loss mean he will never live up to her expectations. Julian would love nothing more than to avoid this sham of a wedding, but his mother has always been able to manipulate him and everyone else around her. Julian doesn’t want to upset his father, whom he adores, so he agrees to keep the peace. What I love about Julian is that he truly doesn’t care that Bryce is getting remarried. He is over it and has moved on. But he also knows that this whole event will be a spectacle (as his ex traded up to the richer and younger cousin) and Julian will have an unwanted starring role. Archer too finds himself compromising what he wants in life for his family, coming home for Rex, but unhappy with the life he has to lead to be there. As much as he cares about Rex, and as much as he know Rex loves him, Archer also has to twist himself up to fit into Rex’s life. So both of these men share a sense of giving pieces of themselves away, of sacrificing what they want to keep others happy. And a lot of this story follows their journeys to realizing that they deserve better and to reaching for that happiness.
These guys are just so lovely together. This is a slow burn in the sense that the men take some time to get to know each other before they act on their attraction. The agreement is initially for no sex, and Archer is very conscious about acting dishonestly given his secrets. But the story only takes place over about a week, so the timeline is not long. There is such a sweet awakening for both Archer and Julian, a sense that there is someone in their corner, that this is something real they can have. Neither man has really expected they will find true love; in fact, neither man is sure it is really possible. So it is so wonderful to watch the two of them slowly realize that there is something real between them, a happiness they may actually be able to have and claim for themselves. Archer and Julian are sweet and sexy together, and there is such a wonderful sense of connection that I loved.
There are some great side characters here that add a lot the story. Both men have best friends who love them and are fiercely protective. We spend more time with Ilan, who pretty much is willing to take on the world for Julian. But there is a nice connection of friendship and found family here in general that I liked between the men and their friends. I also adored Julian’s father, Fredric. They spend a lot of time together during the story, as they are all at the resort and Fredric is going through some issues of his own. I liked the fact that even though Rex and Fredric have both made some mistakes in their relationships with Archer and Julian, they also love them fiercely and are there for them when really needed. I am not going to give anything away here, but immediately after finishing this book I messaged Lindsey asking about a sequel (which we are getting). I’m pretty sure my exact words were “I need this story like I need air.” So yay! There is more to come!
So I really fell hard for The Edge of Heaven. Lindsey manages to take a lot of tropey fun with this set up and still give it their signature character development and intensity of story. I truly couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait for more in this world. Definitely pick this up if you are looking for a lovely, intense story with wonderful characters who find their way to happiness.