Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 8 hours, 13 minutes
Dusty Gold knows an awkward, anxiety-riddled nerd like him has NO chance with his super hot and mammoth rugby star neighbor, Brandon Reed. Whenever Brandon even speaks to him, Dusty freaks and stammers his way to a quick exit. But when an accident in the dorm leads to Dusty and Brandon sharing temporary living quarters, Dusty’s preconceived ideas about the hot jock being a douchey, insensitive asshole are blown away to reveal a kindhearted, fun-loving, and surprisingly humble young man.
Since the start of the semester, Brandon has had zero luck getting to know the sexy, skittish, nerd next door, so he jumps at the opportunity to room with Dusty and (hopefully) get to know him…intimately. Their easy camaraderie (and Brandon’s shameless flirting) quickly leads to friendship, while a broken spring in Dusty’s bed produces months’ worth of mind-blowing benefits. Although Dusty loses his initial shyness, he doesn’t lose his insecurity or fear of rejection and heartbreak, so being boyfriends is off the table. However, when Dusty finds out Brandon has no plans for the summer, he can’t stop himself from inviting Brandon to spend it with him at his parents’ animal sanctuary—strictly as friends, of course. Despite Dusty’s trepidations, he finds himself trusting Brandon and opening up to him in so many ways. As much as Brandon wants to do the same, he’s scared his truths will chase Dusty away, but will his lack of trust in Dusty and his feelings be what chases him away instead?
Hummingbird Heartbreak is a fun blend of raunchy college-boy sex brain and ridiculously sweet devotion. Brandon and Dusty are made for each other, sometimes too obviously so, but their playful joy in one another is delightful. Brandon is a horny, yet sensitive, giant who loves teasing Dusty to get under his skin and bring him out of his shell. He’s also very attuned to Dusty’s highly anxious nature and knows when to offer his version of lewd diversion and unobtrusive support. As a timid loner, Dusty is surprised by how easy it is to be around Brandon and how safe he feels with him. While still uneasy hanging out with the many people visiting his charismatic and social roommate, the safety and trust Brandon inspires within him helps lower Dusty’s guard and find pleasure in interacting with strangers.
The majority of Hummingbird Heartbreak follows the pair during their day-to-day activities and focuses on the progression of their feelings, with a large chunk dedicated to inner monologues of Brandon wanting more but trying not to spook Dusty into bolting and Dusty mired in fear of moving forward. Expanding the setting to Dusty’s family home adds some needed movement to the story and introduces a loving and unique family and many great secondary characters—some who steal the show in one scene. Besides allowing for some insanely cute fur babies and their gleeful antics, it also allows Dusty to relax and be himself, offering more insight into his character.
Hummingbird Heartbreak could have been even stronger had it stuck to the more lighthearted tone it sets or actually been invested in the heavier issues it includes. The narrative introduces important elements that have sparse or mismatched details and speedy, hand-wavy resolutions. For example, there’s this emotional scene between Dusty and his twin, Benji, (who only pops in about 3 times to be a foil for Dusty) that comes out of nowhere, as well as a plotline involving the animal sanctuary. It’s introduced late in the story, established as important, then disappears. Its complete removal would have no effect on the narrative itself. I assume both are there to foster interest in Benji and lead into the next Gold Brothers’ book, but it’s not handled gracefully and feels out of place.
Brandon’s secret, the rift it caused in his family, and how he went about changing his life works well enough, but its resolution also feels off. The allusions Brandon makes to maintaining a positive attitude and his estrangement from his family, while only skimming the surface at times, still work for the narrative and tone. However, during the super quick, super sparkly reconciliation, information is introduced, which makes the resolution feel slipshod and overly simplifies supposedly life-changing events.Because the narrative spends more time on the easier/lighter ugly ex trope than addressing the damage caused or rebuilding trust, it makes Brandon’s past ghosts feel like they are only there to serve the third act BIG SECRET/MISUNDERSTANDING, which I find distracting.
While much of the dialogue works for MCs in their late teens—lots of sex jokes, bad puns, and sassy asides, sometimes it’s awkward, try-hard, saccharine, or borderline skeevy. This too could have proved distracting, but is saved (mostly) by Greg Boudreaux’s narrative performance. Boudreaux’s skill is undeniable, and I have yet to hear a phoned in performance from him. He keeps the boys’ early obsession with each other’s junk feeling realistic for their ages, rather than creepily objectifying, and delivers a few truly sappy lines with such warmth and affection, they come across as simply the ridiculously earnest declarations teenagers in love tend to make instead of mawkish.
Despite the structural issues caused by the narrative dipping its toes into the angsty waters of heavy topics but sticking to safe ground and the kinda inane big secret shenanigans, the audiobook Hummingbird Heartbreak is an entertaining, steamy listen with characters who clearly like one another and click as friends. At its core, it’s about believing in yourself, facing your fears, and connecting with people who make you feel safe and inspire you to be your best self. Brandon and Dusty are charming and goofy and Greg Boudreaux’s effortless portrayal of the ribald jock who’s a romantic at heart and the fretful scientist-in-training who has trouble seeing the evidence in front of him through his biases makes them even more endearing and worth a listen for some.