undone coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Jason is getting a new roommate, one he has actually never met because his sister arranged it all. When Jason meets Murph, he finds himself totally drawn to Murph’s energy and enthusiasm for life. Murph is flamboyant and dresses and acts in a way that is true to himself. While Jason can hardly imagine being that free, he still appreciates Murph’s authenticity.

Murph is immediately struck upon meeting Jason; the man is gorgeous, after all. But Jason is also kind, caring, and a considerate roommate. The two men strike an immediate connection and Murph is totally into Jason. The only problem is that Jason is straight, with a long term friend-with-benefits. But Murph can’t help but fantasize that maybe, just maybe, Jason could be interested in him. However, he knows better than to fall for a straight boy. His last relationship with a closeted man taught that way leads to heartache.

Jason is totally comfortable with Murph being gay… or at least he thinks he is. For some reason, every time Murph brings a guy home, it raises Jason’s hackles. He worries that he is internally homophobic and just doesn’t realize it. But the more time the men spend together, the more Jason realizes that the real problem is that he is jealous… he wants Murph for himself. But as thrilled as Murph is to have his fantasy turn into reality, he is still wary. Jason has never shown any interest in men before. What are the chances he will want to be with Murph long term? However, Jason assures Murph that he is all in. Now Murph needs to get past his fears and focus on the relationship and his future with Jason.

Undone is the eighteenth (and final) book in the Vino and Veritas collection of stories. I have read about a third of them, starting with the first and ending with the last. So I’ll start off here by talking about the collection, now that it is over. The books all connect around the Vino and Veritas wine bar and bookstore, with some being more directly tied to V&V and others more tangential. The characters play in each other’s books, again more in some cases than in others. I found them all to be standalones as described and had no trouble jumping in and out of the books in the set. The collection is also part of the larger World of True North universe, and there are about four collections within it, taking place in a shared world. I have enjoyed seeing these characters and this world play out over the books and I think there is a nice amount of crossover without being overwhelming. I do feel like at times I wanted more coordination among the books and better blending of the series, as some characters or situations felt different from one book to the next. But overall, I found this a fun collection and a great way to try some new-to-me authors.

Ok, so on to Undone. What I liked most about this story is the way each man helps the other bring out the best in himself. Jason is a kind, sweet, and caring guy. He is basically perfect in dealing with others, but he doesn’t really look out for his own needs. Jason just sort of goes along with what others want, allows others to make decisions for him, and sort of coasts through his own life. His sister finds his roommates and manages his tenants, he works as an insurance agent because that is what his father and grandfather did, etc. So seeing Murph be so himself and reach for the things he wants helps Jason realize that he deserves better and needs to take a more active role in his own life. For Murph’s part, he feels kind of unlovable after distant parents and a crappy ex. He puts on a good front, but has some self worth issues. So Jason’s unbridled love and adoration go a long way to helping him feel better about himself. I enjoyed these guys together, both as friends and lovers.

Where I struggled here is that there is not a lot of plot and so the story really relies on two emotional issues. First, Murph’s obsessive desire for Jason and hopes that he might one day be interested in him. Then once they are together, it Murph’s fear that Jason isn’t really into him after all and that things will fall apart. The book roughly divides in half before and after they get together, and I feel like from the minute they meet, it is non-stop Murph talking about how much he wants Jason, how he wishes Jason was into him, how no other man can compare to Jason, how he dreams of being with Jason, etc. Murph flirts outrageously with Jason, despite believing he is straight. He fantasizes that somehow he can convince Jason to want him, despite not being into guys. Even though the POV is shared between Jason and Murph, I just felt overwhelmed with this obsession, particularly since that is essentially the sole plot of the first half. The guys move in together, become friends, and Murph non-stop pines for Jason.

Jason comes to ultimately figure out that he does in fact like guys, and Murph in particular. Jason realizes his annoyance with everyone Murph tries to date (half-heartedly, because he really wants Jason), is just covering up the fact that he is totally into Murph himself. So the guys get together, and it is really lovely in that they are so good together, and there is a great friends-to-lovers vibe here, despite the fact that the guys haven’t known each other long. But almost as soon as they get together, Murph starts obsessing over the idea that Jason won’t want to stay with him, that he is going to want to go back to women, that Murph forced him into something he doesn’t really want, etc. Again, not much else happens in the book, no other real storyline, so this obsessing is pretty much the only thing happening. It was just overwhelming and not enough to carry this longish book for me. It was disappointing, because I liked Murph so much as Reeve’s roommate in Unforgettable. But here I found him just way too much with his obsessing before and after they get together and it took over the story.

This book was inspired by a real-life Reddit post with a similar theme. Basically, it was a guy who hated all his roommate’s dates and worried he was unknowingly homophobic, only to realize he was, in fact, hot for his roommate instead. So it’s the same basic premise to this book. I wonder if in some ways this one suffered a little from using that launching point, as it never fleshes out much plot beyond that initial prompt, making the focus just this one dynamic without much of a larger story.

I’ll also note there were also a few small time frame things that stuck out to me. We hear about all the time they spend together, how they spend their evenings, their routines, etc living together as friends and roommates. Some nights they do this or that. I figured weeks or months had gone by, and it turns out it was supposed to be a week after they met and all this had happened and all these routines were set. At another point, someone decides to open a business, leases space within the first day, and within a week has it up and running with tons of clients and a super successful business. I don’t meant to nitpick here, but this happens multiple times and it pulled me out of the story as I thought all this time had passed and the timeline ended up feeling confusing. Nothing major, just some awkward pacing.

Overall, I think this was a nice story and I enjoyed Jason and Murph together. They are both appealing characters and I liked the way they each had some growth over the story. But I found there was not enough going on to carry the book and, as a result, I felt too much time was spent focusing in on a couple of issues that just overwhelmed the story for me.

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