Rating: 4.5 stars
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Due to a series of bad choices, Kinsey Lindstrom’s life has circled the drain and an opioid addiction led to his dismissal from his job as an ER doctor. When Kinsey came out as gay, his wife of twenty-six years divorced him and he has no relationship with his grown children. But after a stint in rehab, a new outlook on life has Kinsey doing his best to heal. But he still has a lifetime of internalized homophobia and religious trauma to overcome. Part of his journey is to get healthy again, but signing up at the gym brings him face to face with Benoni, a much younger man who is friends with Kinsey’s son.
Benoni Healy knows the basics of what happened with Kinsey, but not details. As they begin working together and getting Kinsey’s health on track, Kinsey opens up more. Benoni realizes quickly that he’s attracted to Kinsey, but vows not to take it further. Kinsey has a lot of baggage to unpack and trauma to heal. But when Benoni realizes Kinsey is also submissive, his caretaking tendencies kick into overdrive. He wants nothing more than to take care of Kinsey, teach him, and give the older man what he needs.
But Benoni knows that Kinsey is dealing with a lot. Not only is he piecing his life back together, but he’s still in recovery and trying to heal his past trauma. Kinsey has to learn to accept his feelings and desires, and think past all the voices in his head that tell him he’s wrong, dirty, and sinful. It’ll take time. Benoni is willing to wait. Kinsey is putting in the work. And this is only the beginning.
This book is the first in a duology and only the start of Kinsey and Benoni’s story. This story focuses heavily on Kinsey’s journey. He’s out of rehab and has a sponsor he trusts, and he’s working on his health, both physical and mental. Phoenix does a really good job handling the weight of the topics in this book. And there’s a lot going on here, especially in regards to internalized homophobia and religious trauma. Kinsey was raised in an evangelical Christian home and the scars of that upbringing run deep. A knee injury resulted in pain pills, and the pain he was dealing with mentally as well as physically made it all too easy to come to rely on the opioids. Kinsey’s story is one of heartbreak, but he’s resilient in a way that’s uplifting. And even though he’s doing the work to become well, it doesn’t lessen the fact that he’s got a long way to go.
As I stated, this book is only the beginning of things, especially on the romance side of things. Much of this book is Kinsey putting into practice the things he’s learned, and working to overcome his trauma and negative thinking in regards to himself. Meeting Benoni again is a shock, but Benoni’s gentle nature and absolute understanding of the situation is a great support to Kinsey. And what Benoni doesn’t know or understand, he makes an effort to learn. Benoni is a truly amazing person, but he’s also wholly believable as just being good. He wants nothing more to support and take care of Kinsey, and he lays the groundwork for that.
Of course, attraction springs between the two men, despite their age gap and past. It’ll be another hurdle for them to overcome in the future. Things are definitely not going to be easy for them as they navigate their budding relationship. The chemistry between the characters sparks and sizzles, but it’s set to a slow burn as Kinsey becomes more comfortable with himself, his desires, and what he needs.
This book is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. But it’s only the start. The author shows just how hard Kinsey is struggling, and all the work he’s doing to be whole. There is a heaviness to this book that pulls on the heartstrings, but it’s balanced with hope and progress. I’m very much looking forward to the second book and seeing where this story leads.