This is the story of how Rhys went from being in love to being dumped. The story of how one young man got out of an abusive relationship and, with the help of friends, managed to reclaim his own heart and his own destiny.
For all that Rhys grew up in the Montana, he’s more inclined to the indoor life of video games rather than hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting. That’s not to say he doesn’t love the outdoors, but it’s nicer to enjoy the snow when you’re inside with a heater and a mug of chocolate. Coming out to his parents went less gracefully than Rhys wanted, but despite his nerves, they accepted him for who he is. What they didn’t accept was the sudden, soul-consuming romance he struck up with Nick, whom he met online. Nick, who was older and lived in Texas. Nick opened his arms and his house to Rhys, but this was no fairy tale.
Rhys didn’t see the warning signs. Or, if he did, he closed his eyes and put on his rose-colored glasses and ignored them. Nick let Rhys live with him, but didn’t ask him (or allow him) to put his name on the lease or the utilities. Rhys didn’t need a car because Nick could drive him. Rhys didn’t need to go to college, not yet. He could take a year or two off, right? Enjoy the honeymoon phase. Bit by bit, Rhys was cut off from his parents and his friends until his whole world revolved around Nick. Now, it’s been three years and Rhys is still desperately in love. He and Nick are engaged to be married, and while they are in the middle of a rough patch, it is nothing they can’t get past, right? At least, that’s what Rhys thinks … until Nick tells him about Caleb, the young man he’s been fucking for a few months. The young man who is going to be moving in tomorrow so, could Rhys, like, get his stuff and get gone?
In one evening, Rhys’s world falls apart. Nick was his first love (and might have been his first lover). Rhys loves Nick and wants him back, wants him to come crawling back, admitting Caleb was a mistake. Rhys is sure this is, somehow, his fault. He was too needy, too clingy, too shy to hang out with Nick’s friends, too judgmental of Nick’s jokes. He should have laughed, even when the jokes were cruel and unfunny and hurtful. He should have been a better boyfriend, right?
If it weren’t for Baker, Rhys’ boss, he’d still be living with Nick. Now, he’s crashing at his boss’ house and trying to wrap his head around the fact that he’s single. He’s 22, homeless, directionless, and alone. If it weren’t for Declan, Baker’s best friend, Rhys would still be holed up in his room, lying to himself. Bit by bit, Declan manages to help Rhys grieve, to find himself again, and to realize he deserves to be happy. He deserves to be in love with someone who will love him back.
This book takes Rhys through the stages of grief. From anger and guilt to, finally, acceptance. He’s not interested in a rebound relationship, and Declan isn’t interested in pushing a 22-year-old kid — a kid almost 15 years younger than him — into something just because Declan is interested. And that’s pretty much the best part of this book. Too many books skip the pain of betrayal and go right to the next better, and hopefully healthier, romance. This story, though, is more about Rhys healing.
Other than Rhys (and Caleb, who is a cartoon caricature), all of the other characters — Declan, the love interest; Baker, the boss; Finn, another friend of Baker’s — blended together. They had no distinctive voice, and other than thinking Rhys was a beautiful, gorgeous, fragile baby fawn in need of their instant love and protection, they didn’t really have any real character. Declan, for all that he has a backstory of being an army medic, is cardboard and empty, much like the romance, itself.
Rhys and Declan become friends while Baker is out of town, and then there’s a fast forward of a month where Rhys and Declan kiss — and we learn Rhys has been trying to flirt with Declan during the course of this month. But it’s all off page. We never see him screw up his courage to try again, or how Declan reacts to his flirtation. We skip all that and move to the first kiss. Then it’s another time skip of a few weeks for the confession, and then fast forwardAll this in last few pages of the book.
There’s also a mention of Rhys and his parents having a falling out over Nick, how he’s mostly cut them out of his life, but the day he decides he’s not moving back to Montana, he gets a letter from his mother telling him breaking up with someone is hard. So I guess he called her? Or wrote her an email? The ending, too, left me irked. Without going into details, Rhys makes a speech and the scene ends with an “and then everybody clapped” moment. So many scenes in the book are heavily telegraphed and overly explained. Characters emotions are either 0 or 60, and the dialogue is strange. It’s stilted and clumsy and doesn’t feel real or organic. It’s almost as if the characters are in a play, declaiming to an audience in florid, rehearsed speeches and I didn’t care for it.
Overall, it’s interesting to see a book dealing with the emotional pain of a breakup and to see a character wallow in the misery and angst, to feel the self-doubt and insecurity rather than just brushing off three years of sincere love on their part, all so they can get to the next relationship. It’s nice to see a respectful love interest who is determined to let Rhys get his feet underneath him before whisking him off of them. But the execution of the idea is clumsy and I just couldn’t connect with the writing style.