Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrators: Teddy Hamilton and Tim Paige
Length: 9 hours, 14 minutes
Deacon has known Julian since he was a kid. Julian moved in next door and spent a lot of time at Deacon’s house, but the two of them never got along. Julian spent most of his time with Deacon’s brother, Rhett, and Rhett and Julian fell in love and moved in together. Deacon was close to his brother, but he and Julian never worked. Julian fit in with Deacon’s family in ways that Deacon never did, and Deacon never even thought to admit he was jealous of Julian.
Now, everything changes when Rhett’s cancer returns, and Deacon and Julian come together to grieve his death. The men are spending more together than ever and Deacon realizes Julian is not the man he thought he was—he’s so much more. Deacon has never been attracted to a man before and being attracted to Julian isn’t something he thinks he can allow himself. But Deacon and Julian may ultimately fit together in ways they never thought possible.
Without You is a character-driven story that is easy to get caught up in right away. Deacon and Julian are both struggling with the death of Rhett, who was Deacon’s brother and Julian’s boyfriend. Rhett was the favorite son and Deacon never fit in and his mother wasn’t kind to him and his father allowed it. Julian fit into the family in ways Deacon never did and Deacon has always been internally jealous of the ease that Julian seemed to have with his own family, as Deacon always lived in Rhett’s shadow. When Deacon sees how much Julian is struggling with Rhett’s death, he reaches out and wonders how he never noticed Julian before.
This is a quieter story filled with intensity and Deacon and Julian struggle with first finding common ground and then starting to acknowledge their feelings for each other. Deacon has never been attracted to another man and that doesn’t even really throw him off much as he wants to be with Julian. It’s not easy for the men to be together and they both struggle with feelings of guilt as they look back and look forward. They are respectful of each other and acknowledge at one point that some things may simply not be theirs to have. But they find they work in ways they truly never thought possible and not only find a close friendship, but a true love.
My only issue with the story was Deacon’s mother. It wasn’t ever fully clear to me why she had such disdain for one of her children. Deacon has a sister, as well, who is treated fine, and for so much of his story stemming from the issues with his mother, I would have liked a bit more insight.
Marley Valentine is a new-to-me author and I enjoyed her style and getting to know both Deacon and Julian. While I have seen elements of the story before, the book felt fresh and heartfelt as Deacon and Julian find a future together they never would have imagined.
Teddy Hamilton and Tim Paige were the narrators here and they alternated chapters for the dual POV. Hamilton has a voice I always enjoy hearing. Paige is a new narrator for me and, while it took a little time to get adjusted to his tone, I did fully enjoy his performance, so if you find the same at the start, give him a few minutes. The book is dialogue heavy and both narrators gave the feel of being in on the conversation. The only difficulty I had was that because there was so much dialogue, it was not always clear who was speaking. Within their POV chapters, each narrator did both voices, so the voices for each character alternated from chapter to chapter, making the back and forth dialogue more challenging to follow in some places. Overall, the performances heightened the intensity of the turmoil Deacon and Julian were feeling and Without You is a recommended audio.