Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrators: Hamish Long and Kirt Graves
Length: 8 hours and 18 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Sam Stone is the grandson of a popular California state senator now running for Governor. His family has long used Sam’s out-gay status as ‘street cred’ for their politically liberal stances. Sam has been publicly partnered with Kurt Delmont, son of the woman running for Lt. Governor, to further “support” LGBTQ relationships, even though they aren’t romantically attracted. Being in a stable relationship is the right vibe for heterosexual voters to find gay love “palatable,” according to the PR machine. Sam, who is a successful contracts attorney, has a lot of internalized homophobia. When he meets internationally renowned rock star Julian Hill, ostensibly to professionally “bully” him into completing his contractually obligated album, well, Sam’s absolutely star-struck. It leads to an NSFW meet-cute that definitely gets Julian’s attention.

Julian is immediately attracted to the tall, blonde, foppish attorney who accidentally tackles him at their first encounter. But, Jules is not out, even though his inner circle knows he’s queer. Immediately upon meeting Sam, Jules is inspired to write songs from his deepest heart exploring his fears and insecurities, including loving a man openly. Sam is resistant to anything that’s not “professional,” but their attraction grows in small moments of connection and support, with Sam unwittingly becoming Jules’ muse. Jules is determined to write and record post haste, because Sam won’t compromise his ethics by having a full-on physical relationship with Jules while he’s still supposed to be monitoring his progress on the album. Their chemistry is a firework on July 4th–poised to explode.

While Jules is closeted to prevent fan backlash, Sam’s also afraid to reveal his developing relationship with Jules. He’d need to publicly break up with Kurt first, which could upset his grandpa’s election plans and potentially throw political favor to a homophobic bigot. What if Jules only sees Sam as a temporary attraction? He could set gay rights back in the state–and for nothing. If Jules isn’t really ready to come out, it’s all moot, isn’t it? Except Jules loves Sam, and Sam loves Jules. And staying mum about their love is impossible when there are confidantes ready to spill the story for cash.

Ambiguous is the first book in the IOU series and I’d read on in a heartbeat. I had the audiobook version, which I loved. Hamish Long narrates Jules’ deliciously British chapters, and Kirt Graves handles Sam’s measured-response American ones. They bring so much verve to the story, with easily identifiable character intonation no matter whose POV was represented. The yearning is potent, especially for Julian when he thinks Sam has a dedicated partner in Kurt and is playing with his heart to get that album finished. Julian’s character has a lot of external swagger, but he’s internally vulnerable, with secrets to keep beyond his sexuality. I also admired Jules’ determination to not be labeled beyond ‘queer’ and a genderfluid dresser. He didn’t cave, even when it cost him financially. Long’s narration felt very decided in these moments, and gave Jules’ conviction the gravitas it deserved.

Sam was definitely clear on his personal philosophy: support the cause of gay rights, no matter what. Previous experience taught Sam that love fades, so don’t trust it. Jules had to win him over, and his lyrical skill worked miracles to soothe Sam’s bruised heart. I adored how thoroughly he fell for Julian, and appreciated how their long wait to explore their attraction solidified their friendship and love before they took it beyond a few kisses.

There are a couple of directions for the series to develop, and I would be down for any or all of them. I expect that the MCs of another book would be side characters from this one, but I’d love any cameos Sam and Jules make. They are a power couple, and their love story was more interesting and complex than I’d anticipated. If you enjoy rock romance, or pseudo-adversarial love stories, this is a book that could satisfy.

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