Connor’s life ended two weeks ago when his lover of twenty years walked out on him on Thanksgiving. Steve found someone else. And they are in love. And he is sorry, but he had to follow his heart. Now, with images of Steve and his new partner all over Facebook, deliriously happy, Connor is ready to move on and find love himself. And he’ll do it by going online. His daughter, Miranda, is afraid Connor’s moving too fast, but he’s a grown man and she wants him to be happy.
Unfortunately, the man who finds Connor is anything but a Prince Charming. Trey Goodall is a con man. A two-bit hustler, petty thief, and grifter. And he has his sights set on the famous mystery author, Alfred Knox — whose real name happens to be Connor Ryman, and who just so happens to be ripe for the plucking.
This book is, as the title states, a story about a toxic relationship. At least, that’s what it tries to deliver. It seems that Trey is supposed to be clever and charming, but he ends up coming across as bored and jaded, as if he’s done all of this before, so many times to so many men, that he doesn’t even make the pretense of doing more than going through the motions. His burst of anger when Connor and Steve have dinner together doesn’t feel angry, it feels forced. What Trey is is a mooch. A man who uses people, who finds Connor’s insecurities and preys upon them, which… sure, is toxic, but it’s also so very heavy handed and stiff.
Connor is whiny, insecure, and has no reason whatsoever to trust Trey. But he does, and it feels like it’s because the plot tells him to. His whole relationship with Trey seems to only take place because the plot tells him to. These two characters have no chemistry at all; Steve and Connor, however, even after their breakup, have an honest and easy rapport that makes the tepid, requisite scenes between Connor and Trey stand out all the more poorly in comparison.
Miranda, Connor’s daughter, is a spitfire who worries for her dad, and rightly so, going so far as to hire a private investigator to check up on Trey. She’s confident, brave, and loving, and her scenes with Connor, again, only highlight how little there is to Trey as a character. By comparison, he is, at best, nothing but a placeholder for the idea of Trey, and at worst, nothing at all. He goes from mooch and gigolo to murderer and crazy, obsessed stalker so quickly that it felt like the entire book took a stumble as the story had to catch up to the character change.
The pacing is fine. The writing has some small issues with a lot of telling — we find out more about what Trey is supposed to be through other characters commenting on him than we do from Trey himself — and copyediting issues here and there: “Trey rose and put a coaster under the bottle, then plopped down next to Trey.” There are also moments of people thinking one thing, only to repeat in in conversation later, or to retread previous points, and some repetitive phrases that kept popping up. This book isn’t terrible, but I found it to be tedious and uninspired. It’s not dark or romantic enough to be a dark romance, not suspenseful enough to be a thriller, and just didn’t work for me on any level. I’m sorry, but I’m going to suggest you pass on this one.