Cosmin Tessler finds out at the holiday party that his radio show is not being renewed in the new year, and therefore, the last show he recorded was indeed his last. As a result, he’s in a sour mood and not very nice to the bartender working the gig. Even after he realizes the bartender is none other than Eric Campbell, the younger neighbor from across the street while he was growing up. After Cosmin wallows in his grief over the loss of his show, he knows there’s nothing that will change the station’s mind. But he does manage to finagle one last show out of the station, in order to truly give his show a proper send off. Determined to get to work on that, he heads back to his family home, where he hasn’t been in years and not at all since his father’s death a month ago.
Eric Campbell is an out of work actor who had a small amount of success on a strange sci fi show before it got cancelled. Now, he makes his living doing some voice work and the occasional bartending gig. He think he’s a fuck-up, especially after some of the things he’s done, and is wallowing in his misery at Christmas. When Eric’s mother suggests he heads home earlier than he originally planned, and that his parents will be home in time to join him for Christmas, Eric agrees. He also runs into his former girlfriend, who is now his true self and introduces himself as Dillon. It’s a fortuitous encounter, as it gives Eric hope, fond memories, and an opportunity to record an audition for an audiobook he thought he’d have to miss.
Both Cosmin and Eric are at their family homes when an ice storm the likes Toronto hasn’t seen in a long time hits the city. Eric, not knowing Cosmin’s father has passed, braves the weather to check on the older man — only to find Cosmin there instead, wading through past memories and old hurts, looking for particular information about his and his sister’s adoptions. Eric offers to help, not only because he can see Cosmin needs it, but because he’s always harbored a crush on the man. There’s an attraction between them, and being stranded together allows them to act on it.
But while they are discovering each other, the past rears it’s head. For Cosmin, it’s finding out what was really going on in his father’s head, and discovering everything was not what he thought. For Eric, it’s coming to terms with why his marriage ended and how he’s going to move forward in his life and career. They support one another on their journeys and find a love they’ve both been longing for.
I love forced proximity romances, so when I read the blurb for this one, I was quick to pick it up. Unfortunately, for me, this story was a mixed bag. The writing is lovely, descriptive and lyrical without being over the top. The characters are well developed and fully fleshed out. But the story itself didn’t always work for me, and that lessened my enjoyment of this book.
So first off, the romance. This is billed right off the top as a forced proximity romance, but the romance seemed, to me, as a secondary story line. I had a hard time connecting with Cosmin and Eric’s relationship, and I didn’t feel the connection between them. Their chemistry was lackluster, I didn’t feel the heat or desperation, and it just seemed like they were together because Eric was acting on his long held crush. I wanted so much more from them, and I just didn’t get it here. So as a romance, it didn’t work for me.
But there’s a lot of other stuff going on here that did work. If you take the romance out of the equation, you have a lovely novel about grief and misconceptions. About a father’s love that was prevalent and well known to everyone but the person who needed to see it. About a man who made some bad choices in his past, but has finally course corrected and seeing a future for himself. There are also side plots of an inheritance for Eric, and a friend of Cosmin dealing with an eating disorder and her backsliding. There is so much going on, way too much to unpack in one review, but it actually worked for the theme of this novel. It is sad at times, and heartbreaking in a lot of ways. Some plot points don’t get fully resolved, nor could they, and we are only left with the feeling of loss.
As I said, the book is wonderfully written, though the pacing is slow at times. And the romance aspect of it didn’t work for me, nor did I feel the connection between the MCs. If you’re looking for a pure romance, I would say skip this book. But if you’re looking for a story about two men finding their way and working through their pasts, then I would cautiously recommend it.